A few months ago, I received several e-mails and Facebook messages regarding Marty Peretz. The long time New Republic editor, also a alma mater of Brandeis, posted a very racist and bigoted comment about Muslims: “But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. . . 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.’’

My friends and I quickly joined over 500 Brandeis students signing a petition calling on Marty to take back his statement. A week later, Marty did!

I know I personally felt pride and honor to be part of a campus and a community that reacted so quickly, and so well, to an injustice. This motion of compassion, and solidarity for the Muslim community, was the reason why I chose Brandeis as my university.

I am still very proud of our actions, and I wanted to share this article with the rest of the Brandeis community.

Boston.com recognized Brandeis’ outcry and our dedication for social justice. I know this Halloween weekend I will sit back, relax, and raise my glass to all the hard work and inspiring acts done everyday at Brandeis.

8 comments on “Goooo Brandeis!”

  1. Bret Matthew Says:

    I have several comments:

    1. Marty Peretz’s comments may have been bigoted, but they were not racist. Islam is not a race.

    2. While I have no doubt that you and your friends signed the petition “quickly,” it was several weeks before this petition had enough signatures to be sent out.

    3. Peretz made his (half-assed) apology well before the petition was sent out to. He apologized to Nick Kristof, the NY Times columnist who had called him out a few days previously. Peretz did not mention Brandeis, or its students, anywhere in his so-called “apology.”

    $. The article you cite, while briefly mentioning the Brandeis petition, says nothing about “our dedication for social justice.”

    Okay, listen:

    I’m on your side; I really am. I signed this petition as soon as I could. In fact, I wrote my own letter (you can find it here: http://thebrandeishoot.com/articles/8289) which I sent to Peretz at The New Republic. He has not responded, and I did not expect him to. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that we had anything to do with his decision to apologize, when there is no evidence to support that.

    Please stop posting about how great a job Brandeis students did, and about all of our “hard work.” We didn’t do anything. Signing a petition takes less than a minute and requires almost no effort. If this is the best activism Brandeis students can do, we ought to be embarrassed.

  2. Sahar Says:

    Hey Bret.

    1. I’d argue that he’s bigoted against Arabs regardless of religion, but honestly, not something I think is worth arguing about.

    2. That’s just wrong. The petition was hosted on the internet – mailing it was such a formality that we didn’t even bother doing it for weeks after. Peretz saw the petition online, like the rest of us did. We went up on a Thursday. He saw it on the next day, Friday, and apologized on Monday.

    3. Again, Peretz saw the petition. I’ve been assured of it. Furthermore, I’ve been assured that it swayed him. No one is claiming that we were the #1 reason the apologized. That was probably Nick Kristof. We were the second-most powerful reason <- that''s not a fact, but a belief. I base that belief on what people who know Marty have told me.

    3.5 His apology was half-assed. But he had to back down. There was an internal debate on whether to keep pressing him or not one he posted his "apology". The consensus was that he apologized as much as he was ever going to, and further whaling on him wasn't going to accomplish much.

    OK listen,
    He absolutely heard about our petition. We were absolutely talked about in the media that he pays attention to.

    Brandeis students did do a lot of hard work. The people behind this spent hours working on the website, meeting with clubs to get them onboard, contacting the media, etc. I would know – I was one of them, and that was one of the most intense weeks of my life.

    500 people spending less than a minute had an effect on his actions. Furthermore, we had a secondary goal of setting a marker of what is and is not acceptable to the Brandeis community. That goal was accomplished.

    Again: he knew about our petition less than 24 hours after we posted it. It was rather famous – I was getting emails from people across the country. I am reasonably certain it had an effect on him – and it definitely had an effect on Brandeis. Don't sell this short.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Agreed Bret. Although I also was a signer of the petition early on, I was shocked at the “We Won” email that was circulated post-Peretz’s half-ass apology. The petition to my knowledge was sent out after this apology, so while I applaud Brandeis’ willingness to be involved in the situation, and agree that petitions can on occasion be effective, let us not think that we had any real impact in this situation.

  4. Art Says:

    u mad?

  5. Bret Matthew Says:

    Art, sometimes I wonder why you even bother to comment.

  6. Bret Matthew Says:

    Sahar,

    I need you to understand my dilemma here.

    On one hand, I see no evidence in Peretz’s apology that suggests our involvement in his decision. No mention of Brandeis, or its students, or of the petition.

    On the other hand, I have your word that unnamed people close to Peretz have told you otherwise.

    Can you blame me for being skeptical?

    Has Peretz himself tried to contact you? Who has, if not him? Can you post anything resembling evidence of this? Believe me, Sahar, if you can prove me wrong I will be the first to admit it, and the first to give you credit for changing Marty’s mind. But until then, I’m forced to believe that you–and those who have helped you–are simply deluding yourselves.

    Put yourself in my position. What would you expect me to think?

  7. Art Says:

    Bret, it’s to lighten up the mood. It’s because what Peretz said, as he worded it, was wrong, but strangely enough, like a man whose name rhymes with Bichael Horen, Peretz said words.on.paper.
    He didn’t kill anyone, didn’t enslave anyone. Words.
    Can words hurt? Sure, but the American Muslim community IS way too strong to even bat an eye at this dude. In short, haters gon’ hate.

  8. Lev Says:

    While I agree the “We Won” email took a bit too much credit, I actually thing Sahar is right on this one.

    I didn’t lift a finger on the Marty Peretz campaign (though I did sign the petition), so I think I have a tiny bit of an outsiders perspective (tiny bit).

    As an organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace, I do follow closely national news related to the Jewish community and Islamaphobia — and I have to say, the Brandeis Marty Peretz petition was big news. I’m from California, and activists I know from California were emailing me about the petition. People knew about this. Peretz certainly did.

    Its not like Peretz is just some guy who happened to go to Brandeis – he actually has very close relations with the University. According to the Justice (http://media.www.thejustice.org/media/storage/paper573/news/2010/10/05/Features/A.Day.With.President.Reinharz-3940775.shtml), following the Tzipi Livni talk earlier this semester, Livni, Peretz, Fred Lawrence, Jehuda and Shula all had a big dinner at Jehuda’s place.

    I dunno if I feel comfortable saying that this was the #2 influence after Kristof, but I do agree that the Brandeis petition was actually a big deal that received quite a lot of national attention — and it probably meant something to Marty too. This is definitely an instance where Brandeis students do deserve some credit.