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Ron Radosh

In Defense of Marty Peretz

January 9th, 2011 - 1:19 pm

Marty Peretz is so ecumenical and tolerant, that he put into office as editor an entire slew of young college graduates whom he mentored, and who were to the Left of him on foreign policy, and on some domestic policy issues as well. Now, not one of them has spoken up for Peretz. Most of their anger is against Peretz for his strong views on Israel. When they think of Israel, they view it as the new oppressor rather than as a repository of Western values and democracy in an area of the world awash in the sea of Arab backwardness and tyranny. They do not like him continually pointing out the foibles of the Palestinian nationalists, and the weakness and corruption of the Palestinian authority, and the fact that the current Prime Minister of Palestine, Salam Fayyad, has little authority and little loyalty.

What is it in particular that inflamed so many against Peretz? Here is part of his offending blog:

Why do not Muslims raise their voices against these at once planned and random killings all over the Islamic world? This world went into hysteria some months ago when the Mossad took out the Hamas head of its own Murder Inc.

But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.

Later, Peretz apologized for the sentence about the First Amendment, explaining:

I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever. When I insist upon a sober recognition of the threats to our security, domestic threats included, I do not mean to suggest that the Constitution and its order of rights should in any way be abrogated. I would abhor such a prospect. I do not wish upon Muslim Americans the sorts of calumnies that were endured by Italian Americans in connection with Sacco and Vanzetti and Jewish Americans in connection with communism. My recent comments on the twisted Koran-hating reverend in Gainesville will give evidence of that. So I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me.

But Peretz refused to give in on his view that to many Muslims, life is cheap. And rightfully so. And this, in particular, is what led to the charge that he is a racist. As he writes, “ There is no hatred in my heart; there is deep anxiety about the dangers of Islamism, and anger at the refusal of certain politicians and commentators to adequately grasp those dangers, but there is no hatred, none.”  Indeed, what really perturbs his opponents is that in this age of Obama, they prefer the short-sighted policy of our President, whose would-be outreach to the Muslim world is an unmitigated disaster, and which Peretz has consistently and forcefully continued to point out, time and time again.

If you don’t trust my assessment, look at the comments of so many who have rushed to condemn Peretz, and to portray him in the worst possible light. Ben Smith, writing in Politico.com, offers the following:

I’ve thought for a while that blogging can be dangerous, and… Peretz’s blog, The Spine, [is] the case in point. A blog can extend a writer’s reach and voice. But it can also diminish someone who, like Peretz, had no evident filter and a reputation to lose.

Even worse is M.J.Rosenberg, at Josh Marshall’s TPM Café. He writes that Peretz

… is ostracized at Harvard, pushed out at the New Republic, mocked in the Jewish community, even his Muslim-bashing blog is about to be discontinued. I am delighted to see this bigot in exile for many reasons including this: I can start reading the New Republic again, which somehow survived Peretz and remains, in my opinion, a good magazine.

Think of the arrogance. Peretz, who is the man actually responsible for making TNR important by distancing it from its old Popular Front past, is the single reason that this rather unknown columnist will start reading it again.

And then there is the despicable hater of anything that is pro-Israel, Philip Weiss, a man who writes for the Buchananite paleoconservative hate magazine The American Conservative, as well as the leftist Nation - the two partner journals that blend together in defense of isolationism. In his own blog, Weiss writes that Peretz is “a racist crank…who has been ‘stripped of his magazine’ and is reduced to telling Holocaust stories in sybaritic Tel Aviv.”  If Peretz even knows who Weiss is, I’m sure he is delighted to have him as an enemy, as any sane person would. Weiss adds that Peretz “has no idea how offensive his racial statements were. I guess he has been flattered by admirers/petitioners at Harvard and the Yivo Institute and the New Republic for so long that no one dared to give Marty the news.”

Weiss obviously has no idea that few take his writing seriously, and that many find his writings more than offensive.  As for his belief that Peretz’s dismissal is “a new moment in the life of the Israel lobby,” that statement is so bizarre one must pause to even know what he is talking about.  Then he praises both Tom Friedman and David Remnick for turning against Israel. I wonder if these two, critical of Israel as they might be, really welcome an endorsement by Philip Weiss?

Even writers for some conservative sites are attacking Peretz. At The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s website, Mike Riggs writes that Peretz reminds him of his own grandmother, who like Peretz, engages in “tokenism” by always pointing out that she has black friends – just as Peretz supposedly told Wallace-Wells that he has both black and Muslim friends. So he agrees with Wallace-Wells, who wrote that when Peretz stooped to that level, it was clear that he was “drowning.”  In citing this part of the interview, Riggs joins writer Alex Pareene at the leftist site Salon.com, who after reprinting the same portion of the Peretz interview, concludes simply that “The New Republic, and the American press in general, are better off without him.”

Whatever TNR’s faults and problems, Marty Peretz built up and created a journal of opinion that for a time, had a positive and large influence on American politics and culture. In areas like the arts and books, it is way ahead of Salon, Slate, The Daily Caller, and any of the new websites that all of Peretz’s critics are writing for. Yet these writers spare not one thought for what he has accomplished with TNR over the years, and persist in using one or two blogs as the reason to knock him as the one man in journalism everyone is supposed to rejoice in being ostracized.

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