Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is committed to the idea of peace. He helped broker the peace deal between Egypt and Israel after they were unable to come to agreement amongst themselves. He has long engaged in second-track diplomacy efforts in places such as Haiti and North Korea. The Carter Center has monitored elections around the world and provided forums to discuss ways to improve the world and bring peace.
His support for the "ecumenical Christian" Habitat for Humanity program has provided homes for people around the world. Yet, in his latest work Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter — by defending violence and through an unbalanced, polemical presentation — has violated basic principles of conflict resolution and has worked against the basic principles of peace.
His book is intended to convince America's Christian community to not support Israel. It is replete with statements reminiscent of a long and painful history of Christian anti-Semitism. Carter makes spurious claims of Israeli discrimination against the Christian Palestinian population, but totally ignores the serious charges of abuses of Christians by the Palestinian Authority and Islamic radicals such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In recalling his first visit to Israel, he claims that Samaritan accusations of disrespect by Israeli authorities were "the same complaints heard by Jesus and his disciples almost two thousand years earlier."
Carter acknowledges that his views on Israel are shaped by his fundamentalist Christianity. He recalls a conversation in 1967 with Golda Meir in which he "said 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 devout worship of God. I asked if she was concerned about the secular nature of her Labor government." It is quite odd that Carter berates Israel for its secular character, as Israeli Jews, just like European Christians mostly identify as secular. Would he level the same charges against Europe? Probably not.
Carter's tome is surprisingly shoddy. Professor Kenneth Stein of Emory University resigned as a distinguished fellow from the Carter Center in protest of what he referred to as a work "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments." Professor Stein noted that his recollection of events has "little similarity to points claimed in the book." Dr. Stein noted that "Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information."
Seven years after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the author accuses Israel of still occupying portions of Lebanon. Carter claims, on page 98, that Israel retains "its presence only in Shebaa Farms." This attempt to accuse Israel of violating international law is just one of too many false accusations levelled against Israel. In 2004, Kofi Annan noted that Israel was not occupying Lebanon. A 2005 report by the UN Security Council noted that the "blue line", which does not include the Shebaa Farm area, serves as Lebanon's border and recognizes that Israel is in compliance with all United Nations resolutions calling for a withdrawal to Lebanon's international border. Carter's defence of Hezbollah's claims of Lebanese sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms area is in direct defiance of international law and numerous statements from the United Nations. Not only are Carter's statements false, but they also do not lead to peace.
In a recollection of Carter's first meeting with Yasser Arafat in France in 1990, Carter claims that he "pushed him [Arafat] to fulfill his Oslo promise to modify the PLO charter to accept Israel's existence" yet the Oslo Accords were not signed until September 1993! How could Carter push Arafat to modify commitments that he would not make until three years later? If Carter is able to make such blatant errors in his book, how many other false statements has he made? How can one tell where falsity ends and fact begins? This is not an issue of political disputes or disagreeing with Carter's viewpoints but rather the falsification of fact. As one analyst noted, "facts are bipartisan," but yet Carter seems to not be able to distinguish fact from fantasy.
Carter one-sidedly refers to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and, at times, even parts of the pre-1967 borders of Israel as "Arab territories." Yet, there has been a Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank since Biblical times – for thousands of years. Carter's labelling of the territories as "occupied Arab territories" is unbalanced and misleading. While there is also an Arab claim to the territories, it is no stronger than the Jewish claim. Carter seems to accept at face value the Islamic concept of "dar al-Islam" in which any land that was under Muslim rule is always Muslim property. If one accepts this Islamic idea (it is odd that Carter, a religious Christian, seems to accept this Muslim category) than one should also refer to Spain, Portugal and Italy as "occupied Arab territory."
Carter even acknowledges that some of his claims are false, including his inflammatory and false use of the term "apartheid." Despite Carter's use of the term, he has publicly acknowledged in numerous forums that the term "apartheid" is not an accurate term to describe Israel and its thriving democracy. In a recent letter responding to his critics, President Carter noted that "in Israel … a democracy exists with all the freedoms we enjoy in our country [the United States] and Israeli Jews and Arabs are legally guaranteed the same rights as citizens."
Carter defends noted human rights abuses and abusers. He claims that Syria is unwilling to accommodate with Israel due to Israel's control of the Golan Heights, ignoring Syria's long history as a dictatorship that represses its own people. Despite Hafez al-Assad's refusal to visit the United States due to an invitation from Carter in a "polite but firm rebuff," Carter describes him as "very intelligent, eloquent, and frank." He often has very positive things to say about dictators, but very little positive to say about Israel's democratically elected leadership. He has defended Syria's 30-year occupation of Lebanon.
Carter spends several pages in Palestine defending Saudi Arabia and idealizing it as coming out of Arabian Nights. While he mentions that on his visit, he went off with the men while his wife "was whisked off to visit Saudi women, who were in a different camp entirely, over the sand dunes and out of sight," his romanticizing of the Saudi regime's segregation and oppression leave the reader to wonder if Carter really is committed to human rights in the Middle East.
The official policy of the State of Israel has always been a two-state solution. As Carter notes, survey after survey shows that Israelis yearn for peace. From the dovish Meretz to the hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu and National Union parties, Israelis yearn for peace and have supported territorial compromise in exchange for peace in secure and defensible borders. While Israel is not perfect, there is a vibrant debate in Israeli society. Israelis understand that the actions implemented to prevent murder and harm to innocent Israelis of all religions prevent hardships to many Palestinians. They look forward to the day when courageous leaders, like Anwar Sadat, will come forward to make peace with Israel. As President Carter himself noted, "the majority of Israelis sincerely want a peaceful existence with their neighbors."
It is unfortunate that President Carter has forgotten his own words, and forgotten his own quest for peace, in his screed. Sadly, as all Israelis look forward and hope for the day in which Palestinians and Israelis will live side-by-side in two states for two peoples, one-sided attacks by people like President Carter do not serve the cause of peace and coexistence so desired by Israel. Israel is committed to working with the Palestinians toward a peaceful, diplomatic solution where both sides can have a better future.Powered by Sidelines