Wolff: Peretz’s ‘vast corpus of disgusting statements’ stems from support for Israel

Middle East
on 24 Comments

UMass scholar Robert Paul Wolff participated in the Social Studies celebration at Harvard this weekend at which the Marty Peretz controversy burgeoned. Wolff has urged Harvard to refuse the scholarship given in Peretz’s name. The following account of one event is from Wolff’s blog. The excruciating/bizarre Michael Walzer moment to which Wolff refers is on the video above, at about 6:30. Notice the frank Israel lobby stuff in Wolff’s post. (thanks to Jeet Heer)

In the afternoon panel, several of the speakers alluded to Peretz, and many of the questioners from the floor brought it up. The defense of Marty was, I found, simply incredible. One person after another said that he was a much-loved teacher, as though that somehow excused thirty years of ugly, racist outbursts. The attitude was, if I may put it this way, as though Marty was a fine fellow with the unfortunate habit of farting in public. It was not until the very end of the afternoon session that a young women asked a question that should have been center stage throughout: How did Peretz’s appalling views affect his teaching?

The absolute low point of the day, for me, was Michael Walzer’s defense of his old friend. Walzer began by telling the audience that in 1969, when Harvard students seized the administration building in an anti-war protest, he and Marty formed a committee to defend them, and most of the advocacy for the students was carried out by Marty. This, we were supposed to conclude, earned Peretz a pass on four decades of ugly racist rants. Then Walzer, widely considered one of the preeminent political philosophers of the present day, sank to a really appalling low. He looked at one of the questioners who had attacked Peretz and said, “Have you examined every writing and footnote and every email of each member of the Standing Committee?” At that, the audience groaned, and he shut up.

What was really going on? I tried to explain this to the Crimson reporter, and a quote from me on this may appear in the story [in the middle of last night, the reporter emailed me to check the quotes before the story was put in final form.] Let me back up a bit and try to get some perspective. This was a gathering of more than four hundred former and present Social Studies majors — possibly the largest assemblage of sophisticated social theorists since the last garden party of the Frankfort School for Social Research. These are people who think nothing of discerning the deeper ideological meaning in Afghan popular music or Tibetan architecture, or teasing out the epistemological filiations between Foucault and Montesquieu. And yet, confronted at their own conference by a massive protest, the best they could come up with was “Marty is a nice guy.”

It is not at all difficult to figure out the real sources of the vast corpus of disgusting statements by Martin Peretz. The answer requires only one word: Israel. Why is it that while these high-powered social theorists were extolling Social Studies’ fruitful union of historical research and theoretical analysis, none of them could find a moment to refer to the transformation of left-wing Jewish social theorists into Neo-cons and Peretz’ transformation of The New Republic from a liberal journal into a right-wing apologist for war against Muslims?…

I have already told the story in my Memoir of my 1973 phone call to Michael Walzer, and the discovery that he and Peretz were supporting Nixon in the impeachment controversy because Nixon was a strong supporter of Israel. Well, here we were in this huge, elegant auditorium in Harvard’s Science Center, and the assembled intelligentsia, a great many of whom are indeed Jewish, evinced not the slightest interest in the historical and political roots of the controversy kept by Harvard’s security forces from intruding on their happy reminiscences.

24 Responses

  1. Jeff Klein
    September 27, 2010, 1:32 pm

    And not “just” support for Israel, but a re-birth (re-emergence?) of narrow tribal consciousness and group loyalty. That is, to these modern chosen philosophers, Jews are more worthy as humans than “others” and a Jewish life is more precious than that of a Goy. . .

    As I have said elsewhere, this is what Zionism has done to a once-proud Jewish intellectual stance in the world. A shame and a tragedy.

    • Oscar
      September 27, 2010, 1:49 pm

      Maybe Walzer is surprising to find that the intelligensia of the new millennium doesn’t swallow the intellectually fraudulent pablum of Marty and his defenders. If there was ever a chance to challenge authority, it was this weekend where Harvard sank to David Duke lows and stuck by its guns to accept a $650,000 scholarship to fund Islamohatred. Hey, Mike? You may be the smartest guy in the room, but not by much.

  2. James Bradley
    September 27, 2010, 1:51 pm

    Its about time people start mentioning the obvious.

  3. homingpigeon
    September 27, 2010, 2:44 pm

    Michael Walzer has a purpose. Because he wrote a long book on Just War
    Theory, and dwelt on Israel’s wars as rare examples of just wars, he helps me immensely in making the case that there are no just wars.

  4. Bumblebye
    September 27, 2010, 2:55 pm

    This reminds me:

    In the early 80s there was a short resurgence of the National Front in the UK. One of the main NF players was a lecturer at our local college. A friend and I stirred a bit of, er, mud, and a couple of articles appeared in the MSM, leading to a Students Union meeting. Unfortunately, at said meeting students of color spoke up for the lecturer, as he never, ever brought his own politics into this sphere of his life. He was thus able to remain a lecturer until retirement, with the veneer of respectability this automatically entails. Now he has a new career as a BNP Member of the European Parliament.

    And what’s next on Peretz’ career agenda?

  5. Citizen
    September 27, 2010, 3:48 pm

    “You all play by the inspiringly just rules we recommend–it is good for everyone in the long run, though it might harm some of you in the short run–justice is the cornerstone of lasting world peace. If you need a model, look to Israel.”

  6. Pamela Olson
    September 27, 2010, 4:46 pm

    I’m only halfway through and already cringing with second-hand embarrassment.

    • Pamela Olson
      September 27, 2010, 4:56 pm

      On the other hand, I’m kind of glad Harvard decided to shoot itself in the foot like this, because it puts a bright spotlight on a kind of gross hypocrisy and “genteel racism” that has otherwise existed comfortably out of sight.

      I especially enjoyed Richard Tuck’s little speech at the end [I paraphrase]: “We were kind enough to let the Wog speak (he’s so smart he’s practically human!), but can you all please shut up now and talk about what I want to talk about?”

      • munro
        September 27, 2010, 6:05 pm

        Harvard didn’t shoot itself in the foot, quite the opposite, the Peretz freakshow thrilled their donors. Soon Larry Summers will be back and laissez les bons temps rouler.

      • Mooser
        September 28, 2010, 8:30 am

        I hope they shoot themselves in the foot when they’ve got it in their mouth.

      • Pamela Olson
        September 28, 2010, 11:36 am

        Donors aren’t everything. Harvard is losing the respect of rational people of conscience. The most precious asset Harvard has is its reputation, and this is helping it lose that — or rather, shining a spotlight on the fact that it is less and less deserved.

  7. MHughes976
    September 27, 2010, 6:06 pm

    The mention of Nixon is interesting. I’ve long thought that the moment when Nixon (who was apparently quite uncomfortable in the presence of Jewish people) decided to rescue Israel in 1973 was the moment when what we now call neo-conservatism started to be born.

    • lysias
      September 27, 2010, 6:24 pm

      Didn’t Nixon only give in then because the Israelis were blackmailing him by threatening to use their nukes (against Egypt and Syria is what I’ve heard — which would of course have defied the Soviets to retaliate)?

      • MHughes976
        September 28, 2010, 5:26 am

        That’s very interesting and quite frightening. But whatever Nixon’s motives it was a moment – even ‘the moment’ – when right-wing forces that had traditionally been somewhat anti-Semitic and Jewish intellectuals who had traditionally opposed right-wing policies began to look on each other with friendlier eyes and to appreciate how powerful they could be in alliance with each other. Though even now, with so many successes on its record, it’s still a bit of a strange menage.

    • Sumud
      September 28, 2010, 12:13 am

      when Nixon… …decided to rescue Israel in 1973 was the moment when what we now call neo-conservatism started to be born.

      MHughes976 ~ I don’t know enough about neo-conservatism to pitch a date but you’re definitely on the mark in placing it’s birth as being in the early 70s. Something else extremely relevant happened less than a year before the 1973 war:

      After the killing of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, Golda Meir authorised air strikes on Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. In total, more than 200 men, women and children were killed. Three Syrian fighter jets were downed, and Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon. It was the largest IDF outing since 1967.

      Of significance:
      1. this is probably the beginning of the ‘war on terror’. Israel not only pursued those directly and indirectly responsible for the attack on the Israeli athletes, it visited vast destruction on adjacent civilian populations. The current wiki page on the events in Munich describe the attacks as being on PLO fighters in PLO bases:

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      Media accounts of the day relate the killing of men, women and children in refugee camps. [If you have access to the NYT archives, search for references to Lebanon and Syria in September 1972.]

      2. Not surprisingly, the international community was outraged at Israel’s behaviour and a condemning Security Council resolution was drafted. Thus began the United States long history of shielding Israel from international criticism: UN Ambassador George H. W. Bush vetoed the resolution.


      Pop quiz: how many people actually know about those post-Munich attacks on Lebanon and Syria? Operation Wraith Of God (the long-running Mossad pursuit of those determined responsible for Munich) and Operation Spring of Youth (the stealth raid by Israeli commandos in Beirut) but these attacks on refugee camps have been all but forgotten.

      • MHughes976
        September 28, 2010, 6:11 am

        Thanks – heart sinks on reading.

      • Donald
        September 28, 2010, 6:37 am

        According to As’ad AbuKhalil (“The Angry Arab” blogger), Israel was bombing refugee camps before the Munich operation.


  8. Chu
    September 27, 2010, 6:19 pm

    I hear this was just a warm up before they honor Joseph Stalin for all his noble traits and accomplisments. Marty was just a test case to see what kind of questions the audience may have.

    What’s unique is that the panel couldn’t actually sit up straight and defend Peretz. They squeamishly sit there and know what they are defending is complete racist muck.

    To think that Harvard has to engage with a shady characters like Peretz is a scary realization on so many levels. And to think that E.J. Dionne is the ‘liberal’ viewpoint of the Washington Post is chilling…I think he’s got mud in his mouth.

    • Avi
      September 28, 2010, 5:22 am

      Between this, the corruption on Wall Street, the corruption in Congress, the amnesty given to businesses that spy on citizens, the outsourcing of murder to companies like Blackwater, the assassination of U.S. citizens without a trial and the bailouts I can’t help but notice that the empire is in a moral decline, snowballing out of control.

      • Chu
        September 28, 2010, 7:33 am

        It’s as if some pulled out the cork at the bottom of DC’s and Wall Street’s cesspool. We’re witnessing this dirty water vortex quickly suck morality down the drain.

      • Avi
        September 28, 2010, 10:06 am

        Yes. That’s a fitting metaphor.

    • Antidote
      September 28, 2010, 12:16 pm

      “before they honor Joseph Stalin for all his noble traits”

      they already did, in exchange for helping them win WW II. Just wasn’t mentioned much during and since the Cold War. The Russians have already rediscovered Stalin’s ‘noble traits and accomplishments’, who’s next?

      link to huffingtonpost.com

  9. traintosiberia
    September 27, 2010, 10:08 pm

    Harvard should have been in Mic Veigh defense team with the cogent argument -” He has been always a chubby,friendly,religious kid , and fun to play with “

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