“For 58 years and counting, Democrats stand with Israel.” So trumpeted the Democratic National Committee, in an obvious bid for Jewish votes in the coming midterm elections, in an ad that recently appeared in the Jewish Forward newspaper.
Among those Democratic presidents who ostensibly have stood with Israel, the DNC listed President Jimmy Carter, who was shown in a picture with then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin from the time of the Camp David Accords in 1978. Accompanying it was a statement by Carter, actually made in 1977, attesting to America’s “special relationship” with Israel.
But this statement is less a testament to Carter’s pro-Israel stance than to the Democratic Party’s readiness to misrepresent the facts for political gain. Demonstrating that Carter is not pro-Israel is almost too easy. Evidence, provided by a host of writers and sources over the last several years, abounds.
Consider Carter’s longtime support for the late Yasir Arafat. In Unfinished Presidency, his account of Carter’s post-presidential career, author Douglas Brinkley noted: “There was no world leader Jimmy Carter was more eager to know than Yasir Arafat.” After his first meeting with Arafat in 1990, Carter “drafted on his home computer the strategy and wording for a generic speech Arafat was to deliver soon for Western ears…” In so doing, Carter explained that he sought to drum up international support for the PLO leader:
The audience is not the Security Council, but the world community. The objective of the speech should be to secure maximum sympathy and support of other world leaders . . . The Likud leaders are now on the defensive, and must not be given any excuse for continuing their present abusive policies.
Carter advised Arafat to present himself as a peacemaker victimized by Israeli belligerence. “What would you do, if these were your children and grandchildren? As the Palestinian leader, I share the responsibility for them. Our response has been to urge peace talks, but the Israeli leaders have refused, and our children continue to suffer. Our people, who face Israeli bullets, have no weapons: only a few stones remaining when our homes are destroyed by the Israeli bulldozers.”
It was not the last time that the ex-president rallied to Arafat’s defense. In 1996, Carter, heading a delegation from his Carter Center in Atlanta, served as a monitor for the Palestinian Authority elections; he pronounced them “democratic,” “open,” “fair,” and “well organized.” These were the elections about which former CIA director Jim Woolsey – as cited in National Review by Jay Nordlinger – wrote: “Arafat was essentially ‘elected’ the same way Stalin was, but not nearly as democratically as Hitler, who at least had actual opponents.”
Arafat has since passed from the scene, but Carter remains a relentless critic of Israel. Last May, Carter wrote an op-ed in the USA Today accusing Israel of plotting a “land grab” in the Palestinian territories. In Carter‘s telling, Israel’s eastern border, as envisioned by Prime Minister Olmert, would include “the Palestinian” West Bank. There was no validity to the claim. In the first place, Olmert’s plan would have taken only about 7 percent of the area. Moreover, notwithstanding Carter’s claims, it has never been determined that Judea and Samaria -- the constituent parts of the West Bank -- rightfully belong to the Palestinians.
But Carter has a low regard for the facts. In an August op-ed for the Washington Post, Carter echoed his earlier criticism. “There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region,” Carter declared, as long as Israel is “occupying Arab lands.” Carter’s solution was for Israel to confine herself to the borders established prior to 1967. But the pre-1967 lines were never official borders. They were no more than temporary armistice lines. The expectation was that, with final negotiations, they would be altered. If Carter is aware of this history, he hides it well.
Carter’s grasp of recent history is no more impressive. In an interview this August with Germany’s Spiegel magazine, Carter was asked for his view of the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Although Hezbollah invited Israel retaliation by kidnapping Israeli troops and violating Israeli sovereignty, Carter placed the blame for the hostilities squarely on the Jewish state. “I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon,” Carter responded. “What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no.”
How to reconcile Carter’s record of anti-Israel activism with the DNC’s assurance that “Democrats stand with Israel”? Perhaps those who crafted the DNC’s ad assumed that Jewish voters were oblivious to much of this, or else that they had very short memories. All that is clear is that this massive evidence of Carter’s disaffection for Israel did not dissuade them from listing him as a supporter of Israel.
Worse, from the Democrats' perspective, Carter's anti-Israel views may jeopardize their chances on election day. Carter’s new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has exposed his anti-Israel’s attitude to the public at a most inconvenient time. Slated for release on November 14, the book advances his extreme view that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians can be described as “apartheid.” “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land,” Carter writes.
The Democratic response has been to attempt to marginalize Carter’s views. Hoping to distance her party from Carter, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently wrote, “With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel.”
How marginal his position within the party is, however, remains a subject for debate. Carter himself, in his August interview in Spiegel, said, “I think I represent the vast majority of Democrats in this country. I think there is a substantial portion of American people that completely agree with me.” Perhaps more significant than Carter’s own assessment is the “Open Letter of Thanks to President Jimmy Carter Re: November 7” written on October 19 by Michael Ceurvorst, International Chairman of Democrats Abroad: “Your messages to Democrats Abroad are yielding notable increases in voter registrations from around the world. Your plain speaking helps get out the vote,“ wrote Ceurvorst. “Thank you for your continued leadership.”
Pro-Israel voters are duly advised.
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