Marty Peretz, the (recently) former New Republic publisher, says Calcalist, an Israeli economic publication, did a hatchet job in its profile of him.
Here’s the quote he denies to Politico’s Ben Smith:
Obama supports the Egyptian revolution because there are Islamist elements in it. He did not support the Iranian revolt for a simple reason: it was a secular revolt, aimed at wiping out Islamist influence.
Peretz tells Smith the reporter, Shai Asparil, did not record the interview, had poor English and barely took notes. "I have never said anything of the sort, never," he insists.
The article is making waves here because Philip Weiss posted a few translated quotes on his blog.
Was Peretz misquoted? Obviously, I can’t know for sure.
Peretz complains to Smith about Israel’s "yellow" press, and it’s true journalists there bend some rules (ad hominen anonymity, one-source stories) to the breaking point. (The payoff is that the media culture there is much more open and uninhibited.)
I’ve read through the whole thing. Asparil gets everything right, otherwise — Peretz’s biography, his controversies, his enemies, his friends. If I have one quibble, he overstates to some degree Peretz’s influence.
The quotes — tough, mean-spiritied, blunt, loquacious, off-topic — read a lot like Peretz’ late blog, The Spine.
As Smith says, though, claiming that Obama is backing Islamists seems beyond Peretz, even.
The thing is, that’s not even the whole quote. Here’s a full translation, by me:
Q: Do you understand why he (Obama) supports the Egyptian uprising?
A: Because it includes Islamist elements. Look, he didn’t support the Iranian uprising, even though the Iranian regime is hawkish toward the U.S. government, and he even backed the uprising in Cairo in spite of Mubarak having shown loyalty to the American administration. The simple reason is that in Iran the uprising was completely secular and sought the removal of Islamist influence. In Egypt, by contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood is part of the uprising and when Mubarak goes, they can come to power.
The thought is so complete, so thorough, it begs credibility to believe Asparil got it wrong. Is Peretz saying he made it up out of whole cloth?
I have another theory, based on nothing but my gut: Peretz was not accusing Obama of being an Islamist; he might have been accusing him of accommodating Islamism as a strategy — of prefering its certainties to the unknowns of democracy.
That would have been a whole, lengthy disquisition (and it’s not as if Peretz is not known for these) — and Asparil might have pulled out a sexy quote.