Responding to Ezra 's and my posts yesterday about Marty Peretz's attack on Desmond Tutu, James Kirchick assists his editor-in-chief:

“Duss's and Klein's criticism consists mostly of ad hominem attacks and a defense of Tutu based primarily, if not entirely, on the fact that he's...well...Desmond Tutu.”

No: Marty Peretz claimed that Desmond Tutu, in a speech last Saturday, “actually threatened Israel -- and not just the State but the whole People.” I responded that this was not true, that it was not a remotely defensible interpretation of anything Tutu said, and linked to Tutu’s remarks (PDF) as proof. If calling Marty Peretz a a liar and a defamer because he lied about and defamed Desmond Tutu qualifies as “an ad hominem attack,” well, then you can bill me.

As for my defense of "Tutu for being Tutu," I suggested neither that he was perfect, nor above reproach. I merely meant (and, frankly, I think this was clear) that the man's career-long commitment to non-violence and reconciliation might serve as something of a rebuttal to the idea that he might suddenly transform into a snarling, violence-threatening anti-Semite one fall afternoon in Boston. That is, I think Desmond Tutu has earned the benefit of the doubt. Conversely, Marty Peretz, who screams “Israel-basher!” every time someone cuts him off in traffic, has not, in my view.

Finally, Kirchick asserts that Tutu “unwittingly slanders the history of the anti-apartheid movement... by comparing it to Palestinian nationalism.” While I realize that Kirchick’s generally dim view of Arabs and Palestinians prohibits him from understanding Palestinian nationalism as anything other than an expression of Jew-hatred, and while I think it’s adorably precocious of him to attempt to instruct Desmond Tutu as to “the history of the anti-apartheid movement,” I feel I’m on safe ground here deferring to Tutu on whether or not the comparison is an appropriate one.

--Matthew Duss