Carter's legacy should be debated, not celebrated

Cardozo Law School’s wrongheaded honoring of Jimmy Carter can provide an educational moment to weigh if indeed, he deserves the accolade.

Jimmy Carter in Egypt_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Jimmy Carter in Egypt_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The ill-advised decision by a student run journal of conflict resolution at the Cardozo Law School to honor Jimmy Carter provides a long overdue opportunity to set the record straight with regard to Carter’s dishonorable history with regard to conflicts.
Carter causes conflicts by encouraging terrorism, supporting some of the most tyrannical regimes in the world, and interfering with American foreign policy.
Let’s begin with the Middle East.  In 2000-2001, Jimmy Carter was advising Yassar Arafat, with regard to the ongoing peace negotiation with Israel.   Former US president Bill Clinton and former prime minister Ehud Barak had offered the Palestinians a state on more than 95% of the disputed territories, captured by Israel in a defensive war.  They also offered Jerusalem as a the capitol of that state.  Jimmy Carter believed that if Arafat were to accept this generous offer his life would be at risk.  He repeated that assessment subsequently in his book Palestine:  Peace not Apartheid in which he wrote “There was no possibility that any Palestinian leader could accept such terms (as the ones offered at Camp David) and survive .“  Carter surely shared that assessment with Arafat, who rejected the offer and initiated an intifada in which several thousand Palestinians and Israelis were needlessly killed.   The blood of these victims is, at least in part, on the hands of Jimmy Carter.  Had he urged Arafat to take the deal, we might now be celebrating a dozen years of peace and a two state solution.
The blood of Israel’s victims of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism is also in part on Carter’s hands, since Carter has embraced every Mideast terrorist leader, while showing contempt for Israeli democratically elected leaders.  When in Israel in 2008, he visited the grave of his “dear friend” Yassir Arafat but not the graves of Arafat’s victims or of Yitzak Rabin.
Nor does he deserve all the credit he has gotten for brokering the peace between Egypt and Israel; that peace, which caused Anwar Sadat his life, is the result of two courageous leaders:  Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, who took enormous risks for peace.  Carter almost ruined it by insisting that Egypt not take back the Gaza Strip –a decision that has cost many lives over the past 30 years.  While Carter was president, he stood idly by the mass murder of more than 2 million Cambodians by Pol Pot.
Since leaving the presidency Carter has helped build homes for the poor, which deserves commendation.  But he has refused to speak out against some of the worst human rights abuses committed by the Saudi regime, which has bought his silence by significant contributions to the Carter Center.   While accusing Israel of apartheid, he has allowed Saudi Arabia to escape that description, despite the reality that the Saudis explicitly practiced gender, religious, and sexual orientation apartheid.
Perhaps Carter’s worst offence is to have helped the hard left hijack the human rights agenda, and turn it into an ideological tool to be used primarily against American and its western allies. 
None of these historical facts will be mentioned by those who bestow the award on Jimmy Carter at Cardozo Law School.  But facts are stubborn things and Carter should be confronted with these facts by students in attendance.  The students should prepare a leaflet which would tell the truth about Jimmy Carter --- he should be asked to respond to these charges in his acceptance speech.  He should be challenged to debate his record.
Jimmy Carter does not like conflict or controversy when it’s about him.  When Brandeis University invited him to have a discussion with me about his apartheid book, he refused.  He likes to spark controversy and stimulate debate, but then he refuses to participate in the debate or respond to the other side of the controversy. 
Let the students who disagree with this honor take the high road and respond to half-truths with full truths, to fiction with facts, and to dishonor with honor.  Law schools are supposed to be places of debate.  So let there be a debate about Jimmy Carter’s dishonorable record in conflict resolution and human rights.  Let the students of Cardozo turn this wrongheaded honor into an educational moment, so that Jimmy Carter will regret having accepted this undeserved accolade.