Thursday, June 15, 2006

Martin Peretz: Wolfowitz in Sheep's Clothing?

A comment on a recent post of mine got me to thinking about the who, what when, where, and why of the subject of rampant false accusations of anti-Semitism. The most recent example of this much-in-vogue demagoguery was inflicted by Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers last week. Summers recklessly stated that a recent resolution by a British teacher's union to boycott two universities in Israel constituted anti-Semitism. According to the Harvard Crimson,

One of Britain's largest unions of university instructors passed a resolution urging its members to boycott speeches by Israeli academics who do not condemn "“continuing Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall and discriminatory educational practice."” ... The boycott controversy began in March 2005 when Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT) passed an advisory resolution urging its 48,000 members to boycott Israel'’s University of Haifa and Bar-Ilan University. AUT targeted the two institutions because Haifa had allegedly disciplined a lecturer after he defended a student who criticized Israel, and because Bar-Ilan held courses in the West Bank, an area designated by the United Nations as "occupied territory."”

The resolution clearly targets just two universities that just so happened to be systematically suppressing dissent. It does not target all of Israel. However,

In a statement issued Thursday, Summers said that "“there is much that should be, indeed that must be, debated regarding Israeli policy...But the academic boycott resolution passed by the British professors union in the way that it singles out Israel is in my judgment anti-Semitic in both effect and in intent."”

That is a very inflammatory thing to say indeed. One should not so lightly toss the term "anti-Semitic" about. Of course, it wasn't the first time Summers had committed this type of slander.

Summers' statement on the British boycott evokes echoes of his September 2002 Memorial Church address, in which he excoriated a group of Harvard and MIT professors who had called on the University to cut financial ties to Israel. "“Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent,"” Summers said at the time.

It is a fact that many American Jews do not necessarily support Israel's Palestine policies. Here is a smattering of such Jewish organizations, according to Frontline: Jewish Voices for Peace, Jews Against the Occupation, Jews for Peace in the Middle East, the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Tikkun, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, and Women in Black. Therefore, it is unrealistic to assert that just because someone opposes a government, doesn't mean that the person opposes the identities of the people who live under that government.

But former Harvard lecturer Martin Peretz, the editor-in-chief of The New Republic and a prominent supporter of Israel, defended Summers, saying that he "“is absolutely right,"” and that "“he was one of the first people to recognize this trend in the American academy."” ... "“In a way, it is good that these academics have expressed themselves in this way because it will make people understand how intellectual honesty is easily vanquished by propaganda,"” Peretz said.

Again, Peretz has a long history of such slander. The most egregious and damaging example of his McCarthy-esque habit of witch hunting occurred in 1995. According to (and corroborated in plenty of other writings found on the Web),

"Peretz made headlines when he successfully pressured Vice President Al Gore to rescind his offer to Harvard historian and Tennessee writer Richard Marius to the House speechwriter. Peretz accused Marius of anti-Semitism, citing a 1992 book review in which Marius compared the tactics of the Israeli secret police searching for Palestinian terrorists in the occupied territories to the Nazi Gestapo in occupied Europe during World War II. Gore, a former student of Peretz's at Harvard in the 1960s, complied with his request. Many defenders of Marius', who had written a major Holocaust speech for Gore to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising and who criticized Martin Luther in a biography for the Reformation figure's anti-Semitic writings, said Peretz's charge was without merit.

And those observers were right. Richard Marius was about the least anti-Semitic person you could have met (Marius died in 1999.) To make matters worse - and this is the point to which you should pay very close attention - it is arguable that this targeted character assassination, coupled with Peretz' manipulation of Gore, lost Gore the election in Tennessee. This, of course, would have made the Florida debacle a moot point, and we would now have a Democratic president.

Is it possible Peretz was intentionally sabotaging Gore's presidential chances? Let's look at the record. Peretz bought The New Republic in 1975. He soon turned it into America's leading "liberal" pro-war newsweekly. Twenty-some years later he was signing on to statements issued by the imperialist think tank Project for a New American Century (four, to be exact) - including the Sept. 20, 2001 letter to president Bush urging him to start the war in Iraq just nine days after 9/11. He is on the elite advisory board of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, along with such PNAC members as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. If you compare the rosters of the two think tanks, you can see that the WINEP essentially acts as an Israel expertise wing of the PNAC.

Just how "liberal" is this guy? Here is an article Peretz wrote for The Vanguard, a very well-heeled conservative publication (just look at the company he keeps), in which Peretz completely castigates every vestige of liberal America. One could view the article in one of two ways. Either he is exercising tough love by pointing out every failing of the liberal tradition, or he is simply pandering to conservatives a la Joe Lieberman. Take your pick. I think it's the latter.

In fact, it is my conclusion that this Martin Peretz is about as liberal as an M16 machine gun spraying bullets into a crowd of protesters. He is a Wolfowitz in sheep's clothing. He likes to call himself liberal so that unsuspecting readers will swallow his every word. He is passionately Zionist, for which I cannot knock him, but I believe his passion has clouded his judgment. Martin Peretz is to anti-Semitism what Joseph McCarthy was to Communism: he sees witches everywhere, and he feels it's his duty to destroy them.

Finally, I suspect Martin Peretz gained quite a few brownie points with the in-crowd at PNAC when he manipulated Gore back in '95. In so doing, he became a willing PNAC weapon for use against anti-war politicians like Howard Dean and John Kerry, both of whom he has dressed down in his personal bullhorn, The New Republic(an).

Hey, if you're an Imperialist, you really gotta love Martin Peretz. But if you're a normal human being, Peretz acts as a lesson in how wily these neocons can be. Keep an eye on this jerk.