Bigotry, Thy Name is Marty Peretz

Glenn Greenwald is right. This pro-Iraq War column by Marty Peretz is not only wrong, but it contains an unbelievably racist statement:

There were moments–long moments–during the Iraq war when I had my doubts. Even deep doubts. Frankly, I couldn’t quite imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs turning out especially well. This is, you will say, my prejudice. But some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong.

There are racist bigots who have argued that Jews cannot be trusted, because they’re inherently deceitful people. These racist bigots are rightly called anti-Semites, and they are despised by anyone with a functioning brain.

Marty Peretz just argued that Arabs can’t be trusted, because they’re inherently deceitful people. He’s a racist bigot, and he should be despised by anyone with a functioning brain.

This is not new. And it should not be ignored. Marty Peretz is a flaming racist douchebag. He views Arabs as less human than the rest of humanity. He is not merely prejudiced. He is proudly so.

His opinions are of no more merit than those of David Duke. And no decent human should think otherwise.

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39 Responses to Bigotry, Thy Name is Marty Peretz

  1. 1
    TAS says:

    So Arabs are a race?

  2. 2
    Jeff Fecke says:

    As much as anyone is. All humans are more closely related than chimps from different troops; race is a purely social construct. And Peretz most certainly sees “Arabs” as a race.

  3. 3
    Michelle says:

    And TAS, if Arabs are not a race, what does that mean?

    Accusing someone of stereotyping has lost its sting — if it ever had any.

    It seems you would deny that Arabs have grounds to stand on for accusations of racism.

    Why then do we have anti-semitism?

  4. 4
    Mike Goldman says:

    To be clear: Arabs are Semitic people. Marty Peretz is an anti-Semite.

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    15 Iraqis have died thus far in violence aimed at disrupting the elections. Turnout is nonetheless expected to be large. The Iraqi people went out to vote even knowing it could kill them.

    That seems to be a pretty good downpayment in blood on the “trust” issue.

  6. 6
    Kowalski says:

    FYI, you’re also a bigot:

    “He’s a racist bigot, and he should be despised by anyone with a functioning brain.”

    Either you are assuming that not all living people have a functioning brain, which is not only wrong but disablist.
    Or you use disability as a metaphor for a despicable person, which is also disablist.

    Take your pick.

  7. 7
    timberwraith says:


    During the tail-end of the Cold War, I remember my father saying, “The only thing those Russians understand is violence.”

    As time passes, so little seems to change.

    It doesn’t matter who the perceived foe of one’s country or group might be, people inevitably reduce their adversaries down to a hollow, evil simulacrum. If the adversary is different in any noticeable way—race, ethnicity, cultural tastes, physical appearance, religious preference, education level, etc.—those characteristics will be exploited in the process of creating an easily vilified specter, capable of inspiring fear in the hearts of many. If those characteristics call upon widely held prejudices, the effect is easily transmitted across an entire society or subculture.

    Prejudice is the oil that lubricates the machines of violence, for it is far more difficult to hurt an enemy whose face looks like your own.

  8. 8
    Kowalski says:

    To be clear: Arabs are Semitic people. Marty Peretz is an anti-Semite.

    By that logic, the N-word would be acceptable, because technically it just means “black”.

  9. 9
    Sailorman says:

    Well, sure, Arabs aren’t trustworthy at all, if you compare them to Christians. Christians can always be counted on to keep every promise, every time.

    Oh, wait…


  10. 10
    Mandolin says:

    To be clear: Language evolves, as does connotation, and sometimes the most pedantic answer is not the one that accurately conveys meaning.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Anti-Semitic is a term with a specific history; it has always meant bigotry against Jews in particular. It no more means “bigotry against any semitic people” than the term hot dog means a warm canine.

    * * *

    Either you are assuming that not all living people have a functioning brain, which is not only wrong but disablist.

    I don’t see what definition of “functioning” would make this argument make sense.

    I think of “functioning” as meaning that the brain works; it is living and processes thoughts and emotions. If a brain is non-functioning, that means being braindead, and not processing any thoughts or emotions at all. If seeing a distinction between functioning brains and brain death is bigotry, then I have to admit to being a bigot in this area.

    Perhaps by “functioning” you mean “neurotypical.” However, if that’s what you meant, then I’d say your assumption that a non-neyrotypical brain is not functioning is bigoted and unjustifiable. For that reason, I doubt that’s how you meant it.

  12. Pingback: The Mahablog » Iraq = FAIL

  13. 12
    Jeff Fecke says:

    Considering that I myself am neuroatypical (I suffer from major depression and ADHD), I’m certainly not saying that neuroatypical≠functional. Indeed, my neuroatypical brain functions quite well enough to find Marty Peretz a to be a douche. The functionality lacking in those who would defend Peretz is not a disability, but a willful ignorance.

  14. 13
    Kowalski says:

    Since you both picked my argument out of context I’ll try again, what’s human decency to do with brain functionality?
    Why make that implication?
    You could’ve just said “everyone”, or “everyone with an ounce of decency”, like you did in your last sentence, but you said “everyone with a functioning brain.”
    It’s conflating ability with decency, the latter is chosen.

    “Indeed, my neuroatypical brain functions quite well enough to find Marty Peretz a to be a douche.”
    It’s nothing to do with functioning, you’ve just been thinking, a “function” is non-voluntary (breathing for example).
    That was my point.

  15. 14
    Charles S says:

    Thinking is a function of the brain. People with entirely non-functional brains do not think.

    However, this is a backwards argument. The problem with Jeff’s argument is not that he suggests that people with mental disabilities think that Marty’s bigotry is okay. The problem with Jeff’s statement is that it implies that anyone who doesn’t think that Marty is a bigot probably has a non-functioning brain. It is therefore using the suggestion of mental disability as an insult. If Jeff had written that any manly man should despise Marty as a bigot, I don’t think anyone would disagree that he was attempting to impugn the masculinity of anyone who disagreed in a gender-norm-ist manner.

    Jeff edges towards able-ist language of this sort (disability as metaphoric pejorative) fairly often, and usually just ignores complaints about it completely (except where he uses mental disabilities as a pejorative metaphor, in which case he brings out the “I have mental disabilities too” defense).

    Some one who uses disability as metaphor is not the equivalent of someone who believes that schizophrenics should all be locked away in mental hospitals, or who declares that autism = sociopathy. Jeff is in the first category in relation to disability, and Marty is in the second category (in terms of his attitudes towards Arabs, rather than people with disabilities).

  16. 15
    Ampersand says:

    With all due respect to Jeff, Charles’ argument seems persuasive to me.

    Despite what I said before, when used in a casual manner “nonfunctioning brain” carries multiple connotations, and one of those connotations is mental disability. It would be better to have used another term. Personally, I would have found “totally brain-dead” to be acceptable, although other folks here might disagree.

  17. 16
    Kowalski says:

    “People with entirely non-functional brains do not think. ”

    Ah, see that’s kind of difficult to know, but never mind this, I didn’t say Jeff is as bad as Peretz, bigotry always comes in different forms and different levels of obnoxiousness, and saying hey, it’s okay as long as the bigotry-meter doesn’t explode is kind of letting bigots decide what’s okay, and not those who are dehumanized as a result of bigotry.

    And hello, that’s me! There’s an open media debate where everyone is invited to discuss whether people like me have a right to exist.

    Considering that disabled people’s lives are widely thought of as less worth living I think that perpetuating the disabled = bad metaphor is very harmful, especially on a blog that focuses on social justice and progressive politics. It gives readers the idea that all kinds of social justice issues are important because of our shared humanity, but disabled folks don’t count as human enough to be considered.
    (yes, I remember the thread on the Ashley X post, where Alas readers thought a severely disabled girl’s life can’t be worth living.)

    Also, I deliberately ignored the “I have a disability, too” argument, I’ve heard it far too often, if anything, it proves how deep rooted and internalized disablism is.

  18. 17
    sara says:

    What I want to know is how many vehicles Marty Peretz owns, and does he not know where the majority of petroleum comes from.

    I have to take issue with Kowalski bringing up the ‘n’ word, though, in the context of anti-semitism encompassing Arabs as well. You can’t get there from here.

    And Ampersand, it’s pretty ingrained in language, thanks to specific history, that anti-semitism refers to Jews specifically, but ask an anthropologist or even a linguist that question, and it is not so cut and dried. Arabs are Semitic peoples.

  19. 18
    Kowalski says:

    I brought up the N-word because words have more than a literal meaning as Ampersand already said, there’s a historical context to consider.

    If a man gets arrested on an airport, because he’s thought to be a terrorist, just because he has a beard, it’s down to islamophobia, not anti-semitism.
    If some 9/11 truther claims Mossad was behind the attacks, it’s anti-semitism.

    Those are differently motivated forms of bigotry based on wholly different historical contexts that shouldn’t be conflated.

    To reduce words to its literal meaning erases a history of oppression, the R-word is the best example. There are so many people who claim it’s just a word and it means slow. It completely ignores the historical context and how it has contributed to the dehumanization of people. (Much like the N-word.)

  20. 19
    Charles S says:


    I don’t disagree. I tend to think that metaphoric able-ist language is a side effect of able-ist cultural practices rather than a generator of able-ist cultural practices, but that doesn’t prevent metaphoric able-ist language from being exclusionary and disrespectful and therefore worthy of being calling out.

    I do think that there is an implicit equating of significance when you respond to someone saying “So and so is a bigot,” by saying “You are also a bigot,” but I can see the point in terms of rhetorical effectiveness.

  21. 20
    chingona says:


    It’s very cut and dried. The man who coined the term anti-Semitism coined it to be a more scientific term to lend legitimacy to hatred of Jews, and that is what the word means. It’s not that it has generally been used to refer to hatred of Jews, but that for as long as the term has existed, that has been it’s meaning.

    That Arabs are a Semitic people is beside the point. Rather like saying Arabs aren’t a race so I can’t be racist against Arabs.

  22. Regarding the term anti-Semitism, this is from the end of the first post in the series I wrote called What We Talk About (And Don’t Talk About) When We Talk About (And Don’t Talk About) Israel And antisemitism:

    My point in raising the whole question of the term anti-Semitism is to explain why I write it the way I do: antisemitism. I wish I could remember the book where I first encountered this tactic so I could quote for you accurately the original rationale behind it, but I can’t. I have been writing the term this way ever since I read that book, however, because it allows me to continue using the word in common usage for Jew-hating while at the same time drawing attention away–however slightly–from the fact that in its original form it referred to Semitic people, and even then, it did so inaccurately. When Wilhelm Marr popularized the term in 1879 so that Jew-hating would have a scientific and therefore objectively, legitimizing word that could be used to refer to it, he obviously did not even consider the Arabs worthy of notice. The term, in other words, has a double oppression embedded in it, and it would be much better if we could find a different word, especially since discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation of Jews in the Arab world and so on inevitably involve questions of Arab antisemitism. Antisemitism, however, is the word that we have. “Jew-hating” is difficult, I think, because the word “hating” inherently raises the stakes and implies that all expressions and manifestations of antisemitism exist at the same level of intensity and harmfulness and so it removes, for me anyway, the feeling that nuance is possible in these discussions.

  23. 22
    Kowalski says:

    Charles, I’m autistic and bluntness and literalness is just very typical for autistic people, I don’t know if it’s rhetorically effective, most people take offense and read something in it that isn’t there. I appreciate that noone did that here.

    For this reason, I’ve no respect for the nuance argument that Richard Jeffrey Newman brought up.
    To boil it down to different kinds of hatred ignores how oppression works, that people want to keep their undeserved privilege and apply various oppression tactics to preserve it. The more educated and middle class people learned how to do this in sophisticated ways that are socially and rhetorically acceptable, whereas uneducated people may resort to inappropriate vulgarities that can be easily spotted.

    To claim that vulgar expressions of bigotry cause more harm than sophisticated and subtle manipulations, is one of those tactics to preserve middle class privilege.

  24. 23
    RonF says:

    All humans are more closely related than chimps from different troops;

    Can you give a citation for that? I’m surprised that there is that much genetic variance between chimpanzees from different troops.

  25. 24
    RonF says:

    Well, sure, Arabs aren’t trustworthy at all, if you compare them to Christians. Christians can always be counted on to keep every promise, every time.

    Oh, wait…


    Sarcasm because you have found some Christians to be untrustworthy or because the intersection between “Arabs” and “Christians” is not a null set?

    People seem to forget – or never learned – the latter. Although there are a number of people in the Middle East, supported by their governments in most cases, that are trying to change that by either forcing them to leave, forcing them to convert, or by killing them.

  26. 25
    Jake Squid says:

    Although there are a number of people in the Middle East, supported by their governments in most cases, that are trying to change that by either forcing them to leave, forcing them to convert, or by killing them.

    That sounds almost exactly like the history of Christianity in Europe.

    Except for the “Middle East” part. Replace that with “Europe”.

  27. 26
    RonF says:

    Christianity started out as a minority religion and for it’s first 300+ years it’s followers were mostly persecuted and executed. After Constantine became emperor and made Christianity the official state religion there might have been a smattering of religious overtones to the defense and expansion of the Roman empire, but it wasn’t the driving force for the violence; that would be actual imperialism. The wars that truly ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages rarely were Christian vs. pagan, they were between Christian factions using Christianity as a smoke screen for a desire for conquest. In present circumstances it would be analagous to the Iraq-Iran war, Shia vs. Sunni (while Iraq is majority Shia, the power structure at the time was Sunni).

    Islam, OTOH, was spread by the sword from it’s start. It’s founder is unique among current major religions in that he was a conqueror. Jesus, Buddha and the rest pretty much owned nothing more than a robe and a pair of sandals. In contrast, the current differences between Shia and Sunni have their roots in the fact that Muhammad ruled an empire by the time he died but left a daughter and no son. Throw in the fact that strict partriarchical succession is not an Arab tradition (while it’s not completely strictly observed, a surviving brother has a better claim than a son) and the result was a disputed succession over conquered territory that led to a very violent split with continuing battles surviving to this day, 1400 years later.

    The sword was involved in the spread of Christianity in it’s early days. But a) not as much as you might think, and b) it’s not going on now and has not for hundreds of years. Whereas Islam is being forced on people as we speak. These are modern times and Christianity’s past is not comparable to Islam’s present.

  28. 27
    Sailorman says:

    Sarcasm because you have found some Christians to be untrustworthy or because the intersection between “Arabs” and “Christians” is not a null set?

    Sarcasm because, viewed generally, NOBODY is especially trustworthy. including Christians.

  29. 28
    Sailorman says:

    The sword was involved in the spread of Christianity in it’s early days.

    Well, the Crusades were a full millenia after Christ. So “early days” is a bit of a misnomer. And the expansion into the Americas was in many respects somewhat Christian in nature. That’s 1500 years after christ, but only 500 years from today. And of course the continued expansion into the U.S. and South America and Africa and Australia had inherent to it a religious undertone.

    The puritans were happy to use violence if not swords specifically. Christians in general were happy to use what power they had, including governmental power if they had it.

    but sure, if we agree to define everything so that it suits your premise, you’re right. i don’t know what the point is, though.

  30. 29
    nm says:

    Don’t forget about Indonesian Islam, which was spread by peaceful commercial contacts.

    And don’t forget that the spread of Islam “by the sword” in most areas outside of the Arabian Peninsula means that Muslims came along and conquered the places, and only after shorter or longer periods of living under Muslim rulers did local populations reach a tipping point of conversion — that is, individual conversions were not forced as a part of military expansion. (In the earliest periods of expansion, conversion to Islam was sometimes discouraged, since Arabs perceived it as their own religion, while conquered non-Arab groups properly had their own religions pertaining to themselves.) Richard Bulliet has done a lot of fascinating work on this topic.

    This is equally true for a large percentage of the cases of Christian expansion “by the sword.” The difference is that Islam had a single legal/religious device, dhimmitude, for dealing with subject religious groups, while Christians used a number of rationalizations for not forcing conversion at different times and places.

  31. 30
    Jake Squid says:

    Well, the Crusades were a full millenia after Christ.

    That’s what I was thinking of. The Albigensian Crusade comes to mind. That’s 1200 years after Christ. The Spanish Inquisition was 1500 to 1800 years after Christ. We are now 1400 years after Muhammed first introduced Islam.

    So, yeah, what Sailorman said.

  32. 31
    chingona says:

    This might be the wrong audience, demographically speaking, to try to convince that violence was not a standard feature of Christianity for long periods of its history.

  33. 32
    nm says:

    Oh, Christianity has been plenty violent. But the trope of “spreading religion by the sword” (a very specialized version of religious violence) doesn’t always mean, historically, what people think it means.

  34. 33
    chingona says:

    @ nm, my comment, and I think most of the others, was directed at Ron, not you.

  35. 34
    Charles S says:

    Forced conversion of slaves in the US only ended with the end of the slave trade around 1800, which I guess counts as hundreds of years ago (just barely). Forced conversion of Indians in Indian Schools only ended in the mid-1900’s (1920’s in the US, but later in Canada), certainly not hundreds of years ago. I don’t know enough about the history of forced conversion in Latin America to know when it ended, so it might be hundreds of years.

    The Albigensian Crusade was a Christian- Christian (heretic) thing, although the anti-pagan Baltic Crusades were around the same time.

    It is true that as a direct result of the US invasion of Iraq that the Iraqi Christian population has been greatly decreased (some by murder, but most by flight). I don’t know of any other Middle Eastern country that is actively wiping out its Christian population (certainly, the Lebanese Christian population decreased due to flight during the Lebanese Civil War, but that was decades ago).

  36. 35
    Charles S says:


    Google chimpanzee genetic diversity within troop, and you will find that, indeed, genetic diversity within a western chimpanzee troop is greater than human genetic diversity.

  37. 36
    sanabituranima says:

    Well, sure, Arabs aren’t trustworthy at all, if you compare them to Christians. Christians can always be counted on to keep every promise, every time.

    Oh, wait…


    I know what you’re trying to say, but the way you phrase it makes it sound like it’s impossible to be both Arab and Christian. Many people are.

  38. 37
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Ron, people always point to the violence of Mohammed’s life as some reason for the modern violence of radical Islam, but I don’t buy it because you left out one noteworthy exception to the rule of pacifist prophets: Judaism.

    Jewish scripture is spread over a longer period time and more numerous prophets, but there are many stories of acts of God and his Prophets that are the same kind of bloody righteous conquest featured in the Koran.

    However, the Jews have reams and reams of scholars who’ve rationalized away the nasty parts. The Islamic scholars, by contrast, have made them more extreme. For example, Mohammed’s words on the subject of female modesty are something to the effect of “women should dress as modestly as is practical. They shouldn’t go shirtless”.

    Now, the first half of the statement would seem to imply some of the female-body-concealing aspects of Muslim culture… but the latter seems to show that the Burqha is not what he had in mind. He was telling Muslims that their women shouldn’t be walking around with their breasts hanging out. But of course, the various scholars have tacked on metadata describing how he gestured silently pointing to his arms and face to explain how female skin should never be seen.

    With the exception of the (somewhat understandable) military violence of Israel, the Jewish world does not appear to have anything like the violence of the Muslim one.

    So in the end, it’s not about the scripture, it’s about what people do with it. Look at the USA, where fundamentalists ignore the loving, socialist, and generally non-judgmental words of Jesus in favor of the nastier parts of the Old Testament.

    /note: I am not a scholar in Jewish or Muslim religious scripture, and am pretty much talking out of my ass.

  39. 38
    chingona says:

    I’m also not a scholar, but since we’re all talking out of our asses …

    Keep in mind that Judaism had to function for several millennia under circumstances where its followers were in a seriously subordinate position. I don’t think you can consider the way Judaism developed without keeping that in mind. Also, there’s plenty of nasty, nasty stuff in the Talmud, very anti-gentile stuff, that people just didn’t have an opportunity to act on. You’re seeing some of it come out now among the religious Zionist settlers – stuff that has been subordinated for hundreds if not more than a thousand years is being given free reign. You’re also seeing pretty nasty intra-Jewish violence in some of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, with women being attacked for not being modest enough or even walking on the same side of the street as men, with Shabbos riots, in which people and businesses are attacked for violating the Sabbath.

    Also keep in mind that for many centuries, the Muslim world was a significantly more pluralistic place than the Christian world and a place significantly more open to rational thought and inquiry, to science, etc. It was the Muslims who preserved the works of the Greek philosophers at a time when Christians were burning ancient libraries.

    So … there’s what’s in the book and there’s what people do with it. But there also seem to be significant cultural factors influencing the “what people do with it” that can change over time – sometimes drastically. Basically, there is no “real” religion. As in, this is “real” Christianity/Islam/Judaism and that is a distortion of it. It’s all a human construct, so you see all the variance in human behavior and human thought – really beautiful, transcendent ideas and really ugly shit.