Peretz in Exile
For decades, Martin Peretz taught at Harvard and presided over The New Republic—a fierce, if controversial, lion among American intellectuals and Zionists. Now, having been labeled a bigot, taunted at his alma mater, and stripped of his magazine, he has found peace in a place where there is little: Israel.
(New York Magazine) -- by Benjamin Wallace-Wells --
The part of Israel that remains perfect to Martin Peretz is vanishingly small. But it does still exist, tangibly enough that you could trace its perimeter on a map of Tel Aviv: the ethnically mixed neighborhoods of Jaffa, the impeccably preserved Bauhaus downtown, the symphony halls and dance theaters, the intersections that still hold traffic, tense and honking, at 2:30 in the morning, the cosmopolitan sidewalk cafés that make real the old liberal dream. Peretz, the longtime owner and editor-in-chief of The New Republic, has been living here since October, and he reported recently that he has seen performances by the progressive dance company Pilobolus, the Cape Town Opera, and a Malian jazz group, which drew “a very hip crowd.” The sections of Tel Aviv he inhabits are so secular, Peretz says with relish, that in his first six weeks he saw exactly “eleven guys with Orthodox clothes. That’s it.”
Peretz is a fervent believer in Israel, but he always found the country a little small and so has often kept his trips short. Now he is here for seven months, teaching English writing to a class of eight 15-year-olds—immigrants, many of them, and poor...
Throughout, Peretz has seemed to grow only more resolute, his constitutional truculence more evident. In September, writing on his New Republic blog The Spine, Peretz homed in on a familiar villain: Islamic terrorists who target other Muslims. “Frankly,” he wrote, “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims.” He got himself wound up: “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.” Nicholas Kristof began his Sunday New York Times column by denouncing the post; Peretz’s sentiments, he wrote, showed how “venomous and debased the discourse about Islam has become.” The Atlantic’s James Fallows, arguably the most reasonable man in liberal American letters, reviewed the evidence and concluded that Peretz is “broadly considered … a bigot.” Peretz had published many similar slanders in the past, but suddenly there were protests bent on a reckoning: a loud demonstration at Harvard, public letters demanding his condemnation, profound indignation across the left. The day after Kristof’s column, Peretz apologized for suggesting First Amendment privileges be revoked for Muslims. It was “a stupid sentence,” he now says. The rest he defended; it was what he believed...MORE...LINK
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