PALESTINE PEACE NOT APARTHEID
by Jimmy Carter.
264 pp. Simon and Schuster. $27.
This "strange little book" as Ethan Bronner described it, requires a long review. It is like no book about the Middle East that I ever read, and probably like no book that you ever read. Consequently, it must be described in detail.
We cannot say that Jimmy Carter's book is "like" a conventional anti-Israel diatribe, or the account of a "New Historian" like Benny Morris. It is made differently and it has a different "feel" and different assumptions. If an American reads the history of the United States as recorded by a fairly hostile visitor from Alpha Centauri, it might feel the same to them as this book feels to me. The book has been so vilified and lauded, and the author is held in such high personal repute, that any assertions made about it must be meticulously backed by quotes and research.
The title of the book manifests a gross error in judgment. Carter chose to use a slogan that has been popularized by anti-Zionists who want to delegitimize Zionism and destroy the state of Israel. However, there is no evidence in this book that Jimmy Carter is an anti-Semite or an anti-Zionist, though he seems to lack awareness of Jewish national claims and the accomplishments of the Zionist movement. In parts of the book, he manifests an earnest and abiding love for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. That is incompatible with the systematic distortions and biased reportage in other parts of the book. The book is full of omissions, incorrect statements and bizarre interludes. Carter is earnest in the manner of a Christian missionary. He is so earnest, and radiates such profound religious convictions, but tells so many fibs, that while reading the book, I was often tempted to say out loud, "Jimmy Carter, didn't your Mama teach you that it's a sin to lie?"
Curiously, points that were glaringly apparent to me seem to have been missed by many of the most critical reviewers. Jews seem to have been critical of the book in a way that is not understood by non-Jews, for reasons that may become apparent from understanding Mr. Carter's approach.
Part of the strangeness of this book is apparently the underlying world view and approach. Mr. Carter's approach is not that of a Nobel prize winning statesman and ex-president who wrestled with the intricacies of geopolitics, brokered a meta-historical peace treaty and gave his name to a prestigious think tank and peace NGO. Whether he really believes it, or whether it is a device he uses to communicate with and convince his audience, Carter presents the whole question from a Christian religious perspective. "Palestine," not Israel, is mentioned in the title. Jesus is mentioned five times in this book, Herzl -- not once. Carter writes of the security fence:
...an especially heartbreaking division is on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples, and very near Bethany, where they often visited Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus... (p. 194)
As a testament of faith it is touching. As a rhetorical device, it is devastating. How can one object to this sacred testimony in terms of mundane concerns such as suicide bombings and auto thefts?
Carter makes claims that are diametrically opposed to the historical record, as far as can be ascertained from public documents and from statements and books by ex-President Bill Clinton, by Dennis Ross and by others. Carter provides no documentation for any of his assertions, many of which are inexcusable on any grounds. According to Carter, Transjordan (72% of the area of the Palestine mandate) was created in "remote desert regions." He writes that Lebanon, which is at war with Israel, is "neutral as between Israel and Syria." He tells us that Shebaa farms has been considered part of Lebanon since 1924, but the UN did not find any evidence to support that statement, and Lebanese army maps from 1966 show Shebaa farms in Syria. Carter quotes Yasir Arafat uncritically when he says that the PLO never sought to kick the Jews out of Israel, contradicting the published text of the 1968 PLO Charter, as well as public declarations by PLO leaders. Carter never points out the error. On the other hand, when writing about the Israeli security fence, Carter calls it a "segregation wall" and shows various fictive plans and proposed routes without giving any direct sources for his "information."
Carter's major thesis is that Israel will become an apartheid state if it doesn't divest itself of the territories, and he quotes Israelis who warn about the demographic problem. Amazingly, he does not once discuss the Palestinian demand for "Right of Return" for Palestinian refugees to Israel. This cannot hardly be an inadvertant omission, as "Right of Return" is a central issue for Palestinians.
In discussing the final peace negotiations in 2000, Carter relies exclusively on Palestinian sources apparently, and ignores the published text of President Clinton's Bridging Proposal, as well as maps and explanations of Dennis Ross. He never tells us where he gets his information. Almost anyone with a nodding acquaintance of the Middle East could write a more balanced and more thorough account of the issues and history. Many of the detailed facts he relates about the Israeli occupation and the security fence might be true, but how can anyone believe any of his undocumented assertions, given that so much of his "information" is demonstrably false?
This one-sided account, which consistently slams Israeli actions throughout most of the book, is not compensated by the relatively balanced summary at the end. If Carter's account was really a fair summary, then it would not be justified to seek a two-state solution, as he insists, but rather to abolish Israel entirely, because it must surely be irremediably wicked. There would be no need to call for Arab recognition of Israel or an end to terror, which in any case are barely mentioned when he discusses the peace process and the reasons for its failure.
In more detail:
The Good News - Jimmy Carter does not openly advocate destroying Israel. Quite the contrary. He writes:
a. The security of Israel must be guaranteed. The Arabs must acknowledge openly and specifically that Israel is a reality and has a right to exist in peace, behind secure and recognized borders, and with a firm Arab pledge to terminate any further acts of violence against the legally constituted nation of Israel. (p. 207)
Carter and Terror - Carter does not condone terror. I have seen this claim repeatedly, though nothing is cited from the book to prove it. I have been unable to find any place in this book where Jimmy Carter condones terror. His attitude is rather expressed as follows:
There are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East:
1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land...
2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories.
It is peculiar that in his view, the suicide bombings themselves are not an obstacle to peace, only the fact that the bombers are honored. He is not exactly legitimizing terror here, but he is "understanding its causes." It is also unfortunate that Carter fails to tell his audience that Palestinian animosity to Israel pre-existed the 1967 occupation. Few Israelis believe that they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land. Many more Israelis believe, and can prove, that until 1948 Jews lived in some of the areas that are now resettled by Jews, and they were ethnically cleansed by force from Jerusalem and Gush Etzion and Hebron. Jews had lived in Hebron and Jerusalem for hundreds of years, returning after being expelled by the Crusaders. Jerusalem had had a Jewish majority since the nineteenth century. Mr. Carter hides this fact from his readers.
Israelis believe, and can prove, that the land of the controversial and problematic Hebron settlement and of Gush Etzion was bought and paid for by Jews. At least some Israelis believe that the lands that are "confiscated" didn't belong to any private individual since the days of Jesus and his disciples, but are government land. Court documents generally uphold these claims. Mr. Carter relates a lot of third hand complaints of Palestinians about Israeli confiscation of land, but he does not show us a single deed of ownership. Whatever the truth of these claims and counter claims, the fact is that most Israelis are willing to compromise as Carter himself admits.
But Jimmy Carter unfortunately goes one step further. He writes:
It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel. (p. 213)
In other words, Carter accepts the Palestinian view that murder of civilians is permissible owing to the occupation and as long as the occupation continues. if so, it is surprising that he doesn't approve of considering the suicide bombers to be "martyrs." It is "legitimate resistance." He forgets that deliberate murder of civilians is a crime against humanity and forbidden by international law. Is it the view of this religious man, supposedly so deeply committed to peace, that the Palestinians can continue to murder Israeli civilians until they are satisfied that Israel has complied with "international law?"
Carter has a bizarre concept of Israel and relation to the Jewish people. Carter's understanding of the land and people of Israel, as noted, seems to be informed by religious conviction rather than an understanding of history, or at least, that's the way he wants to present it to his audience. For him, Israel is the "Holy Land," a term he uses many times, and the Jews are the chosen people. This can be very difficult to reconcile with the needs of flesh and blood people who need to live every day in the neighborhood of areas where Jesus walked, and the prophets talked, and who do not feel "chosen" in any good sense of the word. This is supposed to be a book about the people and policies of a country called Israel, which is a member state of the United Nations, yet Jimmy Carter chooses to call it, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid." Isn't that odd? The British mandate for Palestine expired almost 60 years ago. It is understandable that Christians will view "Palestine" - the geographical entity - in a special light, but that should not exclude consideration of political realities in a book that is about politics.
The book begins with a chronology of events, (compare with middle east chronologies on the Web.). The chronology provides a framework for Carter's ideas of the Middle East, and for the concept of history he wishes to project to his readers. His omissions are instructive. French dominion over Lebanon and British dominion over Egypt, relatively unrelated events, are noted. However, there is no mention of the Zionist congress in Basle (omitted from its time slot in the chronology on page 3 of the book) which founded the Zionist movement in 1897 or of any other Zionist activities whatever. Herzl was never born in Carter's book, he is not in the index. Jesus is mentioned five times in this book about modern Israel, Herzl is not mentioned once. Writing the history of Israel without mentioning Herzl is about like writing about Western civilization without ever mentioning Christianity or Jesus.
The entire Zionist movement is covered in about one page beginning on page 65. There is no mention of the fact that the British Mandate for Palestine was given to Britain expressly to create a national home for the Jewish people. Carter notes that Arabs emigrated to Palestine during the mandate because of "economic opportunities," but he doesn't explain that the "economic opportunities" were created mostly by Zionist investment and development.
According to Carter, it seems that the British Empire or the UN or the Christian world, for benign or imperialist reasons, gave the hapless Jews a Palestine mandate and later gave them a Jewish state. The schools, the factories, the roads, the hospitals, the irrigation works, all these fell like manna from heaven apparently, or they were all here when the Jews arrived in Carter's view. The Holocaust is not mentioned in the timeline either, an event of cardinal importance for the state of Israel and which may have, at least, considerable significance for understanding the psychology of Israeli Jews. A dialogue between Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin that took place in 1977, in which Begin tried to provide a right-wing Zionist perspective on the creation of Israel and the importance of the land, is widely cited by Zionists as a victory for Begin's views. There is no evidence whatever in this book that Carter understood anything that Begin was saying, other than the fact that Begin would not give up "Judea and Samaria" -a.k.a. "The West Bank. Jewish national feeling, Israeli security concerns etc. seem to be totally meaningless to Carter.
In the dedication page of the book, and in a section repeated on page 19, Carter stresses the following quote:
The blood of Abraham, God's father of the chosen, still flows in the veins of Arab, Jew, and Christian, and too much of it has been spilled in grasping for the inheritance of the revered patriarch in the Middle East.
Though Mr Carter confounds the "Abrahamic religions," Christianity, Judaism and Islam, with the Jewish nationality and the Arab ethnicity, it is a noble sentiment, which does not seem strange perhaps to a Christian, and expresses the special relation of the three faiths. However, to a Jew, secular or religious, there is something very wrong here. Mr. Carter is a friend and a brother, as all men are brothers, but the national bond, the "blood bond" if you will, of the Jewish people, exists only among the Jewish people. That is how the world has viewed the subject for over 2,000 years, for better or worse. This land is holy to three faiths, but it was the national and political center of the Jewish nation only. The issue is not religious. Mr. Carter cannot elect himself to be a member of the Jewish people or the Arabic ouma any more than I can elect myself to be an Irishman by claiming the "blood" of Parnell or St Patrick. "Arab" is not a religious group, and for purposes of discussing Israel, "Jew" is not just a religious group.
Mr. Carter does not share the fate of the Jewish people. Had he been Jewish, he would not have been president, and chances are, he would have had a family memory not of emigration from England or Scotland, but rather of escape from pogroms or the Holocaust. These things happened to Jews because we are Jews, and did not happen to Mr. Carter, because he is not a Jew. The Jews are a people, a nation, and as Jews we share a common fate, different from that of Mr. Carter or Arabs. That has been a very unhappy fate for the last 2,000 years. Israel was created as the legal expression and recognition of Jewish nationhood, as a solution to the problems presented by the common fate of the Jews. One cannot have "kinship with Abraham" and "chosen people status" deluxe. If you are a Jew, you share the fate of the Jewish people. For whatever it is worth, those who are part of the tribe share the burden and feel the pain together. Mr. Carter's faith does not make him a partner in the Jewish national enterprise.|
Carter relates that he told Golda Meir
...that I had long taught lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures and that a common historical pattern was that Israel was punished whenever the leaders turned away from the devout worship of God. I asked if she was concerned about the secular nature of her Labor government. She seemed surprised by my temerity... (p 32)
Certainly Golda must have been surprised. To an Israeli ear, and I think to most Europeans or Americans, the idea that God will punish you for having a secular government is very strange. It seems that Mr. Carter believes that separation of church and state, a principle enshrined in the US constitution and in the government of most European countries, should not apply to the "chosen people" in the "Holy Land." For most Israelis, this is a very odd idea. Ironically, a government of orthodox Jews might be likely to adamantly oppose any territorial concessions to Palestinian Arabs, on the grounds that God gave all of the Land to the Jewish people.
Does this somewhat unrealistic view of the Jewish people and Israel affect the way Jimmy Carter views Israeli politicians? If he was expecting to meet Old Testament prophets and New Testament saints here, and instead met Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, he must have been mighty surprised and disappointed. If he expects Jewish national aspirations to accommodate to some view of the Jewish people expressed by Christian theology, there is bound to be friction. Significant Omissions
- As a piece of deception, this book is a work of art. It is impossible to describe every error and false assertion and relevant omission in this book, as that would make the review much longer that the book. The work is cleverly done, and will fool the reader who is not thoroughly familiar with the history of the Middle East, or who may be distracted by the pious slogans. For example, Jimmy Carter never mentions the three "No"s of the Khartoum Resolutions
, in which Arab states explicitly pledged never to negotiate with Israel, never to recognize Israel, and never to make peace with Israel. The conference was a response to UN Security Council Resolution 242
, which called for negotiation with Israel. However, he mentions U.N. Resolution 242 many times, and gives the impression that it is not implemented because Israel does not want to implement it.
Misleading by attribution - Carter quotes or relates untrue propaganda statements of Arab leaders without comment. This may be due to the diplomatic reticence of a statesman, but it can certainly mislead unwary readers. For example, he relates
When I met with Yasir Arafat in 1960 he stated, "The PLO has never advocated the annihilation of Israel. The Zionists started the 'drive the Jews into the sea' statement and attributed it to the PLO. In 1969 we said we wanted to establish a democratic state where Jews, Christians and Muslims can all live together. The Zionists said they do not choose to live with any people other than Jews"
. Carter allows this brazen lie to stand uncorrected in any way. The stand of the PLO and the Fatah in those years is a matter of public record. In the debate preceding the 6-Day war, Ahmad Shoqairy, then head of the PLO, explained the plans of the PLO, "if it should be our privilege to strike the first blow." He declared that all Jews who arrived after 1917 would be expelled from Palestine. A similar secular democratic state document was adopted by Fatah and was in use in the 1970s. The philosophy and the appropriate provision is enshrined in the PLO covenant, which made it clear that the aim of the PLO is to put an end to Jewish presence in Palestine as well as to void any Jewish national claims:
Article 1: Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.
Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.
Article 6:The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians. [The rest, perforce, would not, and their fate would be expulsion, as stated explicitly elsewhere.]
Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood...
This is not a minor omission on the part of Mr. Carter. If one disregards the PLO charter and all the utterances of Palestinian Arabs about ridding Palestine of the Jews, then the objection of Israel to negotiations with the PLO and to a Palestinian state indeed make no sense. Here was the nice Mr. Carter offering to make peace, and this nice man Arafat offering to make peace, while the evil Zionists only wanted to live with Jews, and that evil fanatic Begin was refusing to listen to reason. It looks much different if the reader understands what the program of the PLO was.
Refugees and the Right of Return - Is it possible to write a book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without discussing the "Right of Return" claimed by Palestinian refugees? Apparently it is. Mr. Carter never once discusses this issue, though his entire thesis depends on it. He mentions the refugees, though the word does not even appear in the index. Carter claims that Israel is doomed to be an "apartheid" state because of the ill-treatment of Arabs in the West Bank. He quotes Israelis who warn about the demographic dangers. However, the Palestinians have always insisted that in any peace agreement, Arab refugees of the 1948 War of Independence would have the right to return to Israel. This demand is repeated by Mahmoud Abbas, and it was detailed by the Palestinians in the Taba discussions in 2001. "Return" of a substantial number of those who claim to be descendants of the refugees would bring about an Arab majority in Israel. Either Israel would become an Arab state, or the returning refugees would have some sort of second class citizenship. This is a cardinal issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an essential point relating to Carter's thesis, and yet it is not mentioned!
Gross errors - There are numerous gross errors in the book. Some are comically absurd. It can't be accidental that all those errors are neutral or favor the Arab cause. It is hard to imagine that editors or advisers did not comment on any of them. Examples follow, from among those errors that do not directly concern the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process:
Carter: "..an emirate called Transjordan was created out of some remote desert regions of the Palestine Mandate. (p 83)."
Fact: Consider the statement "remote desert regions." The distance from Amman, the capital of Jordan to Jerusalem, is less than the distance from New York to Philadelphia. The "remote desert regions" have an area of 98,000 square kilometers and constitute 72% of the original area of the mandate. The "desert" includes about 4,000 square kilometers of arable land, more arable land then there is in the entire 1967 boundaries of the state of Israel. The map shows the "remote desert areas."
Transjordan - the "remote desert regions" described by Jimmy Carter
This is not a pedantic quibble. Many Israelis, as Jimmy Carter points out, believe rightly or wrongly that Jordan was created to be the state of the Palestinian people. When we consider the size of these "remote desert regions," the claim becomes more intelligible.
Carter: "Lebanon's leaders have long claimed a neutral foreign policy between East and West and between Israel and Syria." (p. 93)
Fact: The special relationship of France and Lebanon, and the invitation issued to the US to send troops there in 1958 are matters of public record. Lebanon is not at war with Syria, and most Lebanese politicians refer to Syria as "Sister Syria." Lebanon has been at war with Israel since 1948. It is absurd to write that Lebanon is neutral between Israel and Syria.
Carter: Since 1924, Shebaa Farms had been treated as Lebanese territory. (p. 98)
Fact: Lebanese maps and UN statements determine that Shebaa farms was considered part of Syria as late as 1966, and not part of Lebanon as claimed by Carter. Below is a Lebanese military map of 1966, showing Shebaa farms to be in Syria.
The UN determined:
"On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government's position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defense and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic." Source: UN Report
Carter, as usual, offers no documentation to back any of his bizarre assertions.
Errors and distortions concerning the peace process - Carter's account of the Oslo peace process and the final status negotiations deserves special attention, because it is really the heart of the book. As documented by Dennis Ross and others, he has manipulated maps and made statements contrary to known facts here, just as he made careless or deliberate errors in other parts of this book. The cumulative effect of these manipulations gives the reader the impression that the Palestinians were offered very little, whereas they were in fact offered quite a lot. The Washington negotiations in December 2000, in which President Clinton made the Bridging Proposal that Israel accepted and the Palestinians rejected, is not even included in Mr. Carter's chronology, though unlike Mr. Herzl and the Zionist movement, it is at least discussed. However, Carter seems to deliberately confuse the July proposals with the final offer made in December. On page 148, he gives the infamous incorrect maps. The one on the left, labeled "Palestinian interpretation of Clinton's proposal 2000" is the Palestinian interpretation of the offer made at Camp David in July. For reference purposes, here is the map, as presented originally by Dennis Ross in his account of the negotiations, "The Missing Peace":
It is important to note the precise text that appears on this map in Ross's book:
"This map reflects a map proposed by the Israelis early at Camp David, but it inaccurately depicts Israeli security zones carving the West Bank into three cantons, and includes Israeli settlements in the proposed Palestinian state. Official Palestinians now cite this map as the final offer they turned down at Camp David. (The initial Israeli proposal called for a Palestinian state in 87% of the West Bank. This map shows that state comprising only 83% of that territory.)"
Carter makes almost exactly the same false claim that the Palestinians make. He claims this map is the actual final offer made in December, not of the Israelis, but rather of President Clinton as accepted by the Israelis. He then develops (on page 151-152) what is apparently an entirely fictional narrative of the settlements that would supposedly remain and other features of this proposal, which never existed in the first place! On page 152, Carter states the following of the Taba talks:
"it was later claimed that the Palestinians rejected a generous offer by Prime Minister Barak with Israel keeping only 5 percent of the West Bank. The fact is that no such offers were ever made.
. But the offer was already made by Clinton in the Bridging proposal and accepted by Israel. The proposal stated:
. "Based on what I heard, I believe that the solution should be in the mid-90 percents, between 94-96 percent of the West Bank territory of the Palestinian State."
. While the book includes a number of documents as appendices, including the lengthy Camp David treaty with Egypt, the Clinton Bridging Proposal is conspicuous by its absence.
Carter does quote part of the Bridging proposal, which stated that 80% of the settlers would remain:
The best offer to the Palestinians-by Clinton, not Barak--had been to withdraw 20 percent of the settlers, leaving more than 180,000 in 209 settlements, covering about 10 percent of the occupied land...
Carter embroiders on this account, but the fact is that the Bridging proposal offered over 95% of the land, and did not keep 10% as Carter insists. The number of settlements that Carter gives, and the area they cover, is not the number of settlements that would remain, which was never specified by anyone, as far as is known. What Carter doesn't tell his readers is that 80% of the settlers (especially if we include those in Jerusalem) are included in about 8% of the land area of the West bank, concentrated in settlement blocs. That is how only 20% of the settlers would have to be moved. The others would not have remained in a Palestinian state, which would be "Judenrein" - free of Jews.
The concentration of Jewish settlement near the green line 1967 border, in Jerusalem and surroundings, makes it possible to contemplate a peace deal in which Israel keeps a corridor to its capital city and some areas close to the borders. Several such solutions have been proposed, including the Geneva Accord, an agreement negotiated by Israeli and Palestinian "Track II negotiators.
Carter heartily approves of the Geneva Accord in Chapter 13, but he condemns virtually the same offer and the same geography in the Clinton Bridging proposals. The Geneva accord, according to reports published at the time, would leave about half of the 220,000 settlers in areas of the West Bank to be annexed by Israel, while half would have to move. However, the accords would leave the Jewish areas of East Jerusalem in Israel. When the Jewish population of East Jerusalem and surrounding areas is included, this is reduced to less than a quarter of the settler population. That is the same arithmetic as the Clinton bridging proposal.
Carter rounds off his fictional narrative with a "map" of a supposed plan by Ariel Sharon (page 153, Map 7). It is fairly draconic. It seems to be based on early leaks about proposed routes of the security fence, that were never implemented. There is no indication of the provenance of this map, no way to know if it is the product of Palestinian imagination or Israeli contingency planning or speculation. It has no provenance. It has no official standing, and yet it is presented as "Sharon's Plan."
Carter and disengagement - Israeli disengagement from Gaza was a sincere attempt to provide a springboard for peace. Carter doesn't tell it that way. He explains that Israel left Gaza isolated, but doesn't explain why. On pages 175-176 he manages to convey the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza without once mentioning terror raids or accumulation of arms that caused Israel to close off access. He writes:
Per capita income has decreased 40 percent during the last three years.
Perhaps, but Israel did not withdraw from Gaza three years ago. The decline in per capita income was not due to Israeli actions, but to the start of the Intifada by the Palestinians in 2000, which led to a drastic decline in the economy. Israel did not start the Intifada either. Israel cannot be forced to accept Palestinian workers if there is a risk they will blow themselves up in our supermarkets.
Carter and the Security Fence - A picture is worth a thousand words. On page 191, Jimmy Carter presents his fictionalized version of the Israeli security fence. While Carter is reticent about criticizing Arab leaders and quotes their propaganda without comment, his presentation of the security fence is not neutral at all. The map is labeled "Palestinians Surrounded 2006." The legend labels include "Completed Segregation Wall" and "Proposed Segregation Wall." Carter throws objectivity, diplomacy, tact and fairness to the wind when it comes to Israel. He also throws the truth out the window. Large areas are labeled "proposed segregation wall route" even though those "proposals" were vetoed for the most part. There are "Permanent settlements" from the "Olmert Plan" marked on the map, as well as an "Area of Planned Israeli Settlement Control," but Carter provides no provenance for the map or for these mythical entities. Apparently, his source is a book called "The Iron Wall" which he purchased from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees. This propaganda effort is recommended as a factual source in a footnote on page 195. Mr. Carter doesn't offer much Israeli government documentation as sources.
This book is a best seller; it will certainly outsell far more careful and lucid accounts of the conflict. For many Americans, this bizarre, undocumented and erratic narrative, in which the Israeli government is portrayed throughout as the only villain preventing a resolution of the conflict, will provide the only background they have about Israel and the Palestinians. Instead of building a constituency for a constructive solution, the book has taken Israel-hate mainstream.
Making all possible allowances, the impression I got from this book is that Mr. Carter has a worthy vision of peace for Israel and the Palestinians. He was overwhelmed by the historic magnitude of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which he helped to broker. He was convinced that he was on the way to resolving the Middle East dispute. Mr. Carter was therefore deeply disappointed and frustrated by the intransigence of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Subsequently, like all of us, he was deeply frustrated by the crash and burn of the Oslo process. He assumed that this must be due to Israeli intransigence. He modeled his views of all Israeli leaders on the behavior and policies of Begin and Shamir, and then proceeded to whack the facts into shape to fit this model, using an intellectual twelve pound sledge hammer. Instead of producing a work that could generate momentum for peace, Mr. Carter has produced another deadly weapon in the middle east war of words. His popularity will ensure the widespread absorption of the poison, and it will take much hard work to undo the damage he has done.
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Replies: 9 Comments
You dismiss any suggestion of Carter being antisemetic or even anti-Zionist, but don't offer what constitutes either.
I don't have Irwin Cotler's definitive definition of when criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemetism, but believe it has to do with demonizing Israel by criticising its policies without any context, which I believe is something Carter did in his book and is why the Carter Centre has been beset with so many resignations.
Lynne T, Thursday, February 15th
You're right about my query it was off-topic. My apologies.
So back on topic re Carter's approach to Israel: I think it is partly informed by:
1. his particular Christocentric faith outlook which may include Replacement theological assumptions;
2. his extensive financial connections to oil money from Saudi Arabia;
3. his deep disappointment with and resentment toward the leaders of US Jewish organizations whom he identifies with the 38% of Jewish American voters who opted for Reagan in 1980;
4. his cool relations with Begin (and perhaps other Israelis) and warm relations with Sadat (and perhaps other Arabs);
5. and finally by his gullibility with respect to crass populist, so-called 'anti-war' conspiracy theories emanating from the paleoconservative and realist school right and the 'anti-imperialism of fools' left.
(That's not to say that no principled stance in opposition to the military toppling of the Saddam regime was available for critics to adopt in the lead up to the war, but rather that the conspiracy accounts, from the 9.11 skeptics to the all powerful Israel Lobby runs US foreign policy against its best interests promoters, ain't principled)
With respect to Carter's penchant for conspiracy accounts, one only has to consider the back cover endorsement Carter gave to CNN correspondent Walter C. Rodgers' part journalistic, part "political" analysis account of the Iraq war in his book 'Sleeping with Custer and the 7th Cavalry'.
In his book, Rodgers promotes the conspiracy theory that Bush concocted the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in order to please the Israel lobby and force the United States into war. That the Clinton administration also believed Saddam to have such weapons is ignored, as is the fact that Saddam threatened to use them in the weeks before the war.
Carter will undoubtedly be buying Walt's & Mearsheimer's book on the omnipotent "Lobby" for his home library when it gets published later this year. He might even buy several to give away to friends at Christmas.
left, but not antizionist (lbnaz), Thursday, February 15th
Hi Elchanan and Left but not,
These issues are not really germane to the review or to Carter's book. The problem of how to make peace happen is too big to take up here. Good question. It needs a book, not a blog comment - or several books.
The question of how many Arab ethnicities there might be is not too relevant, though you are right of course about that. The point is, that "Arab" is not a religion.
Ami Isseroff, Wednesday, February 14th
Hi to all,
For Mike - IMO, people like Carter are V.I.P.s who usually have slaves who are supposed to make sure that their flies are zipped in public, there are no stains on their ties, that their speeches are grammatical and their books are accurate.
Simon & Schuster are a major publishing house, and they had to know this would be a major book. Carter must also have given to people to read. Somewhere along the line, someone should have noticed that Transjordan is not "remote desert regions" and Lebanon is not neutral between Israel and Syria. Someone at Simon and Schuster just might have heard of Theodor Herzl and the Zionist congress too!
Rod - I am not sure we can generalize about nonconformist Christians (British term for Protestants who are not Anglicans). I suspect that part of Carter's book was aimed at them - a lot of it. Frankly, some of his theology has a whiff of replacement theology about it, no?
Ami Isseroff, Wednesday, February 14th
Ithas been a long time since we have communicated. In the interim I have kept up on the vagaries of the Israel/Palestine interface.I recognize that some of the proposals are essential in the achievement of a peaceful agreement between Israel,and Palestine. However, I fear that achievement of such a peace between Palestine and Israel might not be sufficient. If Israel decides that such a peace agreement will result in acceptable coexistence between Jew and Arab states. they may be sadly disappointed.
A nascent Palestinian state will require much help in establishing itself as a self sustaining democratic country.It is likely that the other Mideast Arab states will not be too happy with the peace agreement and will not aid Palestine to establish a workable economy. They will probably push Palestine to allow them to bring their armies into the Palestine border with Israel to lob their shells into the narrow neck of Israel with impunity
Such a situation could be catastrophic for Israel. The only salvation that I can see is an early agreement between Israel and Palestine in which Israel will assist Palestine in their economic efforts such as marketing of their agricultural products abroad where Israel has established a secure position. How can we achieve such a cooperative arrangement?
Elchanan, Wednesday, February 14th
This was a good review and I appreciate you taking the time to write it. The only real comment I have is where you write that the editors should have caught some of Carterís large errors. The truth is books receive very little if any factual review from editors. I know a number of writers and have just finished my first nonfiction book, so I speak from experience.
My book for instance, deals extensively with Pacific Northwest geology, ecology, and salmon biology, but my press didnít have an expert in any of these fields review the book and my editor, while a good editor, certainly isnít an expert. I had subject experts review the book, and while the published version wonít have footnotes, I have a completely annotated copy detailing where all my information came from. My publisher never even asked to see this.
Instead, the press looked at my background and journalism credentials, and assumed I was committed to accuracy. (I was.) Friends who have published with large presses have had essentially the same experience. What this means is nobody at Simon & Schuster reviewed Carterís book for accuracy. They would just assume that as an ex-president that he knew what he was talking about and let it go.
I read a lot, but Iím very careful in who I read when it comes to nonfiction. I want to know the writerís background and his reputation. Itís quite easy for someone to spread propaganda if thatís their intent. I wish it wasnít so.
Also, I wonder if anyone has read ďPrisonersĒ by Jeffery Goldberg and what they thought.
Mike Barenti, Tuesday, February 13th
Sorry, should have clicked preview first before submit. Two sentences need adjusting from my comment below:
"Does the Arab ethnicity, (if it is actually only one ethnicity as opposed to a linguistic group and a number of Arabized ethnicities) not also contain several nationalisms, a history of pan-nationalism and a historical and revitalized pan Islamic nationalism?"
Apparently, "[t]he Arabic version [of the March 26, 03 Palestinian State Constitution] is available from Israel Resource News Agency by request" to email@example.com.
left,but not antizionist, Tuesday, February 13th
"Jewish nationality and the Arab ethnicity"
Hmmm. Does the Arab ethnicity, (if it is actually only one ethnicity as opposed to a linguistic group and a number of Arabized ethnicities) not also contain several nationalisms, a history of pan-nationalism and a history and revitalized pan Islamic nationalism?
And does the finalized *Arabic language version* of the Palestinian State Constitution, framed by the official constitutional committee of the Palestinian National Authority on March 26, 2003 and funded by the Ford Foundation in the framework of the long-awaited reform in the Palestinian Authority, actually say that: "Islamic Shariah Principles are the chief sources of legislation"?
Apparently, "[t]he Arabic version [of the March 26, 03 Palestinian State Constitution] is available from Israel Resource News Agency by request" to
Ami, do you know any reliable and independent translators fluent in both Arab and English language that would check this out?
left,but not antizionist, Tuesday, February 13th
1. Thanks Ami for reviewing this book, I shall now not buy it and save my money.
2. You accurately state that this book will contribute to the strengthening of positions which impede the progress to an equitable peace treaty. Evidence of this can already be widely seen as this book, and its author, is adopted as irrefutable proof that that the Israelis are all intransigent bastards and the cause / source of the worlds problems. If Mr. Carter really wants peace then this book has made that objective all the more distant.
3. There is a real problem for Jews in respect of Non-Conformist Christians insofar as they associate so much with the Old Testament and the struggle of the Biblical Jews that they cannot perceive the reality of Jews 2000 years later. They also sometimes seem to try too hard to compensate for this association, and are willing to be uncritical of the Arab world. (In my own view this is rooted in a fundamental racism towards Arabs, who in truth according to their paradigm are little more than filthy misguided savages who are incapable of reason or responsibility)
Rod Davies, Monday, February 12th
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