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My Problem with Jimmy Carter's Book

March 3, 2007

For those of you who want detail of the factual errors and other problems with Jimmy Carter’s recent screed on Israel, this review–by a former colleague of his at the Carter Center–lays it out in detail.
My Problem with Jimmy Carter’s Book

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  • Common ground of humanity March 2, 2007 9:09 am

    What is needed is an alleviation to the desperation that defensiveness by the pros and cons of the situation can’t seem to facilitate

  • Robert Hume March 1, 2007 1:35 pm

    “Factual errors and other problems …” Well, let’s pay attention to the overall picture instead of strewing red herrings and ad-hominem attacks.
    Yossi Beilin, a former minister and current member of Israel’s parliament, in the Jewish Weekly “The Forward” has reviewed President Carter’s book on the Palestinian-Israeli problem. Here is what he has to say:
    “In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories � and perhaps no less important, how he says it � is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves.”
    In the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, moreover, Carter has secured his place in history as the man who brokered the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab nation. The Camp David summit he convened in September 1978, which resulted in the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, was a historical watershed for the entire region. It inaugurated the Arab-Israeli peace process, without which the Oslo peace process would not have been possible, nor the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.
    In light of the failure of the second Camp David summit of July 2000, Carter�s successful mediation between such starkly different leaders as Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat is all the more impressive, and his achievement � which was a truly personal achievement � all the more remarkable.
    Every Israeli, and every Jew to whom the destiny of Israel is important, is indebted to Carter for breaking the ring of hostility that had choked Israel for more than 30 years. No American president before him had dedicated himself so fully to the cause of Israel�s peace and security, and, with the exception of Bill Clinton, no American president has done so since.
    This is why the publication of Carter�s recent book, and perhaps more than anything else, the title it bears, has pained so many people. And I must admit that, on some deeply felt level, the title of the book has strained my heart, too. Harsh and awful as the conditions are in the West Bank, the suggestion that Israel is conducting a policy of apartheid in the occupied territories is simply unacceptable to me.
    But is this what Carter is saying? I have read his book, and I could not help but agree � however agonizingly so � with most if its contents. Where I disagreed was mostly with the choice of language, including his choice of the word �apartheid.�
    But if we are to be fair, and as any reading of the book makes clear,Carter�s use of the word �apartheid� is first and foremost metaphorical. Underlying Israel�s policy in the West Bank, he argues, is not a racist ideology but rather a nationalist drive for the acquisition of land. The resulting violence, and the segregationist policies that shape life in the West Bank, are the ill-intended consequences of that drive.
    Of course, there is no appropriate term in the political lexicon for what we in Israel are doing in the occupied territories. �Occupation� is too antiseptic a term, and does not capture the social, cultural and humanitarian dimensions of our actions. Given the Palestinians� role in the impasse at which we have arrived, to say nothing of Arab states and, historically speaking, of the superpowers themselves, I would describe the reality of occupation as a march of folly � an Israeli one, certainly, but not exclusively so.
    But if we are to read Carter�s book for what it is, I think we would find in it an impassioned personal narrative of an American former president who is reflecting on the direction in which Israel and Palestine may be going if they fail to reach agreementsoon. Somewhere down the line � and symbolically speaking, that line may be crossed the day that a minority of Jews will rule a majority of Palestinians west of the Jordan River � the destructive nature of occupation will turn Israel into a pariah state, not unlike South Africa under apartheid.”
    Additional reading:

  • Mark Levine February 28, 2007 11:20 am

    I agree with Ed. (Thanks, Ed, for listening to my exchange with Molly Ivins!) and have one last comment for the day. Not all critics are Jewish. That is, unless you think Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, and John Conyers are secret Jews:
    Nancy Pelosi:
    “It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously. With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel.”
    Howard Dean:
    “While I have tremendous respect for former President Carter, I fundamentally disagree and do not support his analysis of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On this issue President Carter speaks for himself, the opinions in his book are his own, they are not the views or position of the Democratic Party. I and other Democrats will continue to stand with Israel in its battle against terrorism and for a lasting peace with its neighbors.”
    John Conyers:
    “Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said the use of apartheid in the title ‘does not serve the cause of peace and the use of it against the Jewish people in particular, who have been victims of the worst kind of discrimination, discrimination resulting in death, is offensive and wrong.’
    In his statement Tuesday, Conyers said he called Carter ‘to express my concerns about the title of the book, and to request that the title be changed. President Carter does not build upon his career as a proponent of peace in the Middle East with this comparison and I hope he and his publisher will reconsider this decision.’”