Martin Peretz — An Appreciation


By the time I began developing a political consciousness in the early 1980s, I didn’t have any choice but to be on the right side of the political spectrum. By the early 1980s, the political Left in the US had already abandoned support for Israel.

When I grew up in what would later become Barack Obama’s neighborhood in Chicago, the black political machine in the neighborhood and the city, led by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan was openly anti-Semitic and pro-Muslim. The white Left was also hostile. The Communists were anti-Israel. The media was anti-Israel.

As a proud Jewish girl, it was clear to me from adolescence on that I could only locate myself on the political Right.

This was not the case for people who came of age in the 1950s and early 1960s. At that time, the USSR had not yet cut off its relations with Israel. The civil rights movement was a joint Jewish-black movement.

For those of you who don’t know the history, the NAACP was founded by Jews. The plaintiff in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark Supreme Court decision from 1954 that opened the path to school desegregation, was represented by the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund’s legal team of Jack Greenberg and Thurgood Marshall. The famous Mississippi Burning incident where three civil rights workers were lynched in 1964 involved the murder of one black civil rights worker James Earl Chaney and two Jewish civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwermer.

But starting sometime around 1965, the blacks began the process of expelling the Jews from the Civil Rights movement, as they embraced anti-Semitism and the Arab war for the destruction of Israel. In New York City, this period reached a culmination in the 1968 teachers strike. The strike was caused by the decision of a black school board in Brownsville, Brooklyn to fire many of the Jewish teachers and administrators from the local schools and replace them with black separatist teachers and administrators.

The head the teachers union Albert Shanker dated the end of Jewish-black cooperation to the strike.

While researching my book, yesterday I came across a fascinating FBI report from 1970 that was declassified under the Freedom of Information Act in 2009. Titled, “FBI Monograph: Fedayeen Impact – Middle East and United States, June 1970,” it is focused on the PLO, and Fatah’s penetration of the American political Left.

Here’s the link:

http://www.governmentattic.org/2docs/FBI_Monograph_Fedayeen-Impact_1970.pdf

In the section on PLO operations in the US, The monograph discussed its outreach to the African American political leadership and the radical white establishment. These sections of the report are fascinating and I recommend you take an hour or so to read the entire document yourself.

As the report puts it, “Since the June 1967, war, reports emanating from various sources have suggested that the Arabs have co-opted black extremists in the United States to assist the ‘struggle’ against Israel in the Middle East and in the United States.”

The report makes specific mention of the co-optation of the Black Panther Party, (BPP), the Student National Coordinating Committee, (SNCC), Stokely Carmichael, and the Nation of Islam.

Several BPP leaders participated in anti-Israel conferences in Africa and the Middle East where they gave stridently anti-Semitic speeches calling for the destruction of Israel. In one speech in Algeria in 1969 BPP “Minister of Information” Eldridge Cleaver, “Proclaimed BPP support for the Arab position and criticized ‘US-Zionists,’ mentioning Arthur Goldberg, Henry A. Kissinger, and Judge Julius Hoffman. He also expressed BPP admiration for Yasir Arafat and al-Fatah. Cleaver and Arafat reportedly hugged and kissed each other and received a standing ovation from those at the conference.”

In an interview with the New York Times on August 15, 1967, SNCC leader Ralph Featherston launched an all-out assault against Israel and Jews.

According to the FBI report, in the interview he said that “SNCC is drawn to the Arab cause because it is working toward a ‘third world alliance of oppressed people all over the world – Africa, Asia, Latin America – and considers the Arabs have been oppressed continually by Israelis and by Europeans as well in such countries as Algeria.’ He denied that SNCC was anti-Semitic, but was interested in indicting only ‘Jewish oppressors,’ a category he applied to Israel, and ‘to those Jews in the little Jew shops in the ghettos.’”

Stokely Carmichael sang from the same song sheet and did so not in Algeria but on US college campuses such as George Washington University and Harvard beginning in 1970.

The Soviet Union openly sided with the Arabs in the Six Day War and cut off relations with Israel immediately following the war. The radical American Left, populated by the Communist Party USA and other Communist front groups and New Left groups abandoned Israel at the same time. This mass abandonment included the Progressive Labor Party; Students for a Democratic Society, (SDS); SDS-Weathermen; the Socialist Workers Party; Workers World Party; and the Communist Party – USA, (CPUSA).

Since President Obama’s political world is populated by individuals from all these groups, and since Obama launched his political career in the living room of SDS-Weathermen terror commanders Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, it is worth noting that in the SDS-Weathermen magazine “SDS Fire” December 6, 1969 issue, contained an editorial stating that “Arab peoples, above all the Palestinian people, will not and cannot accept the existence of Israel, a colonial-type creature imposed by outside forces on the area.”

A notable exception to the far Left’s abandonment of Israel and embrace of anti-Semitism was Ramparts Magazine, the New Left publication founded by David Horowitz and Peter Collier. Among other pro-Israel Ramparts articles the FBI report cites, it notes in particular one by then Harvard Professor Martin Peretz from July 1967.

In his article, Peretz took on the propaganda claims against Israel one by one and discredited them. Among other things, he said that Israel is not a colonialist state; there is no similarity whatsoever between the US war in Vietnam, which as a self-proclaimed radical he opposed, and Israel; the creation of Israel was not sponsored by imperialist powers; Nasser is not a socialist.

Peretz excoriated the Third World and Communist countries for their failure to recognize the Arab threat to Israel’s existence, calling their behavior “disgusting.”

The FBI report notes that the CPUSA’s support for the Arabs against Israel caused massive dissention in the ranks of the party, mentioning that some 75 percent of CPUSA’s members were Jewish. Jewish Communists in Chicago collected blood and plasma for Israel and donated money. Dissenters were also heard loudly in New York.

The reason I entitled this post “Martin Peretz, an appreciation,” is not for what he wrote in 1967, but because of what has happened to the Left, the Jewish Left and to Peretz in the 46 years that have passed since he wrote that article.

In the late 1960s, Peretz wasn’t alone in defending Israel against the radical Left – white and black. In 1967, even Jewish Communists were willing to break ranks to support Israel. And as the 1968 New York Teachers Strike showed, at the time, liberal Jews in general were willing to defend themselves from attacks by black anti-Semites.

But in the intervening years, fewer and fewer voices on the Left, and specifically on the Jewish Left were willing to take such positions and pit themselves against their movement. And so as the decades passed, what were the positions of the radical Left in the 1960s became increasingly the positions of the mainstream Left, until by last summer, they became the positions of the majority of delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

When I was growing up in Chicago, the local Jewish establishment’s refusal to support Israel in the 1982 Lebanon War is what made me decide to make aliyah. By the time I arrived at Columbia in 1987, and the Palestinian uprising broke out, it was hard to find Jewish leaders who were willing to stand up for Israel without stuttering.

Today the situation has become simply untenable. Suffice it to say that Bill Ayers’s political protégé Barack Obama’s success in garnering 70 percent of the Jewish vote is not an aberration.

Yet through it all, Martin Peretz has rarely wavered. Despite his attempts to support the Palestinians, he has not allowed his desire to see the Arab conflict with Israel resolved diminish his support for Israel. He has remained a staunch, loyal defender of Israel. When I was growing up, I relied on his New Republic for its reporting on Israel and the Middle East. Peretz was one of my intellectual heroes.

In recent years, I’ve felt more bemused by than respectful of Peretz. A colleague of mine quipped some years back that Peretz and Alan Dershowitz live in an intellectual universe populated only by Peretz and Dershowitz and they refuse to acknowledge that they are alone. That quip has probably anchored my thinking on both men ever since.

But even if my colleague’s remark was more true than false, reading the FBI report, I decided I should discard its snide diminution of Peretz. The fact is, he has been fighting this fight for nearly fifty years. As a man of the Left, he has fought the fight for Israel and Jewish rights, increasingly alone for nearly fifty years, and has done so despite what must have been enormous personal costs as his comrades all jumped ship, and in many cases, joined the cause of Israel’s enemies.

 

Cervantes’s Don Quixote is generally reviled as a fool for his futile battle against windmills. By the same token, Leftists who insist that their movement — which long ago parted company with the ideals it claims to represent, and serves as a warm political home for totalitarian anti-Semites — must  side with good against evil, necessarily call up the image of Don Quixote fighting the forces of nature.

But when you think about it, there is something heroic about keeping up a battle even if it is doomed to fail, simply because it is the right thing to do. So hats off to Peretz for keeping true.

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  • Max

    Martin Peretz was one of my first intellectual heroes. When I was in High School in the mid-1970s, my economics teacher took a few of us to a speech he gave at an American Friends of Hebrew University event. I began subscribing to the New Republic from that day until the internet era made it unnecessary. As soon as I received the magazine each week I turned immediately to his commentary. Although I would later align myself with neo-Conservatives, I continued to admire Dr. Peretz. I was shocked and hurt by his position against allowing freedom for Jonathan Pollard, but that inexplicable position does not detract from the great courage he has shown over the years. Thank you for recognizing him.

  • EarlyBird

    To Peretz' credit, though a stalwart supporter of Israel, he is an American who put America first, and so properly condemned Pollard for his outrageous act of treason.

    • PAthena

      Jonathan Pollard did not commit treason.

      • ajnn

        The problem is everyone else who has acted as Pollard (and the list is long) since 1975 gets around 5 years in minimum security prison. Pollard has gotten life in solitary. This is not justice. Pollard should get thhe same sentence as others have.

        • southwood

          No. He was a greedy traitor and even abused the terms of his plea bargain. Some countries would have executed him.

      • southwood

        He certainly WAS a traitor. He passed on classified information to several countries for money and other rewards. His actions were treasonous.

        • AnOrdinaryMan

          He passed classified info which wasn't top secret or even secret; and was subsequently de-classified. Yes, Pollard did some questionable things; but not outright treason. However, he's paid for his sins, and should have been released a long time ago. That's the point.

          • southwood

            It depends on how one defines treason. I would say he was a downright mercenary traitor.

    • Mary Sue

      how exactly did Johnathan Pollard's actions harm the United States in any way, shape, or form?

    • zaynab

      The U.S. had an intelligence sharing agreement with Israel, Israel shared it's intelligence and the United States withheld intelligence that put the lives of Israelis at risk. Pollard gave the Israelis the intelligence that the U.S. withheld. It was the U.S. who betrayed Israel.

      • southwood

        Really ? So who gave him that right ? Also, why did he leak classified info to S.Africa, China and Pakistan BEFORE delivering some to Israel ? Was this guy deciding what foreign nations should get America's classified info ? Who exactly did he think he was ? God ?

        "Pollard and his apologists argue he turned over to the Israelis information they were being denied that was critical to their security. The fact is, however, Pollard had no way of knowing what the Israeli government was already receiving by way of official intelligence exchange agreements…. Some of the data he compromised had nothing to do with Israeli security or even with the Middle East. He betrayed worldwide intelligence data, including sources and methods developed at significant cost to the U.S. taxpayer. As a result of his perfidy, some of those sources are lost forever". (Wikipedia)

  • Ghostwriter

    The Israelis have the right to live in peace. Why can't people like EarlyBird ever understand that?

    • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

      Here is a good rendering of Black nationalists who are a prototype of radical revolutionary leftists too. Communists in all their glory – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/08/19/comrades-in-a… they detest Israel with all their passion and Jews overall.
      The likes of Rev Wright, 'Uncle Frank', Louis Farakan, Sharpton, Jackson, Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said and their ilk have one thing in common – hatred of Israel/Jews. And the fact that Obama hearted all of them tells us all we need to know. Birds of a hateful, radical feather.

      Adina kutnicki, Israel – http://www.adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Indio Viejo

    Peretz stands with a minority of Jews in defending Israel. Shameful as it is, American Jews are Communist first, and forever. David Horowitz has said it time and again, and their stand is treasonous by it self. I may be wrong on this but this is how I feel. As a Latino Catholic who values Israel's existence and admires the little nation, it is painful to see Jews aligning with the enemies of mankind.

    • Kepha

      Well, as a WP (probably not enough Anglo-Saxon to make it WASP), I'm also pained to see Jews aligning with a malignant Islamicism. But I disagree that the majority of Jews are Communists. I've lived close to them too long.

  • AnOrdinaryMan

    No one will ever accuse Caroline Glick of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses; and she continues her funeral dirge-toned articles with this one about Martin Peretz. She's right about Peretz, a brave man who has weathered all kinds of abuse from his left-wing political kin; and she's right about how the left has closed ranks, so that the younger generation of Lefties has yet to produce a Martin Peretz. Yet there must be a silver lining somewhere in this litany of Western downfall; and it is the principle that evil destroys itself. The Left will be defeated when critical mass–a tipping point is reached, on certain issues; but perhaps not without a terrible war of epic proportions. We will all suffer, but one day, good will come of it.

  • g_jochnowitz

    In 1965, I began to oppose the Vietnam War. In the month or two before the Six-Day War in 1967, I became aware that some of the people who shared my opposition to the war were hoping for Israel's defeat if a war came about. After the war, there was the National Conference for the New Politics in Chicago, which included openly anti-Semitic statements. A year later came the New York teachers' strike, which provoked anti-Semites to come out of the closet. In 1969, the Village Voice printed my essay "The Left Is Soft on Anti-Semitism." http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/TheLeftSoft.html

  • prudencedogood

    David Horowitz and Peter Collier did not found Ramparts. For a memoir that discusses Rampart's origin on the Catholic Left, see Warren Hinckle's book If You Have a Lemon.

    Horowitz and Collier became Rampart's editors much later.

  • Guest

    And the sins of the fathers are visited on the children. 1950s and 1960s Jews did not realize how quickly the people they supported, to the detriment of a strong civil society, would come to haunt them.

  • Loyal Achates

    Marty Peretz is the crazy old uncle in the attic; he ruined TNR with his wild disdain for journalistic integrity (Stephen Glass, Ruth Shalit anyone?) and now his only defenders are the bigots of FPM.

    • Andy Lewis

      Thanks for stopping by, Achmed.

  • Western Spirit

    When I was going down into oblivion for the third time two Jews came to my rescue, a college professor who introduced me to a Jew who became my husband. Up to that point I didn't even know any Jews.

    I'd written a story in the professor's class that had set my fellow students into any uproar. The story was about a woman making a fool of a man because I was going through a messy divorce at the time and the story was a catharsis.

    The professor had called me apologizing for the reaction of her class and told me the story was very good, I was talented, and not to be discouraged. It must have been good judging by the negative reaction to it. The women's movement was new back then and such an idea was not well received. women being demeaned in writing was the rule of the day and I switched it around with the man being the dolt. One man, in class, even accused me of being a lesbian and insane.

    A friend, who was a therapist, told me the man accusing me of being a lesbian and insane must have been a homosexual since to homosexuals a woman having the power to make a fool of a man was incomprehensible, and sure enough the professor told me the man was gay.

    Anyway the professor and I became friends and she introduced me to the Jew who became my husband. You would think they'd look out for each other better than that, introducing a fellow Jew to an alleged insane lesbian gentile. Whatever the case, I could never understand anti-Semitic attitudes before I met these fine people and I certainly couldn't understand anti-Semitic attitudes since. Of course Jews can also be anti-Semitic but that's another story.

    My new husband was devoted to Israel but not to Israel's God. He was an atheist that felt the Jewish people had at last acquired a place of their own. Instead of wandering the wilderness for 40 years, they had wandered for years on endless years uprooted from their homeland until they were finally home.

    The professor had said my new husband and I would adopt attitudes from each other. And, sure enough my husband through the years went from atheist to agnostic to believer in God because, as a Christian, I so strongly believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

  • Peter G Berman

    having been born in the 1950s I remember this "history". A key event in the proce3ss yu discuss was the conversion of Malcoolm X to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1963 (which soon cost him his life ) and the publication of his autobiography.

  • David

    Liberal Jews are the worst cowards

  • Arlie

    How do democraps keep power? When they win they rewrite history as much as they can get away with. The use fear such as the KKK. The spread doubt and unbelief that people can take care of themselves. These are the same tricks that satan uses: fear, doubt and unbelief. I do not know of Martin Peretz, but if he stand for G-d's people and Land that is good.

    I wish the human race would not keep having the fight the same battles over and over and over again. There is a book, there is wisdom, there is a guide….people should read it.

    • Arlie

      Sorry, I didn't proof read my comment.

      They, democrats, use fear such as the kkk. They spread doubt and unbelief that people can take care of themselves. These tricks are the same used by satan: fear, doubt and unbelief. I do not know Martin Peretz, but if he stands with G-d's people and Land, that is good.

      I wish the human race would not keep having to fight the same battles…….

      • Arlie

        can't take care of themselves….

        Good night.

  • groovimus

    Stokely Carmichael extensively toured campuses before 1970, he came to Vanderbilt on 4/08/67. My memory of this was that the city of Nashville was seriously on edge because of his visit and because of the changes afoot in society. I was 17, my family were out of town at the time and my father let me know that his High Standard target pistol was at the ready if I needed it while they were gone. The '60's civil rights movement was in high gear, and Detroit was to explode 3 months later, so looking back it may seem amusing to remember our jitters, but this article has shed new light on the insanity let loose on this country by that decade's "thinkers". BTW Carmichael was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at the time and seemed to be not so nonviolent in his pronouncements. Here is the page of archives of Carmichael's visits to Nashville: http://digital.library.nashville.org/cdm/search/s