The ‘TNR’ editor heads for the Holy Land
Martin Peretz during earlier, awesomer times.(New York)
The most surprising thing you learn in New York’s generally fantastic profile of longtime New Republic owner, editor, and all-around maven Martin Peretz—assuming you know something of Peretz’s politics and recent controversies (and chances are, if you have already read the profile, you do)—is that he has been known to attend the protests in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, “in solidarity with Palestinians threatened with eviction.” This is astonishing, given that these protests have become something between a rite of passage and a shibboleth for the Israeli left (Todd Gitlin gave his first-hand account of the ritual earlier this month in Tablet Magazine) and that, on the question of Israel, Peretz is, shall we say, no dove.
But the profile depicts someone much more complex than the caricature of Peretz, furthered by his enemies but buttressed by his own blogposts, as a ranting, right-wing, and—there’s really no denying it—occasionally racist pundit. Partly, this more balanced view of Peretz is the result of a peace process so stagnant that someone on the right cannot help but seem like a moderate (Palestinian President Salam Fayyad is “a very modernizing person, but I would doubt that he commands loyalty,” Peretz says, and one can easily imagine someone with opposite views nodding in agreement). And partly, this more balanced view of Peretz may also be the result of the fact that Peretz—despite being, as the article’s title has it, “in Exile” from most of the things that have defined his seven decades (the United States, Harvard, his now-ex-wife, The New Republic)—cooperated with the profile and so presumably had some ability to craft the narrative it tells. This is not pure supposition on my part: Earlier this fall, a reporter on assignment for Tablet Magazine tried to interview Peretz about his participation in an English-language teaching program in Jaffa (which the profile opens with), only to be told Peretz wanted nothing written about his trip. (more…)