(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
By Jimmy Carter
Simon & Schuster
In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, just re-released in paperback, author Jimmy Carter has stepped forward as a "third-party authority" for the Palestinian cause. He claims to speak with the moral clarity of an elder statesman and man of honor, but in fact fills much the same role as the physicians promoting the health benefits of nicotine and cholesterol.
There is little need to discuss here the academic flaws of Carter's book, since his former colleague, Prof. Kenneth Stein of Emory University, has done so already in an article published in the Spring 2007 issue of Middle East Quarterly.
Nevertheless, to appreciate the significance of the book, one must grasp its context and message. It has several goals, foremost to revive public interest in the Palestinian cause and undermine Christian support for Israel.
Carter cites Martin Luther King Jr., who once remarked that the worst thing that could happen to the civil rights movement was that the public would come to find it boring, yet this is what has happened to the Palestinian cause. Although their well-wishers may look the other way, the wider public now knows of Palestinian corruption, violence and internal lawlessness, the smashing of greenhouses and desecration of synagogues after the disengagement in Gaza, as well as their constant anti-Semitic incitement. Since the publication of Carter's book, the public has further learned about "Farfur" - a copy of Mickey Mouse who advocated suicide bombing on a Hamas children's television program - as well as that group's quaint practice of throwing enemies from tall buildings.
At Camp David in August 2000, Yasser Arafat rejected a peace agreement and instead launched the second intifada. Several years later, prime minister Ariel Sharon devised a low-key response: withdrawal from Gaza and the construction of a security barrier combined with proactive operations against Palestinian terrorists. Although many Israelis detested the Gaza withdrawal, its net result for the Palestinians was to convert Gaza into the world's biggest prison - the message that Carter conveys, repeating Palestinian propaganda emanating from Ramallah. For example, the title of Chapter 16 is: "The Wall as a Prison."
Carter's message is identical to that of the ubiquitous pro-Palestinian literature, particularly the accusation of Israeli racism embodied in the term "apartheid." The now-defunct Soviet Union first introduced the term in connection with Israel at an international women's rights conference in Mexico City in late June 1975. As noted by historian Bernard Lewis, the resulting Declaration on the Equality of Women "repeatedly stresses the share of women in the struggle against neocolonialism, foreign occupation, Zionism, racism, racial discrimination and apartheid."
Similarly, in an English-language broadcast of July 5, 1977, TASS (the official Soviet news agency) reported: "If in the RSA [Republic of South Africa], the black people have been herded into so-called Bantustans and under the fear of death cannot appear in white-only districts, in Zionist Israel Arab-born citizens are compelled to live in special zones, reminiscent of the Jewish ghettoes of the Nazi period."
Further, on August 23, 1977, TASS released the following item: "Tel Aviv and Pretoria are akin, just as apartheid in the South African Republic and Zionism in Israel are simply different brands of racialism."
The "apartheid" accusation clearly belongs to the lineage of slogans branding Zionism as racism. Although Carter somewhat qualifies the "apartheid" accusation in his book, the effort is disingenuous. He uses the term prominently in its title, and the cover shows a contemplative Carter on one side and the separation barrier on the other. But why should a former American president use the vocabulary of a morally bankrupt totalitarian empire that suppressed human rights, held large populations in slave-labor camps and suppressed Christianity? If the choice of language defines the man, it is fair to ask what kind of a man he is.
According to the criteria of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) which published its "Working Definition of Antisemitism," in March 2004, Carter's accusations could well be anti-Semitic. The following are examples listed there as anti-Semitic:
â€¢ Denying the Jewish people's right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor;
â€¢ Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation;
â€¢ Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis;
â€¢ Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.
Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid may cross the line not only because it contains the accusation of racism, but also because it applies double standards. In addition, it repeats the myth about American Jews controlling the media. Also, its "Historical Chronology" removes the Jews from history between the defeat of the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans in 135 CE until the Balfour Declaration in 1917.
Naturally, a book such as this reflects its author's personal vantage point. For example, Carter shows that he has a guilty conscience about the way native Americans were treated in his home state:
"I have to admit that, at the time, I equated the ejection of Palestinians from their previous home within the State of Israel to the forcing of Lower Creek Indians from the Georgia land where our family was now located; they had been moved west to Oklahoma on the 'Trail of Tears' [ca. 1838] to make room for our white ancestors."
A little research reveals that the history of the American government and the Lower Creek Indians was one of dispossession, broken treaties, and profound human suffering. A great injustice was perpetrated, and if Carter really wanted to do the right thing, he would seek out the descendants of those Indians, beg their forgiveness, and return their land. The problem is that if he ever did so, his neighbors would tar and feather him.
To repackage one's personal guilt and project it on Israel is an act of moral cowardice. Even so, Carter's comparison is wrong. It was the Jews - and not the Arabs - who were originally driven off the land; they have merely returned to reclaim what rightfully belongs to them. In this case, it is the Jews who are the Native Americans of the Middle East, and their tribe has a name. It is Judah.
From the comfort of the Carter Center, deep in the heart of Georgia, which practiced true racism in living memory, and which is the only state where a Jew was ever lynched (Leo Frank in 1915), it is easy to seek out opportunities for "waging peace," "fighting disease" and "building hope" in distant lands. It is even easier to blame Israel and American Jews for defending Israel's open society which, despite its imperfections, has earned its solid reputation for the fairness of its judiciary, religious freedom and humane practices.
The Palestinian cause may have some merit, but its advocates have yet to produce an honest work that does not omit critical facts, distort information, or contain outright falsehoods.
The writer is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; www.jcpa.org.