EDITORIAL: Peretz's apology is appreciated
Student reaction appropriate
On Sept. 4, Martin Peretz '59, a notable alumnus and the editor in chief of The New Republic magazine, concluded a blog post on the magazine's website by saying, "Muslim life is cheap. ... So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people [who advocate building a mosque near Ground Zero] 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." This board disapproves of these incendiary words. Mr. Peretz certainly did not act in a manner that one would expect from a Brandeis alumnus. His article surely insulted Muslim Americans and many in the Brandeis community.
However, this board recognizes Mr. Peretz for his apology, published Sept. 13 on The New Republic website. Mr. Peretz wrote, "I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever. . I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me." We feel that Mr. Peretz showed dignity in admitting that he was wrong.
Mr. Peretz's apology is due in large part to a harsh response written by New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof last Saturday. However, the incredible activism of Brandeis students should be commended. Sahar Massachi '11, among others, created a Facebook group in order to encourage students to sign an open letter and petition demanding an apology from Mr. Peretz.
While the Student Union Senate did not agree on the specific language of the letter written by Mr. Massachi, it still drafted its own response to Mr. Peretz. This board appreciates the Union's care for this important national issue and commends the Union for effectively responding in a way that it sees fit.
Even though there were different approaches in responding to Mr. Peretz's remarks, all were effective and legitimate. As this issue attracts more national attention, it is important for the Brandeis student body to show both Mr. Peretz and those following the story that this issue is important to us.
However, while we may disagree with Mr. Peretz's statement-and have the right and responsibility to criticize any comments we find insulting-it is important to respect his scholarly opinion, in cases that it is not clearly offensive to any person or people. In the half century since he received his Brandeis diploma, Mr. Peretz has, with great success, given much of himself to the world of journalism. This is why the University awarded Mr. Peretz a "Distinguished Alumni award" in 2009 and features him as a "notable alumnus" on its website.
Mr. Peretz's words were hurtful and tactless. But just as we pay close attention to the controversies that our alumni stir up, we should pay close attention when they make an effort to resolve them. Because of Mr. Peretz's prestige and his ability to create an excellent reputation for the University-whether or not he always succeeds-it is important to maintain a relationship with Mr. Peretz.
Ultimately, this editorial board still feels proud to have Mr. Peretz as part of the University's prestigious alumni community.