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Sunday, September 19, 2010

ANDY MARTIN: Is Muslim life “cheap?”’s Executive Editor, Andy Martin, responds to the controversy between Martin Peretz and Harvard over Peretz’ remarks earlier this month that “Muslim life is cheap.”

Internet Powerhouse Andy Martin on “Muslim life is cheap”

Martin says that “life is never cheap” for anyone who retains their humanity and love of God
“The Internet Powerhouse”
Andy Martin
Executive Editor

“Factually Correct, Not Politically Correct”





(NEW YORK)(September 17, 2010) I grew up in the 1950’s. In those years Americans did not respect Asia. We spoke about “hordes” of Chinese, depersonalizing people for political reasons. Why would we compare Chinese to a “horde” of locusts? It’s easier to train people to kill locusts than to convince them to kill fellow human beings.

Perhaps the most damning libel of that era was that to “Chinese” or to Asians in general, “life is cheap.”

I thought we had grown out of such racist pretensions. No one today would seriously believe or publicly state that “To Chinese [or Asians] life is cheap.” The remarks would be unthinkable. So how could the publisher of the New Republic, Martin Peretz, make the claim that “But frankly, Muslim life is cheap…”

and wait almost ten days to apologize:

Peretz’s remarks have created a controversy:

I am in the process of writing some very critical remarks about the Islamic world, about the Ground Zero mosque, and about the aftermath of what happened recently in Gainesville, Florida and the Muslim reaction around the world.

I believe we are entitled to make critical comments about religion, especially when those remarks bear some relationship to political or legal matters encompassed in religious activity. Religious beliefs or actions should no more be immune to criticism and controversy than any other beliefs. On this I clearly disagree with Mohammedans, who seek to ascribe talismanic significance to documents and pieces of paper as “sacred.”

But “Muslim life is cheap?” To make such a remark, or even to contemplate such thoughts, is hideous. Today we are engaged in a growing nostalgia about President George Bush and his actions after 9/11. Bush clearly delineated “Islam is not the enemy.” Bush, of course, did the right thing. [One of my upcoming columns will be titled “Maybe Islam is the enemy” so stay tuned for that one. But I challenge beliefs, not the sanctity of human life in the Muslim world.]

Two moments in my young life changed me forever. I went to Viet-Nam without having thought much about the “life is cheap” ideology of the 1950’s. No one in my home had ever suggested that any life was cheap and I was raised to believe the opposite. At the age of ten I was studying the Holocaust, not baseball’s box scores. In Viet-Nam, life changed for me. The images are seared in my memory.

I was on the flight line at Dong Ha late one afternoon. It was a dreary day, overcast, and I was waiting for a hop to somewhere. There was a Vietnamese widow sitting on the casket of her dead ARVN (Vietnamese) soldier. Her wailing penetrated my soul.

I realized that life was not cheap for the grieving lady. Politics and wars apart, life is never cheap for any human being. I was so deeply touched that I was paralyzed and unable to even take a photo of the scene. But the image has remained with me and in me since that day. The casket, the widow and I flew together, where I do not remember.

My epiphany was repeated a few days later. I jumped out of a helicopter into a rice paddy in the U Minh Forest, into a Viet Cong stronghold where we were welcomed by machine gun fire. Again, such incidents are hard to forget. But what left the deepest impression that day was raiding a VC village where we genuinely surprised the “VC.” The coffee was still warm and I saw how the “VC” were living. There were baby carriages, and personal items strewn about as people fled in the moment.

For many decades I carried a wallet I retrieved that day, to remind me of what came to me in the Forest and what I have remembered every day of my life since then: “The enemy is always human.”

I don’t want to rile up by Jewish friends or readers, but here are some thoughts that may rile. Mr. Peretz is a strong supporter of Israel. I happen to love Israelis and I certainly respect their grieving for the Holocaust.

I went to a Jewish funeral in Boynton Beach, Florida earlier this month for the wonderful mother of a close friend in West Palm Beach. I was early for the funeral and wandered through the cemetery. I was reminded again by the inscriptions in the Jewish cemetery of the horrors that have been inflicted on innocent people based on anti-Semitism.

But I have also seen Israelis and pro-Israel supporters in the United States dehumanize Palestinians. A particularly outrageous lie was Golda Meir’s: she denied that Palestinians even existed. All the easier to kill them and occupy their land. Through the decades Israelis have treated Palestinians as sub-humans. I have always known that eventually the true victims of Israel’s Holocaust against the Palestinians, beginning in 1948 and continuing to this date, would be the Israelis themselves and their supporters. That is why I pray the current peace negotiations will succeed, although I am very skeptical they will.

Mr. Peretz’s attempts to delegitimize the entire Muslim world should cause him, and every supporter of Israel, to ponder the question of why peace never comes while Palestinian lands are expropriated and Palestinian wells are reserved for Israeli use. While he has apologized, and we should accept his apology, his original remarks were an insight into Peretz' soul. Perhaps Peretz’ support for Israelis has led him to dehumanize and demonize not only their Palestinian adversaries but all Muslims in general.

When babies are left to die at Israeli checkpoints, when women are clubbed, when children are bombed with white phosphorous, when prisoners are tortured, every Israeli dies a little death as such practices are tolerated and passed on to the next generation through compulsory military service. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, O Israel, it tolls for thee.

Ultimately, whatever our political beliefs, “our enemies are always human.” Life is never cheap as I learned on the flight line at Dong Ha and with an unexpected revelation in the U Minh Forest. I am delighted Mr. Peretz has apologized, and I hope he will ponder my broader thoughts on the issue.

As for my Muslim friends, they can expect my criticism in the next few days. I love them equally with my Israeli friends. But I will be as unsparing of my criticism for Muslims and Muslim-majority nations as I am with Israelis. I will never believe, however, that “life is cheap” for either side or any side in the Middle East or anywhere else in this life. “The enemy is always human.”

I am a Christian of the twenty-first century, for whom life is never cheap.

ABOUT ANDY: Andy Martin, who Chicago Public Radio calls a “boisterous Internet activist,” is the legendary New York and Chicago-based muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of background in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He promotes his best-selling book, “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” and his Internet movie "Obama: The Hawai'i years." Martin has been a leading corruption fighter in Illinois for over forty years. He is currently sponsoring
Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” He comments on regional, national and world events with more than four decades of investigative and overseas experience. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).

UPDATES: Andy's columns are also posted at;[NOTE: We try to correct any typographical errors in this story on our blogs; find our latest edition there.]

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