The trouble with having an open mind, the novelist Terry Pratchett once observed, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. That caveat seems especially relevant in light of the news that Jimmy Carter will travel to the Middle East this week to meet with, among others, Khaled Meshal, the notorious Hamas commander living in exile in Damascus.
It isn’t clear who convinced the former president that the road to peace in the Middle East lies through one of its leading saboteurs. But Carter’s justification for the trip – he intends to come with an “an open mind and heart to learn from all parties” – is an object lesson on the perils of open-mindedness.
For one thing, there is little to be learned from Khaled Meshal. His resume speaks gruesomely for itself. A Hamas veteran, Meshal is suspected by Israeli authorities of being the mastermind of several high-profile terror attacks. The June 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit reportedly was carried out on his orders.
Less compromising than even his counterparts in Gaza, who have at least paid lip service, however implausible, to the idea of honoring a peace treaty with Israel, Meshal makes no effort to conceal his true aim: destroying the Jewish state through a relentless campaign of terrorism.
In a 2006 interview with the BBC, for instance, Meshal explained that any truce with Israel would be “limited because there is a Palestinian reality that the international community must deal with.” That “reality” was the mere fact of Israel’s existence, which Meshal, along with the rest of the Hamas leadership, deems intolerable.
Out of earshot of Western media, Meshal has sounded still more sinister notes. In taped speeches to his supporters, Meshal can be heard declaring that “Israel with the help of Allah will be defeated.” With chilling candor, he has confessed that “resistance” – i.e., terrorism – is not only the “basis” of Palestinian politics but the “destiny” of the Palestinian people.
“[W]e won't pretend to be something we're not,” Meshal revealingly told Al-Ahram newspaper in 2005. “Yes, suicide operations… anger international public opinion, but you must observe the Palestinian popular mood.” Terror is Meshal’s business, in other words, and he has no intention of closing down shop.
With this public record to go on, to believe that an arch-terrorist like Meshal has a role to play in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians requires self-delusion on a momentous scale. Regrettably, the 39th president is more than equal to the task.
Indeed, this is not the first time that Carter has extended an olive branch to the suicide-belt set. In the aftermath of Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006, Carter was among the first to congratulate the terrorist group, meeting with Hamas leaders in Ramallah, where his Carter Center has an office, and cheerfully parroting their assurance that they “want to have a peaceful administration.” When Hamas subsequently reneged on its promise, purging Gaza of all Fatah opposition and stepping up its rocket attacks against Israel, Carter was unchastened.
On the contrary, Carter undertook a vigorous one-man lobbying campaign on behalf of the terrorist group, urging the international community to launder money to Hamas through U.N. aid programs and then calling it “criminal” when the money for Hamas’ war of terror was not forthcoming.
Today Carter remains a believer in Hamas’ essential goodness. Despite its genocidal agenda, unmistakably set forth in the Hamas charter, and notwithstanding its continued embrace of terrorism, Carter has maintained that “there is a good chance” that Hamas could become a non-violent organization.
Deluded though it is, there is a reason why Carter is prepared to believe Hamas’ rhetoric over brutal reality. As he made clear in his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter shares the Palestinian terrorists’ belief that Israel’s “occupation,” as opposed to the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel and their war against it, is to blame for the stalemated conflict. “Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land,” Carter argued in the book.
Even a cursory familiarity with the facts is sufficient to demolish that claim. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the end of the so-called “occupation” there, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have launched over 6,000 rockets and mortars into Israel. By Carter’s logic, such attacks should never have occurred.
But instead of reconsidering the “occupation” narrative, Carter has adopted a see-no-evil approach to Palestinian terror. In 2006, when Hamas supposedly was honoring a ceasefire against Israel, over 1,000 rockets rained down on southern Israel from the Gaza strip. That deadly barrage did not deter Carter from claiming, absurdly, that “Hamas leaders have continued to honor a temporary cease-fire, or hudna, during the past 18 months.” For good measure, Carter quoted a Hamas spokesman who told him that the ceasefire "can be extended for two, 10 or even 50 years if the Israelis will reciprocate." A more skeptical observer might have wondered how Hamas could honor for decades a ceasefire it failed to uphold for a single year. Carter simply took Hamas at its word.
Whatever else may be said of Carter’s forthcoming meeting with Khaled Meshal, it is entirely in keeping with his disgraceful post-presidential career. Whether out of a dangerous naiveté or genuine malice toward Israel – and there is evidence that both are at play in Carter’s aggressive advocacy for the Palestinian cause – Carter has become a pawn of terrorists who have the blood of countless Israelis, as well as Americans, on their hands. That Carter continues to see these committed killers as peacemakers is only further proof that an open mind should never be confused with a wise one.
For more on Carter’s anti-Israel campaign, click here. -- The Editors