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Hatred, Not Analysis By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 12, 2006


It is difficult to make O.J. Simpson seem like a model of authorial integrity. But with the release of his latest book, a biliously anti-Israel screed titled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter may be credited with that dubious achievement.

Start with Carter’s cynical use of the word “apartheid” to smear the Jewish state. As Carter makes clear in his book, he does not, titular histrionics aside, subscribe to the demonstrable absurdity that Israel is an apartheid state. The alleged injustice of Israeli policies “is unlike that in South Africa—not racism, but the acquisition of land,” Carter writes toward the end of his book. In interviews, similarly, he has acknowledged that there is “no semblance of anything relating to apartheid within the nation of Israel.”

 

Instead, according to Carter, “apartheid” is what happens under the Israeli “occupation” of Palestinian territory. This, of course, renders the term meaningless. Palestinian territories are entirely autonomous and, as the recent firebombing of churches in Gaza and the West Bank attests, the only discrimination is practiced by Muslim militants against their Christian neighbors. Meanwhile, the sole restrictions employed by Israel – such as the security fence and border checkpoints – seek not to imprison Palestinians but to keep terrorists out.

 

For such nuances, Carter has little patience. As far as he is concerned, all the troubles of the region, from the lack of a peace settlement to the suffering of the Palestinians to the terrorist murder campaign against Israel, are directly attributable to Israeli policies. “Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land,” he asserts in his book.

 

Never mind that Israel has time and again volunteered to surrender all territories in exchange for a suspension of Palestinian terrorism and a recognition of its right to exist as a majority Jewish state. Disregard as well the fact that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza has only fanned the flames of Palestinian hatred and injected fresh vigor into the cause of the resident jihadists. For Carter, Israel’s presence in the territories remains the source whence all evil flows. So terrible are the injustices committed by Israel that, during a recent appearance on “Hardball,” Carter even unburdened himself of the view that the Israeli occupation was worse than the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. Carter brooks no disagreement on this point. “No one can go [to the Palestinian territories] and visit the different cities in Palestine without agreeing with what I have said,” Carter says.

 

Except that they can. More embarrassingly for the ex-president, “they” include all the foremost experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and even some of his onetime allies.

 

Of all the critics of Carter’s book, the most unlikely may be Kenneth Stein. A professor of Israeli Studies at Emory University and the first executive director of the university’s Carter Center – founded by and named for the former president – Stein not only accompanied Carter on diplomatic trips to the Middle East but also helped him co-author a book, The Blood of Abraham (1984). But last week Stein resigned from his position at the center and issued a devastating resignation letter in which he described Carter, in so many words, as an incompetent, a liar, and a fraud.

 

Of Carter’s book, whose title he described as “too inflammatory to even print,” Stein said that it was “replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments.” More troubling than Carter’s prosecutorial and tendentious attacks on Israel, Stein noted, were his outright misrepresentations. In particular, Stein called attention to “meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book.” (Carter does not deny that Stein was present at the meetings, but insists that his version of events is “completely accurate.”)

 

In his suspicion that Carter fudged the facts to fit his anti-Israel agenda, Stein is not alone. Dennis Ross, who served as the Middle East envoy and chief negotiator between Israelis and Palestinians during the Clinton administration, is another critic deeply unimpressed with Carter’s book. Ross points out that Carter’s version of events at the 2000 summit at Camp David is a glaring inversion of the truth. Carter claims, for instance, that Prime Minister Ehud Barak rejected the Clinton administration’s proposal of land for peace. In fact, Israel accepted the proposal, agreeing to a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank. Barak even supported allocating $10 billion to compensate Palestinian refugees.

 

Apart from getting his facts wrong, Carter may also have appropriated, without permission or attribution, a map from Ross’s book, The Missing Peace, which recounts his attempts to forge a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. And, sure enough, the map that appears in Carter’s book bears a striking resemblance to the one featured in The Missing Peace, and which Ross says he created specifically for the purpose of his book. For his part, Carter admits that he’s never read Ross’s book, which may at least explain his profound innocence of the Camp David summit.

 

Neither scenario is especially flattering for the ex-president. Either he’s a thief, or he’s an ignoramus.

 

Carter prefers a different explanation: He’s a victim of a vast Jewish conspiracy. In Palestine, Carter trots out a theme previously aired by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their now-notorious paper, “The Israel Lobby.” Attempting to explain why most Americans don’t share his animus against Israel, Carter insists that it is “because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States” that allow no criticism of Israel. Lest this sound insufficiently specific, Carter alludes sinisterly to the “voices from Jerusalem” who “dominate in our media,” in effect conspiring to make most Americans “unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories.”

 

Now that has book has drawn pointed criticism Carter warns darkly of Jewish domination of the media. “Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organizations,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times. He has also taken to bemoaning the “powerful influence of AIPAC.” At the same time, Carter complains that his offers to speak about his book have been rejected “on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment.” Even more frustrating for Carter, he has been accused – for reasons that evidently elude him – of being an anti-Semite.

 

So embarrassing have Carter’s polemical eructations become that the Democratic leadership has in recent months sought to distance itself from the party’s erstwhile standard bearer. However, there is at least one policy worthy who shares Carter’s vision for the Middle East: his longtime friend James Baker. Even before Baker’s Iraq Study Group had issued its report, Carter was gushing over its proposal to court Syria and Iran, which Carter called the region’s “benevolently inclined powers,” while exerting new pressure on Israel.

 

That’s not particularly surprising. Party affiliation aside, there has always been a certain symmetry between Carter and Baker’s approach to the Jewish state. History will remember Baker for his famous “f-ck the Jews” remark. But it would have been equally apt as the title of Carter’s newest tome.


Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com


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