At UC Berkeley on Wednesday, May 2, 2007, Jimmy Carter spoke about Middle East “peace.” Chancellor Robert Birgeneau began Carter’s introduction by saying “Although most of our undergraduate students were not even born when Jimmy Carter served as the 39th President of the US from 1977-1981, his impact on the world and long life of public service continues to draw students.” That was indeed the problem. Most of the 1,200 students -- who attended this event and nearly made a full house at Zellerbach Auditorium on the Cal campus -- were clearly too young to know Carter’s past history and, consequently, lacked a frame of reference with which to filter information and make up their own minds about Carter and his message.
Instead of being able to analyze what Carter had to say and question his presentation, the students were actually presented with an indoctrination pitch accompanied with constant cheerleading by the Chancellor and the Moderator, Orville Schell, the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism. Campus spokespersons repeatedly praised Carter as a “great humanitarian” and his presence as an example of Berkeley’s “tradition of discourse.” Brigeneau even exhorted the crowd of mostly 19 year-olds, “We need to take a poll. How many think we should draft Jimmy Carter for President?” The students roared their approval.
While Carter’s name and reputation may have drawn students interested in understanding the Middle East to this speaking event, they did little to give the students a true understanding of the facts surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Carter claimed was the main reason for Islamic Extremism worldwide. In fact, the evening became a one-sided diatribe against Israel. Carter blamed the Jewish state for the failure of the current peace process, ignored terrorism, and praised the Palestinians continually while disregarding cogent facts on the ground that are making real peace in the region nearly impossible.
In addition, the evening served as a publicity event for Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, selling briskly in the campus store at 30% off with a chance to have Carter sign a copy. When his book was first released, Carter told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that “There is no Israel. It’s all Palestine,” but then backtracked after public indignation made him start every other media appearance by saying that Israel within pre-‘67 borders is not an apartheid state (at least he got something right that evening in Berkeley). But he did tell Berkeley students that Israel currently practices an “apartheid system” against the Palestinians in the occupied territories that make up the Palestinian Authority. Somehow Palestinian demands that all Jews be deported from their homes in the West Bank and Gaza did not qualify as “apartheid” to Carter, or even deserve being mentioned or asked about.
From that point on, particularly in discussing the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, Carter cited just enough information to convey the impression he was trying to be reasonable and seek peace, but left out important details. Eventually, the evening degenerated into outright lying where he blamed the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on Israel, on AIPAC, “the Jewish lobby,” and on certain American Jews who were out to “colonize Palestinian land.” He then claimed there was a “silent majority” of Jews in America who were afraid to speak out against Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians. In reality, the majority of American support for Israel comes from evangelical Christians of which Carter himself is one, and American Jewish support for Israel is as strong as ever.
Carter cited statistics that “A poll by the Harry S Truman Center for International Studies at Hebrew University showed an 81% approval of citizens of Palestine and 63% among Israelis” for the exchange of “land for peace.” Carter then spoke in favor of an “early exchange” of three Israeli soldiers held hostage by Hamas and Hezbollah for part of the 9,800 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. But again, he left out key details. Similar polls also show that Palestinians say 5 million Arabs should be allowed to move into Israel’s “secure borders” to reclaim the land their ancestors allegedly lost in 1948 and that suicide bombings and terrorism against Israelis are an acceptable way to achieve this. The prisoners held in Israeli jails sought for exchange are suicide bombers and terrorists who attacked and murdered Israelis. The Palestinians don’t want petty criminals back, just armed terrorists. The last two such releases resulted in the parolees murdering another 35 Israelis after their release. As for the three Israeli hostages, nobody knows if they are even alive since Hamas and Hezbollah consistently refuse to let the Red Cross see them per international law.
Citing columnist Robert Novak, Carter stated that “The PLO’s 1993 acceptance of Israel’s right to exist is crystal clear” and touted the Saudi peace initiative as having been accepted by all Arab governments. In fact, the PLO never amended their charter to accept Israel’s existence, something Arafat even boasted about at Durban, South Africa.
Carter continued that no Palestinian government, including a new unity government with Hamas and Fatah, has the right to revoke past peace agreements and suggested that Palestinians felt the same way. Yet that is what exactly happened just weeks ago at the Mecca Summit in Saudi Arabia (hosted by Carter’s previous and current financial benefactors of his foundation) where even the US-supported government of Machmoud Abbas’s Fatah, in unity with Hamas, reneged on even continuing lip service on Israel’s right to exist.
Ignoring these facts, Carter went on praising a mythical acceptance of Israel’s borders and existence as an opportunity for peace. The Saudis pressured Abbas to concede to Hamas’ demands, and Hamas refuses to accept Israel’s existence at all. The Saudis also fund Carter’s Foundation and have given him money for years. Is it any wonder Carter ignores such details? Yet questions about Carter’s connections to Saudi money and the openly anti-Semitic Zayed Center in the UAE that were submitted were screened out in advance.
Carter excused terrorism, something he has done before, while giving lip service to opposing it. Asked about terrorism as part of the problem, he accused the Israelis of precipitating the violence. “When you create 205 settlements with private access roads that only Israelis can use to colonize Palestinian land, the Palestinians are provoked and have to pursue their rights,” he argued. Such a simplistic description, however, is yet another ellipse. Jewish Settlements were built not on private property, but on Jordanian state land. The Israelis also lost land and settlements they owned in 1948 that they claimed back per UN Resolution 242, and the access roads are available to Palestinians who undergo a background check. The roads are necessary because Palestinians shoot or throw rocks at Israeli vehicles going to Jewish communities. With all the wooing and cooing going on by UC Berkeley faculty and staff, the student audience could never know this.
Carter’s “humanitarianism” certainly did not extend to Jews murdered by their Arab neighbors and Jews still under threat of annihilation. Referring to the Camp David Accords, Carter told the audience that Egypt had not violated one requirement in 25 years. In fact, Israelis have been murdered during that time on the frontier, the Karine A weapons ship traveled with Egyptian cooperation, and the Egyptians have consistently allowed the smuggling of weapons and missiles to the PLO in Gaza.
Carter also spoke of the need for a contiguous Palestinian state and openly advocated giving the southern half of Israel to the Palestinians so the West Bank would be contiguous with Gaza. This would effectively divide tiny Israel in half dismantling even the 1949 borders Carter earlier claimed in his speech the entire Arab world would accept. The Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas have always talked of a phased approach of dismantling Israel in stages, so this rings hollow with Carter’s constant talk of Israelis living within secure borders, given his other ellipses about Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s right to exist.
With all things considered, the evening was yet another stop in Carter's continuing mission to vilify Israel while posing to be a messenger of Mid-East peace. Berkeley's unquestioning acceptance of Carter and his propaganda reveals, moreover, how willing academic institutions are to disregard scholarly objectivity in favor of radical fantasies that whitewash terror and demonize democratic and free nations. That this indoctrination can take place on such a large scale indicates the pressing need for academic freedom. Most of these young students are not just unaware of the other side of the story; they have been co-opted into a propaganda process that increasingly disables this nation’s war against its terrorist enemies.
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