Martin Peretz

This is a subject about which we’re not supposed to speak. Or write. Well, I suppose we can allude. But not in detail. So, even though bloodletting is a daily occurrence in the orbit of Islam, discussing it is forbidden. At least among the sensitive, the sensitive left most notably. By which I mean, firstly, folk who think of themselves as universal souls but see others, Americans and Brits, French and Germans, Italians and Dutch, also the bulk of English speakers wherever they are, as retrograde. Patriots, for God’s sake, patriotism being not only a dirty concept but a dirty word.

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In the Jewish struggle around Zionism there were at least three strands in opposition so fierce that it was evident that the very meaning of “the people Israel” was at stake. The first of these was a vast religious cohort, at once immensely learned or purported to have such learning and having, as well, the authority of the sages. Or the ages. While ongoing study and “trust in the Lord” constituted their program, they practiced a politics that was fundamentally anti-political. God was both their instrument and their end.

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Here is a televised debate about Syria on Jordanian television. People are allowed to say anything they want. And they do. The first inklings of real democracy in the kingdom. And who’s to blame for what’s going on in Syria? The Israelis, of course. Watch this, too. Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.

Forgive the corny metaphors. But it was not I who framed developments in the Arab world with the sequence of the seasons. Still, you need only glance at the papers to recognize that Arab Spring is now Arab Winter without really ever having passed through summer or fall. Spring is, as ever, a romantic memory.  As I write, Reuters reports from the Cairo morgue that 33 to 46 protestors were killed by the police since Saturday—and that nearly 1,300 were wounded and maimed.

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At the G20 Summit last week in Cannes, Nicolas Sarkozy held only four private meetings. One was with Barack Obama and a second was with Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India.

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Nor was I for Ross Perot, a man who (as of 1992) had made a $3 billion dollar fortune and headed a major hi-tech corporation, actually two. But he was—let’s be frank (and rhyme)—a real crank. Frankly, I can’t remember whether many people took him seriously as a thinking politician. Still, with his money he seemed able to stake a claim on the attentions of the electorate and attracted the support of millions of voters who would not have gone to the polls were their choice limited to either George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

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The New York Times ran with two demographic surveys one day after the other. The first, which it headlined “Snapshot shows U.S. public more disillusioned than ever,” demonstrated that the American people are fundamentally miserable with their condition. They expressed egalitarian instincts at least to the extent that they want the distribution of wealth to be more even.

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No, I am not writing about whether the Palestinian Arabs should have their own sovereign slice of Jerusalem. That is an extremely complicated matter, not least because increasingly the Arabs of the holy city and its close environs want to stay with Israeli rule, paying high taxes, enjoying liberties to which even their brothers and sisters enjoying whatever there is to enjoy during the Arab Spring season will not and cannot imagine and—most of all, I suppose—living, more or less, in a highly developed social welfare state.

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A very clever blogger, short and pithy, comments on the world virtually daily. His name is Errol Phillips, and I have not the slightest idea of who he is. But this ironic observation seems perfectly apt. So I share it with you: Let’s see if I got this right. Water-boarding is torture and unacceptable. But assassination is murder and is acceptable. At least we know now that progressives have finally come around to accepting the death penalty. We shall see which countries will complain to the United Nations about Friday's killing(s).

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Colonel Qaddafi is dead, and he was apparently killed by Libyan liberation forces although there is a slight chance that the actual death-weapon was another truly decisive contribution of NATO in the war against the more-than-mad dictator. If this hypothesis gains currency, watch for the clamor of complaint from the Russians, the Chinese, the Cubans, the Venezuelans, and a bunch of African states that were on the tyrant’s payroll that justice has been pre-empted by the trigger-happy Western Europeans.

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