My two blog posts on the Peretz business at Harvard have prompted a very lively series of responses -- a few simply abusive, most very thoughtful. I have not yet replied because yesterday was a day from hell. I began the day in the dentist's chair, being told that I needed a root canal. On my way back into the dentist's office after some x-rays, I managed to step on and break my glasses. Between that appointment and the afternoon session in which the root canal was started, I hustled over to the oculist to get the glasses repaired. Somehow, my mind was not on the blogosphere.
However, it is a new day [if not, as Gwyneth Paltrow says in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, a new world], and I am catching up on all the comments. I received one very long, very sympathetic email that took me severely to task for a number of things I said, and if the sender agrees [I have asked], I will post it as a Guest Blog.
Let me, as a place holder, say just one thing [well, two, as I read this over] in response to some of the comments. My blog is, as I am sure you have noticed, very personal. People who want to see me in full objective academic mode can read one or another of the twenty-one books I have published. My two blog posts were a very powerful and personal reaction to a series of events that I found deeply troubling. Nevertheless, in everything I said in those two posts, the only one I actually regret saying was the gratuitous snipe at Anthony Appiah -- not at all called for. I apologize. [This is one of the things I was criticized for in that long email.]
Someone [I have been reading the comments very fast and don't have them in front of me now] made what I consider a very good point, one that lies behind much of what I said, namely that the public discourse in America is skewed and shackled by the unacceptability of talking openly and honestly about Israel and America's extraordinary fealty to its - rather than America's - national interest. That, and much more, was what was contained in my brief comment to the Crimson reporter -- a comment that triggered a quite heated series of comments on this blog.
Just think about this for a moment. Everyone who knows Peretz and knows THE NEW REPUBLIC is aware of the intensity of his commitment to a pro-Israel stance, one furthermore that identifies with the most right-wing strain of opinion in Israel. It takes no wit at all to see the connection between his views on Israel and his derogatory statements about Muslims. Here was a gathering of enormously knowledgeable and highly intelligent people who identify themselves as social theorists [the largest such gathering, I said, trying to make a little joke, since the Frankfort School held its last garden party], and yet, unless I am mistaken, I was the first person all day who uttered the word "Israel." Am I the only person who finds that more than a little significant?