Martin Peretz: His racist bigotry is nothing new

Martin Peretz: His racist bigotry is nothing new

Martin H. “Marty” Peretz, born December 6, 1938, is an US publisher. He is a descendant of the Yiddish writer I. L. Peretz. Formerly an assistant professor at Harvard University, he purchased The New Republic in 1974 (using money from his wife who is the heiress to the Singer wealth) and took editorial control soon afterwards. Under the leadership of Peretz, The New Republic magazine generally maintained liberal and neoliberal positions on economic and social issues, and assumed hawkish and strong pro-Israel stances in foreign affairs.

Long hovering around 100,000 subscribers, The New Republic’s circulation dropped in the aftermath of September 11 and the run-up to the Iraq War. Its average paid circulation for 2007 was 59,779 copies per issue, a decline of 41 percent since 2000, with circulation remaining flat or falling each year

Peretz has said “Support for Israel is deep down, an expression of America’s best view of itself. Peretz retained majority ownership of the magazine until 2002, when he sold a two-thirds stake in the magazine to a couple of financiers. Peretz sold the remainder of his ownership rights in 2007 to CanWest Global Communications, though he retained his position as editor-in-chief. In March 2009, Peretz repurchased the magazine with a group of investors led by ex-Lazard executive Laurence Grafstein.He is a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Board of Advisors.

Peretz strongly criticized President Obama in his column of July 14, 2009:

Frankly, I am sick and tired of President Obama’s eldering–more accurately, hectoring–Israel’s leaders. It is, after all, they whose country is the target of an armed and ideological cyclone that Obama has done precious little to ease. He brought nothing back from Riyadh and Cairo, absolutely nothing except the conviction of the Arab leaders that they need do nothing but sit and wait until the president squeezes one concession after another out of Jerusalem.

On March 6, 2010, Peretz admitted in a blog post to prejudice against Arabs, writing:

Frankly, I couldn’t quite imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs turning out especially well. This is, you will say, my prejudice. But some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong

A blog post on Islam on the website of the liberal political magazine The New Republic has prompted a torrent of criticism that is roiling the hallowed halls of Harvard University.

Writing about Muslims in America, New Republic editor and former Harvard professor Martin Peretz posted the following on the magazine’s site:

“….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.”

The reaction to Peretz’s comments was swift and blistering. New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof called the post an example of how “debased and venomous the discourse about Islam has become” and The Atlantic’s James Fallows characterized Peretz’s words as “an incredible instance of public bigotry in the American intelligentsia.”

After ten days of heavy and sustained criticism from various quarters of academia and media Peretz issued a quasi-apology for his comments, saying he was wrong and embarrassed to have suggested that any group of Americans is not deserving of First Amendment rights. But he defended his description of Muslim attitudes toward the lives of other Muslims, arguing that the comment was “a statement of fact, not value.”

Apologies aside, it would appear the controversy has yet to run its course. Today the Boston Globe reported on growing opposition within Harvard University over plans for a daylong celebration of Peretz by some members of the alumni and faculty who have helped raise money for a research fund in his name.

Harvard has released a statement acknowledging that Peretz’s web post was ” “distressing to many members of our community, and understandably so.’’ The university said it will not move to cancel the celebration and defended Peretz’s right of free speech.

Contacted by the Globe, Peretz said, “I was a faithful Harvard teacher, the notion that I have to defend myself when students who I’ve taught over 40 years are honoring me is really a little stupid.’