Skip the book, read the column

Even Carter's short attempt to defend himself is riddled with blatant inaccuracies.

carter 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
carter 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
In a column published in last week's Boston Globe, former US president Jimmy Carter complained that ever since his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid came out, he has been called "a liar, plagiarist, anti-Semite, racist, bigot, ignorant, etc." I have not read the book. But the column alone proves that some of those epithets are justified. For instance, Carter complains that "an enormous wall snakes through … what is left of the West Bank … obviously designed to acquire more property and protect the Israeli colonies already built." Aside from the misleading terminology (the barrier is mostly fence, not wall) and the false implication of massive annexation (more than 90 percent of the West Bank remains on the Palestinian side), there is an obvious problem with his "obvious" explanation of the fence's objective: Not only does Israel claim that its purpose is stopping suicide bombers, but the evidence supports that claim. First, the fence was only inaugurated two years into the intifada, as Israel's death toll from terror attacks approached the 500 mark. Carter not only fails to mention this, he disingenuously implies that it has existed for decades by preceding his diatribe with the phrase "for 39 years, Israel has occupied Palestinian land..." Second, Israeli casualties of Palestinian terror have declined by almost 50 percent a year since construction began in 2002, indicating that the fence is in fact serving its stated defensive purpose. To obscure this inconvenient fact, Carter offers an astounding alternative explanation: "Hamas declared a unilateral cease-fire in August 2004 … which they claim is the reason for reductions in casualties to Israeli citizens." Even overlooking the six-month inaccuracy - Hamas announced the "lull" only in February 2005 - this "explanation" ignores the fact that the drop in casualties began fully two years earlier, following Operation Defensive Shield in spring 2002. Thus by the intifada's third year, October 2002 through September 2003, the Israeli death toll was already a whopping 47% lower than the second year's figure. EVEN MORE astonishing, however, is Carter's disregard for the fact that Hamas has proudly claimed credit for various deadly attacks even since February 2005 - including the firing of hundreds of rockets at southern Israel and the cross-border raid that kidnapped one soldier and killed two this past June. Then there is Carter's claim that "Mahmoud Abbas ... has sought to negotiate with Israel for almost six years, without success. Hamas leaders support such negotiations, promising to accept the results if approved by a Palestinian referendum." Carter somehow neglects to mention that for four of those six years, the Palestinian Authority's leader was not Abbas, but Yasser Arafat - who had already rejected an offer of a Palestinian state in some 95% of the territories, including east Jerusalem, in July 2000, and underscored his rejection by launching the intifada, which has thus far claimed over 1,100 Israeli lives. Carter also neglects to mention that a year after Arafat's death, Palestinian voters ousted Abbas's party and elected Hamas, which openly advocates Israel's eradication. Most astonishing, however, is his falsification of Hamas's position. Hamas indeed has no problem with letting Abbas negotiate further Israeli withdrawals. But Carter neglects to mention the caveat that Hamas leaders reiterate almost daily: The most they are willing to offer - in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, plus a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees - is a multiyear truce, after which they will resume trying to eradicate Israel. Consider, for instance, PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar's statement of his party's position in October: "We will never recognize Israel, and the end of the Zionists will be like the end of the Crusaders, Persians and British... We want all of Palestine, every centimeter, from the sea to the river, from Rosh Hanikra to Rafah. If we can establish a state in the 1967 borders we will do so, but that does not mean we will give up our right to a centimeter of the land of Palestine." Carter can hardly be ignorant of these statements, because unlike Arafat - who reserved such comments for the Arabic-language media - Hamas leaders obligingly repeat them for the English-language press. So with the party that controls the PA openly declaring its commitment to Israel's destruction, just what does Carter think there is to negotiate about? THEN THERE is Carter's complaint that "food supplies in Gaza [are] equivalent to those among the poorest families in sub-Sahara Africa," due to "economic restrictions imposed on [the Palestinians] by Israel and the United States because 42 percent voted for Hamas candidates in this year's election." That "42%" is an ingenious touch, allowing him to omit the fact that Hamas won an absolute parliamentary majority. He also neglects to mention Hamas's open advocacy of Israel's destruction, or that the main "economic restriction" imposed by Israel and the US was halting fund transfers to the Hamas government. All this enables him to avoid uncomfortable questions, such as why either Jerusalem or Washington should transfer money to a government that openly seeks Israel's eradication. His touching comparison to sub-Sahara Africa also ignores the fact that even after Hamas's election, Palestinians remain the largest per-capita recipients of international aid in the world. Indeed, the PA's largest donor, the European Union, increased aid to the Palestinians by 27% this year, to $865 million. The only difference is that instead of going to the Hamas government, this money is being funneled through Abbas and organizations such as UNRWA. If it is not reaching needy Palestinians, that is hardly Israel's doing. Finally, there is Carter's blithe claim that "an overwhelming majority" of Palestinians want peace. Given repeated polls showing that, for instance, 67% of Palestinians support Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel, 63% support bombarding Israeli cities with rockets, 57% support suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and 75% favor kidnapping Israeli soldiers, it is hard to know on what Carter bases this optimism. But of course, that question presumes that Carter cares about the facts. His entire column says otherwise.