The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, May 24, 2002  

Martin Peretz Bashes Scholars
As Eric Alterman Undermines Credibility

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Talk about embarrassing. Humiliating, even.

Not long after Eric Alterman posted his critique of Martin Peretz, the New Republic’s part owner and resident demagogue, Peretz himself was preparing a screed for TNR in which he -- predictably -- trashes anyone who has the temerity to disagree with his delusional and paranoid more-Zionist-than-thou views.

Although we’ve already discussed Alterman’s devastating critique, we herewith submit a brief quote to bring our readers up to speed.

At his new web site, Altercation, Alterman on Tuesday (May 21) wrote:

”[T]he key thing to know about Peretz is that his entire position in the world of politics is due to the fact that he purchased TNR with money his wife inherited from her Singer Sewing [M]achine fortune. Peretz is always viciously attacking people who have earned their intellectual or journalistic credentials, rather than purchased them, and I wonder if his own precarious position is this world is the key to the frequent slander to which he subjects those with more genuine literary accomplishments. (Peretz has never written a book, or any other significant work of scholarship or reportage).”

There is not a person on earth who could convince us that these words don’t sting even the selectively heartless Peretz.

With his typical arrogance and contempt, Peretz in his article lambastes the professors from Princeton University, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have signed petitions urging their respective universities to sell their investments in companies doing business in Israel -- a position that, by the way, The Rittenhouse Review does not support.

Peretz begins by dismissing those who signed the position with a characteristically vague and nasty broadside: “[T]he signatories (most of whom oppose capitalism itself and are therefore presumably in favor of divestment almost anywhere) tell you just about everything you need to know about this laughable venture.”

An odd statement, that, given that the signatories are expressing their opposition to the militaristic policies of one of the most socialistic economies in the world. But who cares about facts? Certainly not Peretz.

The publishing world’s arch Zionist proceeds to demolish -- at least in his eyes -- the faculty members at each of the three institutions who have joined the call for divestment.


“At Princeton the most well known [signatories] are the manicured, exquisitely tailored Luxembourgeois [sic ?] neo-Marxist historian Arno Mayer, whose published preference for Lenin over Wilson and Stalin over Churchill may explain his current affection for Yasir Arafat; the philosopher Peter Singer, who usually cares more for animals than for people (his solicitude for the Palestinians is in that sense a great moral improvement) [sic !]; and the international lawyer Richard Falk, once an enthusiast for the Ayatollah Khomeini and a defender of the Khmer Rouge.”

What, exactly, the wardrobe of Mayer has to do with Middle-Eastern politics and military conflict is not clear. We suppose this swipe is intended to lead the reader to believe that Peretz, whose greatest accomplishment in life has been marrying money, is a paragon of restraint with respect to his attire. Now, we have seen the mighty Peretz in person on several occasions and we would be dishonest if we said he was not well turned out.


“At MIT there is, predictably, Noam Chomsky (another old Khmer Rouge fan), plus 14 linguists, and 38 others not known for thinking much about politics at all.”

How has Peretz determined that the 38 signatories he singles out for criticism do not give a second thought to politics “at all”? Does he know each individually? Has he spoken with their families, friends, and colleagues? Or does a professorship in anthropology automatically exclude one from having political opinions?


When discussing the signatories at Harvard, where Peretz briefly toiled as a lecturer, i.e., an instructor who works without the possibility of tenure and from whom no substantial scholarship is expected (nor, in this case, produced), the jefe-in-chief is particularly nasty:

“The Harvard list is equally uninteresting, sporting one distinguished classicist, one unusually undistinguished political scientist, a physicist who works for oil companies, several Arabists [sic -- Is there such as thing as an Israelist?], a few theologians, and the French art historian Henri Zerner -- who, I am afraid, can't tell the difference between the Left Bank and the West Bank.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

“One unusually undistinguished political scientist,” writes Peretz, whom no one in academia would consider a “political scientist” of any sort, let alone one of distinction. In fact, Peretz here could just as easily have been speaking about himself. We’ve seen the Harvard list, and given Peretz’s cowardly ambiguity we cannot readily determine to whom he is referring. It’s no surprise that this scoundrel isn’t brave enough, pace Victor Navasky, to name names -- perhaps the intent was to smear all five? And is that the sound of an axe grinding that we hear in the background?

But looking at the list of signatories, we can narrow things down a bit. Peretz is most likely chastising one of five people: Martin Kilson, emeritus professor of government; Kim Williams, assistant professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government; or one of three lecturers in the department of social studies (coincidentally, the same position Peretz held during his unextended stay at Harvard): Phineas Baxandall, Jane Bestor, or Christopher J. Sturr.

A one-year subscription to Tikkun will be given to the reader who makes the most convincing case identifying the subject of Peretz’s thinly shrouded venom.

Send your entry to by Wednesday, May 29, noon EDT.

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