Jimmy Carter's descent into Israel-bashing
For the past couple of months, former President Jimmy Carter has been touring the country like a rock star, touting his deceptively-titled book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." The book, which has become a best-seller, is riddled with so many factual errors that Carter's criticism of Israel loses its validity.
I commented on the book in a previous posting ("The myths about Israel," 12/17/06). At the risk of repeating myself, I feel obliged to comment again because the book is attracting so much attention. It has disseminated so much nefarious information about Israel that the book is undoubtedly influencing the views of the uninformed and providing red meat for anti-Semitic hate groups.
Emory University Professor Kenneth Stein, a Middle East expert who was the Carter Center's first executive director and collaborated with Carter on a previous book, has quit the center to protest Carter's demonization of Israel. So have about 15 other Carter Center associates and supporters.
Carter's cynical use of the book's insulting title is clearly meant to smear the Jewish state by equating the plight of of the Palestinians to the former victims of government-mandated racial separation in South Africa. Inside the book, however, Carter lamely confesses that there is "no semblance of anything relating to apartheid with the nation of Israel."
So why the title? Carter's simplistic explanation: He wants to provoke debate on the Israel-Palestine issue. He makes the offensive argument that American Jewish interests have stifled public criticism of Israel.
I was once an admirer of Carter and am stunned by his descent into Israel-bashing. The book is unworthy of a man who helped negotiate the 1978 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
One of his most outrageous errors is the claim that Israel invaded Jordan in 1967 to acquire the West Bank. He forgets history: Jordan first bombarded West Jerusalem despite Israeli warnings to stay out of its war with Egypt.
Carter is also factually incorrect that UN Resolution 242 requires Israel to retreat to the vulnerable pre-1967 armistice line. Actually, the resolution calls for negotiations to determine Israel's boundaries with a Palestinian state.
Still another falsehood is Carter's charge that Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Barak rejected President Bill Clinton's land-for-peace proposal in 2000. The fact is that Israel agreed to a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97% of the West Bank. Carter should have called Clinton to find out what really happened.
Criticizing Israel's controversial security fence and border checkpoints, Carter misrepresents their purpose. Israel does not seek to "imprison Palestinians," as the ex-President argues, but to keep terrorists out. Carter shows little patience for such nuances and barely recognizes that Arab terrorism is the reason for the Israeli policies he denounces.
Carter fails to acknowledge that Israel has consistently offered to surrender territories acquired in defensive wars in exchange for the suspension of Palestinian terrorism and formal Arab recognition of its right to exist. As Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recently said: "Israel has tried direct negotiations, negotiations in steps, and unilateral moves. In the end we receive terror."
Carter's book makes the extraordinary claim that the violence has mostly been initiated by Israelis and that Palestinians have played little role in creating the mess that exists in the region.
Stein writes that Carter's book is "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, and simply invented segments." For readers interested in a detailed dissection of those errors,I suggest Stein's web site (www.meforum.org/article/1933) and a site containing Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz's analysis (www.nysun.com/pf.php?id=43958).
I have tried to figure out why Carter's role has changed from impartial mediator into aggressive advocate of the Palestinian cause. Dershowitz has hinted that one factor could be that he has been influenced by the substantial financial support the Carter Center has received from the Arab Gulf State rulers.
I believe there is a more subtle factor in play, as an Israeli who has accompanied Carter on his visits to Israel, has suggested. Carter is an Evangelical Christian well versed in the Bible. He is also naive. I think Carter has apparently been disappointed--perhaps even disgusted--that Israel's secular leaders have failed to live up to the lofty ideals of their ancestors, the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament.
He evidently expected Israel, because of its Biblical antecedents, to be governed by an exceptional moral political code that no other nation practices and is unattainable in today's world.
In the past Carter has boasted that he is "a friend of Israel." His new book demonstrates that with "friends" like him, Israel doesn't need any more enemies.