We all face phenomena in life that make us crazy. If Jews have a few more of these than most groups, then perhaps our history entitles us. The trick is to keep these neuroses under control, at least in public–a challenge made more difficult by the invention of the blogosphere.
One Jew who has clearly given up the fight is the longtime owner and self-appointed editor in chief of what was once liberalism’s flagship weekly, The New Republic. Under Marty Peretz’s lengthy tenure, TNR has lost much of its circulation, even more of its liberalism and every last bit of its weeklyness. And while this long-term decline has many causes, much of it is due to the fact that Peretz’s increasingly nasty neoconservatism, which was held in check in the past by strong editors like Michael Kinsley and Hendrik Hertzberg, has come to dominate the magazine’s character as never before.
Peretz regularly employs TNR‘s website to publish what are inarguably racist rants directed toward Arabs and other adherents of Islam. A recitation of just his greatest hits on this score might fill this entire magazine, but here’s a representative example: “I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) ‘atrocities.’ They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn’t comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than they do.” Lately, Peretz has added Latin America to his collection of inferior brown-skinned civilizations he could do without. Mexico, for instance, suffers from being a “Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies: congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits.”
Admittedly, all this is not exactly news, but what has gone largely unremarked is how much of TNR‘s ire has, of late, been directed at American Jews and in particular Jews who believe that the best way to protect Israel’s long-term future would be to commit itself to finding a common ground for peace with the Palestinians.
Consider this: the young Jewish blogger and author Matthew Yglesias is widely recognized among liberals as one of the leading lights of his generation. And yet The New Republic has recently been forced to apologize to Yglesias twice for misrepresenting his views on Israel, and in both cases the topic at hand was his support for the new Jewish peace lobby J Street. (One of these apologies came from Peretz himself; the other from his widely recognized “Mini-me,” James Kirchick, a former personal assistant promoted to the rank of TNR assistant editor.) An extremely reluctant apology was also forthcoming from Kirchick to another leading young liberal Jewish journalist, Ezra Klein, as well as to the not-so-young yours truly, following his repeated spewing of similarly malicious lies about our views on J Street. And yet despite the obvious embarrassment to the magazine, its editors, contributors and friends these public humiliations undoubtedly cause, the invective and personal insults continue unabated. Younger Jews with whom Peretz disagrees are “pubescent” members of a “Juicebox mafia”; older ones are “aging…ideologue[s]” and participants in a “circle jerk.”