New Republic Publisher: First Amendment Should Not Apply to Muslims

At a time when hate has taken a hold in the public discourse, a quasi-liberal publisher has taken hatred and raised it to the level of advocating the denial of constitutional rights to millions of Americans because of their religion.
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As Rosh Hashanah begins, and Ramadan ends, the virulent Muslim-baiting continues.

The controversy over the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is only a pretense to express the hate that was already there. On Wednesday, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives refused to condemn the burning of Qurans by a deranged fanatic in Florida. He even suggested a moral equivalence between the building of the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan and the burning of the Qurans. He refused to condemn the Quran burning despite the echoes from Berlin in the 1930s and despite General Petraeus' warning that defiling Qurans would endanger American troops in Muslim countries.

It's getting bad.

This past spring, the radical right and its mouth pieces (especially Fox News) were all about immigrant bashing. But, by summer, the illegal immigrant bogeyman was replaced by the "Sharia-imposing" Muslims. As we've learned, there is absolutely nothing one cannot say about Muslims, no lines that can't be crossed when it comes to them.

But while Muslim-baiting has become part of the right's platform, that doesn't mean liberals are guiltless.

Take for instance Marty Peretz, owner of the New Republic. Peretz is no right-winger. In fact, he is on the left on most issues and so is his magazine. As long ago as 1968, he took a considerable chunk of his wife's fortune and put it into the anti-Vietnam war movement and Eugene McCarthy's candidacy for president.

But he hates Muslims. Initially, he limited his hate to Arabs, particularly Palestinians. But once the Israeli government came around to accept the legitimacy of Palestinians as a negotiating partner, Peretz began to lose it. He felt betrayed by Israelis -- he is positively obscene in his loathing for Israeli President Shimon Peres -- who for some reason are not as willing to fight to the last Israeli as he is.

Yesterday, Peretz wrote that American Muslims should not be entitled to the protections of the First Amendment. Here is the full quote, which also includes the observation, standard for Peretz, that "Muslim life is cheap" (it is to Peretz).

According to him:

But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.

In this quote, Peretz manages to outdo Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Emerson, Pam Gellar, and even Daniel Pipes.

In general, the right invokes the Constitution (and particularly the First Amendment) as protection for all Americans and then segues into the argument that although Muslim Americans have First Amendment rights, they should show "sensitivity" and not invoke them.

But not Peretz. He believes Muslims are unworthy of the rights that even protected Nazis marching in Jewish neighborhoods and those Kansas lunatics who loudly picket the funerals and publicly cheer the deaths of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Peretz suggests that the First Amendment does not guarantee a right but rather offers a "privilege" to which Muslims are not entitled.

At a time when prejudice and hate seems to have taken a hold in public discourse unlike anything seen since the days of Jim Crow, a quasi-liberal publisher in Massachusetts has taken mere hatred and raised it to the level of advocating the denial of constitutional rights to millions of Americans because of their religion.

Because Peretz is still known as a Democrat and even a liberal by those who have not followed his relatively recent descent into racial paranoia, his proposal for stripping Muslims of First Amendment rights will have traction.

Peretz has now unambiguously joined some of the most hateful elements in America, many of whom would strip adherents of his own faith of constitutional protections, too. He is now beyond the pale.

Nonetheless, on Sept. 25, Peretz is being honored by "former [Harvard] students, friends, business colleagues, fellow faculty and journalists" who will be endowing the "Martin Peretz Undergraduate Research Fund."

According to an e-mail sent out by an organizer of this tribute, "The Fund will support undergraduate thesis research, special projects and the kinds of intellectual inquiry that Marty encouraged in his students. We will honor Marty at the 50th anniversary celebration in Cambridge on September 25, 2010."

Here is the list of those soliciting support for the Peretz honors. Some you will recognize.

Bill Ackman, Michael Alter, Linc Caplan, Gerry Cardinale, Susan Carney, Jim Cramer, Alan Dershowitz, EJ Dionne, John Driscoll, Daniel Dusek, Dan Ertel, Joe Finder, Frank Foer, Donald Gogel, Russell Goldsmith, Al Gore, Jamie Gorelick, Larry Grafstein, Don Graham, Marc Granetz, Amy Gutmann, Glenn Hutchins, David Ignatius, Janno Lieber, Donal Logue, Charles Nesson, Fern Nesson, Rob Oden, Steve Pinker, Lisbet Rausing, Henry Rosovsky, Nitza Rosovsky, Abigail Thernstrom, Stephan Thernstrom, Craig Turk, Sherry Turkle, Judith Walzer, Michael Walzer, Rich Waldhorn, Leon Wieseltier, Tom Williamson, Juan Carlos Zarate, Leonard Zax, Edward Zwick, and Jesse Zwick

To be fair, none of these Peretz associates knew what he would write yesterday. But surely all or most of them know that Peretz has been virulently racist in his writings about Muslims and Arabs for years, even decades. As the Washington Post's Ezra Klein pointed out, "Peretz is rarely held to account, largely because there's an odd, tacit understanding that he's a cartoonish character and everyone knows it."

But he's not so cartoonish anymore. He has become a thuggish racist who, at a dangerous moment in our history, is doing everything he can to fan the flames of hatred.

The progressives on the list should get their names off, and fast.

As Rabbi David Saperstein said at yesterday's interfaith event in Washington denouncing Muslim-bashing, "We know what it is like when people have attacked us physically, have attacked us verbally, and others have remained silent. It cannot happen here in America in 2010."

But it is. It is time to fight back.

*** To my Jewish and Muslim friends: L'Shanah Tovah and Eid Mubarak!

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