Brandeis University hails Peretz's achievements despite his controversial views
Party for Marty: Harvard students protest Martin Peretz for his anti-Muslim/Arab comments
Martin H. Peretz (born 6 December 1938) is part-owner and editor-in-chief of The New Republic. He is the father of director Jesse Peretz and Vanity Fair contributing editor Evgenia Peretz. Peretz is known for his hawkish views on Israel and US foreign policy and his unconcealed antipathy towards Arabs and Muslims. He is a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Board of Advisors and since 1998 has been Director of thestreet.com, a NASDAQ-traded digital financial media company which Peretz cofounded.
The Israel Prism
For media scholar Eric Alterman, '[i]t is really not too much to say that almost all of Peretz's political beliefs are subordinate to his commitment to Israel's best interests, and these interests as Peretz defines them almost always involve more war.' He adds:
- Peretz insists that, yes, the interests of Israel and the United States are indeed identical. "Support for Israel," he claims, "is deep down, an expression of America's best view of itself." Which begs the question of just what "support" entails. For Peretz it has clearly meant support both for the Iraq war and, now, for yet another war against Iran.
Smearing George Soros
In February 2007 Peretz was criticized for distorting statements made by billionaire and progressive philanthropist, George Soros. Peretz reportedly cropped a transcript which included Soros's answers to questions about his youth during the Nazi Holocaust to smear Soros as "a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel": According to a report by Media Matters for America, "Like Horowitz and Poe, who claimed that Soros "survived [the Holocaust] by assimilating to Nazism," Peretz pointed to Soros' experience as a 14-year-old boy in Nazi-controlled Hungary to suggest that he collaborated with the Nazis." The report goes on to print the parts that Peretz cropped and reveal more information regarding Soros's true past:
...Soros' father attempted to protect his family from Nazi persecution by paying an employee of Hungary's Ministry of Agriculture named Baumbach to take in Soros, "ostensibly as his godson." Soros accompanied his "godfather" as he went to oversee the confiscation of property from Hungarian Jews. Peretz, however, cropped out a key portion from the transcript of a December 20, 1998, 60 Minutes segment in which interviewer Steve Kroft asked Soros about those activities. While Kroft noted that Soros "went out with this protector of yours," Peretz left that out of the transcript, suggesting that Soros, at the age of 14, went out on his own and, in Kroft's words, "helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews."
According to political analyst Steve Clemons, Peretz's smear attempt was one among several made by prominent neoconservatives who want to deflect attention away from their major role in pushing the US into a war with Iraq under false premises:
- Martin Peretz is part of the crowd that pounded a drumbeat for the Iraq War and has been complicit with the other Chief Ideology Officers of the neocon movement -- folks such as Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer -- in engaging in a broad denial of the idiocy of this military action and are today ignoring lessons that could be learned from our Iraq debacle as they encourage yet another disastrous clash -- this time with Iran.
In response to the fire Soros drew for comparing the US (and other countries) to Nazi Germany Clemons writes that "Soros is right" in urging for Americans to demand that American politics be free of the domination of the neoconservatives:
- I have the sense of context and I think the maturity to know that Soros was not implying that America is on the same moral plain of a German state that exterminated six million Jews....There is a corruption and self-censorship that hit Washington and blinded many in responsible political positions and government roles and allowed the U.S. to launch a war that should not have been launched -- and to spend a great deal of time and resources punishing those who were speaking out against it....The administration and its fans of the "war of choice against Iraq," as Zbigniew Brzezinski stated recently, have also spent a great deal of time trying to punish and ridicule Soros -- anything to cast attention away from their own complicity in this disaster and their own mistakes. . .and their own disloyalty to the national interests of the United States of America.
Accusations of Racism
Against Arabs & Muslims
In Peretz's own words:
- I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) "atrocities." They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn't comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than they do. But the mutilation of bodies and beheadings of people picked up at random in Iraq does not scandalize the people of Iraq unless victims are believers in their own sect or members of their own clan.
Peretz has been criticised for his views on Muslims, particularly Arabs. According to a former insider at The New Republic (TNR), writer Spencer Ackerman, '[Peretz] likes to flirt with descriptions of Arabs as subhuman. Everyone who works at TNR knows Marty is a racist.' Alterman has excoriated Peretz for 'his obsessive and unapologetic hatred of Arabs' which is 'visible nearly every day on Peretz's blog "The Spine."' Alterman goes on to provide a sample of Peretz's comments about Arabs.
- They are "violent, fratricidal, unreliable, primitive and crazed … barbarian"; they have created a "wretched society" and are "cruel, belligerent, intolerant, fearing"; they are "murderous and grotesque" and "can't even run a post office"; their societies "have gone bonkers over jihad" and they are "feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) atrocities"; they "behave like lemmings," and "are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all"; and to top it all off, their rugs are not as "subtle" and are more "glimmery" than those of the Berbers.
Liberal blogger and constitutional law attorney Glenn Greenwald has denounced Peretz's 'unbelievably overt anti-Arab/anti-Muslim bigotry' in a post citing examples of his egregious statements about Arabs. He calls Peretz's blog 'a museum for every anti-Arab/Muslim stereotype and caricature that exists.'
Calling Mexico "a failed state" though "not like Pakistan," Peretz said in 2009 that he is "extremely pessimistic about Mexican-American relations:"
- not because the U.S. had done anything specifically wrong to our southern neighbor but because a (now not quite so) wealthy country has as its abutter a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies: congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict.
Peretz goes on to categorize the "Mexican diaspora in America" as "hard-working and patriotic but mired in its untold numbers of illegals, about whom no one can talk with candor."
- At a forum on Jewish-Black relations in 1994, Washington Post reporter Lynne Duke quoted Peretz's comments during a debate about equal opportunity with former NAACP CEO and congressman, Kweisi Mfume:
- Citing statistics on out-of-wedlock births among blacks, Martin Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, said, "So many in the black population are afflicted by cultural deficiencies." Asked what he meant, Peretz responded, "I would guess that in the ghetto a lot of mothers don't appreciate the importance of schooling."
- Mfume challenged Peretz, saying, "You can't really believe that. Every mother wants the best for their children." Peretz agreed, then added, "But a mother who is on crack is in no position to help her children get through school." Some in the audience of 2,600 young Jewish leaders hissed at Peretz's remarks.
- In 2008 Peretz had the following to say about African-Americans while comparing Jesse Jackson "and all other African American parasites who know how to make a speech" to then presidential candidate Barack Obama:
- Yes, I understand that Barack Obama has eviscerated Jesse Jackson's racket. Whether he becomes president or not, and he will become president. Obama has also eviscerated Al Sharpton's racket. And that of the other African American parasites who know how to make a speech. This is now serious time for blacks in the United States because there will sit in the White House and increasingly in Congress people who, however cosmopolitan, are also from and of their world, people who are not cynical about it but will bring the best will and the best attention to its problems. The problems are gargantuan, and they have not become smaller just because the country is now worried about whether its bankers need to earn two million dollars a year or whether one million dollars will do. The problems are also multiple. Every serious citizen and certainly every serious black citizen (and Hispanic citizen, too) has an issue on which he would want the public and the public till to focus.I have mine: I believe that the transformatory demographic absent in the minority world is a solid layer of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and computer experts. There are only two or three handfuls above none among African Americans who fit this characterization. OK, I'm exaggerating: there are five or six. A paltry number when what is required (for the United States and for blacks) is a vast cohort of such men women trained in the various sciences, abstract and concrete, so that new world not be closed to these citizens and that the upward mobility that flows from these disciplines also be open to them and the coming generations.
Peretz has compared the Quran, the Muslim holy book, to Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. He writes on his blog:
- I've read for my sins the Koran myself, actually two and a half times. Of course, I also studied (and taught) the Communist Manifesto, and I suppose that some of my colleagues even saw in it a tract open to very soft interpretation. There are probably humane readings of Mein Kampf.
On another occasion, Peretz has declared that 'frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims'. He added:
- 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.
This statement led to a rift within the magazine's own editorial board and a public row between Peretz and the magazine's long-serving literary editor (also chief deputy editor) Leon Wieseltier. On the other hand, Peretz was defended by former charge Andrew Sullivan and influential Israel lobby journalist Jeffrey Goldberg (all three had pushed for the Iraq war).
Peretz's response to criticism
In a September 2010 post titled "An Apology", Peretz expresses regret about his prejudicial comments against Muslims while simultaneously affirming them. The post came in response to an article written by the New York Times's Nicholas D. Kristof. Peretz referred to his own words ("I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse") as an "embarrassing sentence," saying that while he had written it, he did not mean it and "So I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me." Peretz goes on to affirm his other statements, while arguing that they were simply misinterpreted:
- The other sentence is: "Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims." This is a statement of fact, not value. In his column, Kristof made this seem like a statement of bigotry. But on his blog, he notes that he concurs with it...Every week brings more and more gruesome evidence of this, in the Middle East and Central Asia and elsewhere. The idea that in remarking upon the cheapening of Muslim lives I was calling for the cheapening of Muslim lives, as some have suggested, is preposterous. 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. In these unusually inflamed days, I am glad to say so clearly.
In a followup post to Peretz's "apology," Kristof denied Peretz's characterization of his own words and while accepting and respecting Peretz's apology, criticized Peretz's generalization of Muslims:
- First, let me say that I welcome and respect the apology. It’s easy when we say dumb things to dig ourselves deeper, and very hard to apologize. So that was classy...But I disagree with his suggestion that I concur that Muslim life is cheap...Sure, many Muslims have killed other Muslims, and there hasn’t been enough outcry. But I’ve also seen Muslim aid workers risking their lives — in Darfur, for example, or in Gaza, or in Iraq, or in Pakistan, or in Afghanistan, or in Indonesia — in a way that we could all emulate. Those aid workers value human life so much they risk their own to save others. To insist that Muslims don’t value human life, because some terrorists don’t, is an insult to a billion Muslims around the world — and it’s also wrong. For Al Qaeda, life is cheap. For Muslim aid workers and doctors, life is treasured. Generalizing about Muslims is as impossible as it would be to generalize about Americans from Quakers to Don Rumsfeld.
Islamic Center controversy
Peretz has denounced the planned Islamic Center near Ground Zero in New York as 'a sleazy venture combining religion, marriage catering, sports activity, political propaganda and what would pretend to be kultcha'. He has described the project's planner Sharif El-Gamal as a 'real estate hustler' and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as the 'theological desperado.' He has praised the right-wing campaign against centre.
- In my view, the really modest struggle against the mosque is probably the closest thing we’ve had to a genuinely grass roots effort against the casual and elitist First Amendment fundamentalists.
Peretz adds: 'yes, there are different kinds of Muslims as there are different kinds of Christian Fundamentalists.' New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof cited the post as 'a glimpse of how venomous and debased the discourse about Islam has become.' Pointedly, he asked: 'Is it possible to imagine the same kind of casual slur tossed off about blacks or Jews?' Peretz's statement also prompted students at his alma mater Brandeis University to issue a call for a public apology. They called his statement 'appalling...unacceptable, irresponsible, and wrong'. For the signatories, Peretz's statement violated Brandeis's commitment to fighting 'discrimination, bigotry, and fear of minorities.'
US's war on Iraq
During the lead up to the Iraq war Peretz was instrumental in publishing the work of journalists who pushed disproved claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq posed a threat to the world. Writes Steve Clemons:
- Peretz helped sell Chalabi -- and helped sell the Iraqi National Congress -- to official Washington. Chalabi, whose intelligence chief later defected to Iran, and Chalabi who himself allegedly passed on information he was getting from his American contacts to Iranian sources.
- Coalition for a Democratic Majority
- The New Republic
- Washington Institute for Near East Policy
- Euston Manifesto United States
- Ground Zero Mosque
- TNR, "Marty Peretz", The New Republic, accessed on 15 November 2010
- Marty Peretz, "I Apologize...", The New Republic, 24 August 2010
- Eric Alterman, "'The New Republic': Bad for the Jews", The Nation, 18 November 2009
- NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, "Is This America?", New York Times, 11 September 2010
- Board of Advisors, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, access date 16 September 2010
- The Street, "About", thestreet.com, accessed on 15 November 2010
- Forbes, "Martin Peretz", Forbes.com, accessed on 15 November 2010
- Eric Alterman, My Marty Peretz Problem -- And Ours, The American Prospect, 18 June 2007
- Media Matters for America, "TNR's Peretz cropped transcript to support his smear of Soros as "a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel"", MMA website, 5 February 2007
- Steve Clemons, "NeoCons Trash George Soros in Attempt to Distract from Their Complicity in Iraq "War of Choice" Disaster", Huffington Post, 3 February 2007
- Martin Peretz, http:/www.tnr.com/blog/spine?pid=58683 "REGARDING THE PAIN OF OTHERS", The New Republic Online (web archive), 19 November 2006, accessed on 14 November 2010
- Spencer Ackerman, I see you crawling in your garden, subhuman, subhuman, Too Hot for TNR (Blog), 25 January 2007
- Glenn Greenwald, The Meaning of Marty Peretz, Unclaimed Territory, 26 January 2007
- Glenn Greenwald, Marty Peretz and anti-Muslim stereotypes, Unclaimed Territory, 23 September 2006
- Marty Peretz, "No Special Envoy, No Crisis", The New Republic, 23 March 2009
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Footnotes on The New Republic", The New Republic, 28 September 2010
- Martin Peretz, "Jesse Jackson Is Doing His Darndest To Defeat Barack Obama", New Republic, 14 October 2008
- Martin Peretz, Certified By The (New York) Times, TNR The Spine (blog), 16 May 2010
- Martin Peretz, The New York Times Laments "A Sadly Wary Misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans." But Really Is It "Sadly Wary" Or A "Misunderstanding" At All?, TNR Spine (blog), 4 September 2010
- J.J. Goldberg, Peretz-Wieseltier Smackdown! The Islam Menace! (Also, Yours Truly on NPR, Sunday), Forward, 5 September 2010
- MJ Rosenberg, Jeff Goldberg Defends Marty Peretz -- But Not That Bigot, Helen Thomas, TPMCafe, 15 September 2010
- Martin Peretz, An Apology, TNR The Spine, 13 September 2010
- Nicolas Kristof, "A Martin Peretz Apology", New York Times, 13 September 2010
- Nicholas Kristof, Is This America?, The New York Times, 11 September 2010
- Open Letter from Brandeis University to Martin Peretz '59, Organized by the Justice League, accessed 17 September 2010