Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Harvard Cancels Peretz Speech

‘TNR’ editor under fire for remarks about Muslims

Print Email
Martin Peretz.(Wikipedia)

This is the post I’ve been avoiding. Writing about Martin Peretz, the editor-in-chief and part-owner of The New Republic, and his recent comment, “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,” seemed useless and dispiriting for any number of reasons. For one thing, plenty of others had their say (see here, here, and most prominently here). Additionally, some have defended Peretz (see here and here) on the grounds that, for all his faults, he has been an extremely valuable political and journalistic participant for four decades due to his patronage of the fantastic New Republic. Most importantly, there is not much to say: Unlike when most writers write something objectionable, and you can ask, “Why the hell is that Website publishing that writer?,” well, in this case we already knew the answer: Peretz is the boss, and as anyone with a boss knows—and nearly everybody has a boss—you do what your boss wants.

News, however, that Harvard’s Social Studies Department dropped him as a speaker at its upcoming 50th anniversary celebration forces the issue.

And the issue is this: Despite Peretz’s legalistic retraction (albeit of a different sentence, regarding not extending First Amendment protections to Muslims) and sincere atonement—his Kol Nidre and his Yom Kippur, if you will—this is not the first time he has written something racist, and it isn’t the fifteenth time, either. While I am not sure if this was the best choice of medium, someone has made a Twitter feed documenting the dozens of questionable—no, make that unquestionably out-of-bounds—things Peretz has said over the years. We all publish things we would take back. But the tonnage of these quotations and the consistency of their content demonstrate that Peretz’s insensitivity and bigotry toward Muslims and Arabs (er, and black people) yank him out of the realm of people you should be reading on the subject.

So whom should you be reading? Today Todd Gitlin eloquently argued that Peretz’s latest comment came at exactly the wrong time. “When the margins crawl with insanity,” he wrote, “it is all the more important for the vital center of calm, reasonable, evidence-based thought to hold.” Where is that vital center? You could start with where Gitlin’s essay was published: The New Republic. You could continue with the best thing you will read concerning the Islamic center, which was published in … The New Republic. See my point? It will be a tremendous shame if a reader were to stop taking Peretz’s magazine seriously just because he has (correctly) stopped taking Peretz’s own writing seriously. But even though such a reader would be the one to blame for that decision, I hope Peretz would find it regrettable, and I hope he will do his part to prevent it from happening. In a word: Stop.

Peretz Dropped As Harvard Event Speaker [JTA]
Related: This Manichean Moment [TNR]
@martyperetz [Twitter]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

jzsnake says:

It’s amazing how Universities will invite Arabs/Muslims to speak who say the most vile statements about Jews.

James Prater says:

I dont understand it either. I am an american and get so disgusted with all the vile things they say about us too and yet the government coddles to them !!!
There has never been a more vile race of people since Hitlers Germany.
But I also know there is a tremendous amount of people who are not afraid to speak up against this tyranny and those that let it happen.
I am hoping that the election in 2010 will prove to the world that the jewish and christian people are still n control of America, not the idiots or the muslims.

What happened, we’re not allowed to speak the truth? The vast number of Moslems killed over the past 20 years have been killed by fellow Moslems.

israeli says:

if winston cherchil was alive they would have boycott him as well for insalting the nazis

Dani Levi says:

Life was “cheap” in Europe once, and too few people made a point of it in time. I must asked my Iranian friends who live in self imposed exile what their life is worth these days.

“Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,”
That is a ‘racist’ statement? How?
Tracy carries PC to a silly and stupid place….

Strelnikov says:

Peretz is a loudmouth yahoo who makes Harvard look bad. This is why they cancelled the speech, and rightly so. Also, most of the other commenters need to go back to freshman English while others need to take critical thinking.

Thank you Strelnikov for the first intelligent comment in this thread. I wonder if the other posters are just racist provocateurs. Hard to believe they’re actual Tablet readers when they say things like “there has never been a more vile race of people since Hitlers (sic) Germany”. Are these threads moderated? Maybe they should be. (cf. Todd Gitlin quote above)

Dani Levi says:

Streinikov & Corey
How many peeps got shredded in Iraq in the past fortnight? The situation in the USA may be none to PC at the moment, and Peretz may well be the wrong character to call a spade a spade. None the less, last I heard Iranian diplomats are defecting in threes and I read the AF election did not go to smoothly either, and it was of no fault of the infrastructure in that country. I am not going to list the many who have been murdered at the hands of fundamentalists from NYC to Bali here, but the statistics sadly do not lie.
Meanwhile Hamas is rounding up “informers” in Gaza old school style and not even publishing the names or giving access to “legal representation”, assuming the judge ‘aint a party member ( guess what they do with informers ? ). I could go on, but do share some ‘critical thinking’ here. Please. I must learn how you see the situation.
from TLV.

Dani Levi says:

These two boys were lynched because of an alteration about the use of a cricket pitch.

Any “critical” thoughts on this?

These two boys were lynched because of an alteration about the use of a cricket pitch.

Big deal. The book of Numbers in the “holy” Tanakh talks about God demanding that a Jew be stoned to death for working on the Sabbath, and Moses, Aaron and the rest of the tribe comply.

Dani Levi says:

you unwittingly hit the nail on the head Louis, Hebrews were/are a critical part of the Enlightenment. Where as Islam is still waiting for the separation of Mosque and State / tribes.
C ya later!

One may disagree with him on political grounds but I don’t see how what Peretz said is “racist”. Is Muslim life not cheap in Pakistan, where drones and militants keep refreshing the body count? Afghanistan? Iran? Is there not a cult of martyrdom in Palestine, even among those who don’t wish to blow themselves up for their homeland? I have yet to hear a cogent response. The double standard at Harvard regarding who is and isn’t worth listening to is breathtaking.

Dani Levi says:

This thread is awfully timid considering its relevance at this moment in time. It appears that when somebody points out the obvious people are too intimidated to really engage the subject matter.
The UN through its UNDP has published the Arab Human Development Report for a number of years. These reports are written by Arab Muslims for the UN. These insightful reports may be purchased through Amazon, here is last years ( ) . This is recommended reading for anybody who wished to find a deeper understanding of the forces which shape the Middle East.
I had never heard of Martin Peretz up until now, and he may well be the wrong person for a number of reasons to broach this subject. But short of shooting the messenger here, one should do some basic research. Maybe visit southern Italy, where refugee camps are overfilling with young illegal immigrants from Muslim countries who risked their lives to cross the Med in the hope of escaping a homegrown system that is crassly stacked against them.
I heard life is “cheap” in Mexico too, or I am a racist now too?

pacific_waters says:

He could have phrased it better but I doubt he meant that muslim life is cheap to him. The evidence is clear. Life is cheap to many muslims.

T.L.Sparkman says:

“When the margins crawl with insanity,” he wrote, “it is all the more important for the vital center of calm, reasonable, evidence-based thought to hold.”

Seriously? He is implying that the insane margin is WITHOUT evidence? The reason it has been slow in coming (the outrage) is that we are no longer able to tolerate and IGNORE the evidence. This is not a sycophantic bigotry, it is an awakening to the facts.

ndmackenzie says:

Marc Tracy writes:
– It will be a tremendous shame if a reader were to stop taking Peretz’s magazine seriously just because he has (correctly) stopped taking Peretz’s own writing seriously.

But even though such a reader would be the one to blame for that decision, I hope Peretz would find it regrettable, and I hope he will do his part to prevent it from happening. In a word: Stop.

The reason I ceased to take The New Republic seriously was that no one at the magazine ever responded intelligently to complaints about Martin Peretz. A few years ago Spencer Ackerman, formerly of TNR, wrote that “Everyone who works at TNR knows Marty is a racist ” yet no one at the magazine is willing to speak to that truth.

If there is blame to be allocated it should be directed at Frank Foer for allowing the bigotry of Peretz to appear in the magazine he edits. There is an honorable course for an editor who disproves of the bigotry of the owner of his magazine – and that is resignation. Foer could have encouraged and published dissent. In choosing not to do so, Foer showed himself to be a coward.

The writers at TNR should share in that blame. Jonathan Chait and James Kirchick, when he wrote for the magazine, routinely defended Peretz from any attack about his bigotry. Indeed, there is almost a ritual where each Matthew Yglesias post about Martin Peretz is met with a defensive response by Chait. These defenses have done immense damage to Chait’s reputation.

I fail to see why the reader should be blamed for any of this. The Editor-in-Chief is a bigot, the Editor does nothing about it, and the Senior Editor defends the bigot. There is no reason for the reader to take their magazine seriously. There is no reason to blame such a reader for abandoning a subscription to their magazine. And I accept no blame whatsoever for abandoning my subscription to TNR.

ndmackenzie says:

Due to an editing error it was not clear in my previous post that the following text was also written by Marc Tracy and not me:

— But even though such a reader would be the one to blame for that decision, I hope Peretz would find it regrettable, and I hope he will do his part to prevent it from happening. In a word: Stop.

snarine says:

I stopped reading TNR years ago because its racism, and the outright racism of Marty Peretz, was all too obvious. The sad part here is that it has taken this long for Peretz to be held to account.

To all of the comments about how the statement “Muslim life is cheap” is self-evident: all I can say here is that there are more than 1 billion Muslims in the world. In most places with Muslim populations, life is no more cheap than anywhere else. People love and value each other the same way that they do elsewhere. As many have pointed out, in the 20th century, the people who treated life -theirs and others – most cheaply were Christians, or people descended from Christians. WWI saw about 20 million people die; in WWII, maybe 80 million people were killed (though a sizable hunk of that number was in China. Then again, the Taiping Civil War in China -from 1851-1862- killed more people than WWI and was caused by a supposed Christian convert). Given these facts, we could easily conclude that a barbaric disregard for life was part of the cultural makeup and disposition of Europeans.

In places in the Muslim world where there is violence, the effects of poverty, political upheaval, ideological and cultural struggle, ethnic conflicts, and many other factors come into play. Many of these factors were in play during the various civil and state wars that defined European history. In places such as Palestine, the evolution and distortion of the Palestinian culture is inseparable from the reality of the ongoing Israeli occupation and settlement of Palestinian land. The radicalization of Palestinians – along with the breakdown and reformation of their society around more nihilistic principles – is a direct response to and result of what Israel has done to them – starting, of course, with taking their country. This is not to disregard Palestinians’ responsibility for making their own choices, but the longest occupation of the modern world is sure to create its own effects.

Dani Levi says:

Correct Snarine,
but I like to think most of Europe has learned its lesson from centuries of slaughter. I am missing that conclusion from Morocco to Islamabad. You may write that in relation to a smaller number of “Christians” ( Europe I believe is in a post Christian phase, this is referred to as a civil society ), the 1,? Billion Muslims are lovely to each other. And yes they may never reach the 50 Million mark EUland reached by 1945. But I am VERY suspicious about hanging the bar of humanity as low as the Thirty Year war or the holocaust. We are in the 21st century, and I do expect Muslim culture to reach beyond what it is doing to itself. Not because I am a racist, but because I expect better. One simple fact is that there is not a single real Muslim Mid Eastern democracy. And adding up the millions slaughtered in past decades is racist in itself I fear. It gives the impression that Muslims are not capable of learning ( or maybe translating history books? ).
As long as hundreds of thousands of Gulf Arabs and Muslims all over the world donate money to Hamas and Hezb and other commuter-bus-shredders there hangs the question in the room of the simple f’ing idea if a political process is accepted or if TNT is the preferred m.o.. And pleeeze do not bring in the Palestinians as most of their behavior has led to nowhere. If you made the effort and read beyond the NGO left wing discourse, you may see that the PALs along with their Arab “henchmen” are largely responsible for their heredity refugee status, and that ” the longest occupation ” yada yada yada, goes hand in grenade with the non acceptance of Israel’s right to exist. Or put another way ( just one more here ) IF you start a war, you better make sure you can win it. And the Arabs have lost three wars. Which takes me back to reading history books. But I read somewhere that more books are translated into modern Greek than Arabic. Which explains just about everything.

Dani Levi says:

I could not help remembering that Suharto, who was a Muslim, had 500000-1000000 ( five hundred thousand – one million ) ethnic Chinese murdered/massacred in 1965. I admit that keeping a tally like this is terribly uncouth.
Mea culpa.
BUT the Chinese were not Muslim, so technically they do not count. Maybe we can file them under ” not sure ” ? or just ” collateral ” ?

Life for the Muslims is cheap; their own lives and the lives of others. And so it is. Political Correctness has made idiots, willing idots of us.

Peretz didn’t say antyhing that isn’t self-evident. To Muslims who slaughter their own people life is cheap. To Muslims who lionize suicide bombers, life is cheap. The worth of women, dhimmis and others who don’t tow the Muslin line in the Muslim world is cheap and not as important as a Muslim male. Golda Meir said it decades ago, that when Arabs love their children more than they hate us, there will be peace. The thought is the same and it is the truth. Too bad you PC purveyors are mindblind to reality.

Racist, not racist? Probably the former, otherwise why are nasty little thoughts like that floating around in his head.
Whether he is an islamophobe or not he’s certainly a bit of an ‘eejit’. He is supposed to be an intelligent fellow, someone who understands the power of words and media to divide, diminish and simplify; and yet out he pops with unnecessary and incendiary statements.
The ‘First Amendment’ stuff is bloody hilarious!Nice touch demonstrating the danger of hateful, extremist views through promoting the suppression of an alternative faith.
As for the truth in his statement, yep, Muslim lives are cheap. As are those of Africans, African-Americans, Ghurka and other servicemen, Iraqi, Afghan, Palestinian children, every single person in Pakistan, Haiti, and New Orleans…
And these lives aren’t just cheap to the handful of fanatical fantasists holding international rhetoric to ransom in the ‘War On Terror’ (or ‘W.O.T the f”@&’), but also most importantly most ‘Western’ Governments don’t give a shit either!
In fact for your life NOT to be cheap in the world today you’ve got the ‘choice’ of collecting 2 from the following 3 categories.
1. skin colour (white)
2. one of two religions (J or C), or one non-religion with weirdly fanatical followers (atheism),
3. one of three main nationalities (UK, US, Is – some other W European passports might keep you alive for a while but ain’t gonna bring da cavalry)
WOOHOO 3/3 for me!
Sorry chaps, you probably don’t want to hear it, but here in the rest of the planet we’re a little more concerned about superpowers ‘shock and awe-ing’ schools, carpet bombing weddings and infuriating Iranians with malware than where law-abiding citizens build their temples/ mosques/ churches/ synagogues or what paranoid propaganda pseudo-intellectuals write to try and internally justify their prejudice.
Life would be less cheap if those of us lucky enough to have 2/3+ had more empathy. Well done Harvard.

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

Democrats at every election play the race card.They have started again for the 2012 election. White people are now going to the republican party just to avoid these racists anchor people and columnists. They pushed us right out of a new socialist racist democrat party.

Dems are going back to slavery. When Martin Peretz says that Muslim life is is because it is no different then the Palestinians who tie bombs around the waists of their little children and send them to kill the Jews and Christians alike in the Middle East.

Dumb columnists are in the fore since they are afraid to be fired from their anchor jobs or papers if they dare insult anyone. They do not realize they are the ones that will take away their own freedom of speech and push a dictator in this country who will tell them what they can write or say.

I believe that Martin Peretz is Jewish and has always been pro-Israel but Harvard is now pro-Palestinian so it is their loss. Just as Brandeis University was supposedly started as a Jewish University, it is now anti-Israel and and anti-Jewish as it allows Jimmy Carter to speak against Jews.

Haven’t heard Jimmy Carter called a racist and he is allowed to speak anywhere. Al Sharpton, another anti-semite who is allowed to speak at any college but not called the racist he is by the same people who call Peretz a racist.

Many of those that are Jewish anchors will be sorry only when it is too late. They should be honest and not P.C. as all religions and people should be called on the wrongs they do.

Imus was fired initially for comments he made but everyone has forgotten the comments of Al Sharpton who called Jews, “Diamond Merchants” and led demonstators against a Dept store called Freddys who hired minoritys but Sharpton’s demonstators caused a fire and only the minoritys died and the store closed.

That has not been told recently as the left wing media has made him a statesman. Shame on all of you who cannot deal with the truth by Peretz.

Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, thankyou . “A man may learn wisdom even from a foe.” by Aristophanes.

Someone essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to make this particular publish incredible. Excellent job!

Thank you a lot for giving everyone an extraordinarily remarkable opportunity to check tips from this website. It is always very sweet and as well , packed with a great time for me and my office co-workers to visit your web site at a minimum 3 times in one week to find out the new secrets you will have. And indeed, I’m actually impressed considering the unique solutions you give. Selected 1 facts in this posting are in reality the very best we have had.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Harvard Cancels Peretz Speech

‘TNR’ editor under fire for remarks about Muslims

More on Tablet:

Obama: Denying Israel’s Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland is Anti-Semitic

By Yair Rosenberg — The president draws a line in the sand in his latest interview