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Jimmy Carter's book infuriates Israel supporters
Denounced for telling the truth

January 26, 2007 | Page 11

DAVE RORY looks at the bitter attack on former President Jimmy Carter for his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

THE PUBLICATION of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid has forced the question of Palestine into mainstream debate--and put a former president in the crosshairs of Israel's defenders in academia and the media.

Zionist protesters who appear at Carter's book signings and critics in the media have variously called the author "unfair," "outrageous," even "racist" and "anti-Semitic." Carter's comparison of the situation facing Palestinians to the former South African apartheid regime has come under special fire as "outlandish."

To great media fanfare, 14 advisory board members of the Carter Center resigned over the book--though it should be noted that more than 200 members sit on the advisory board. A former Carter Center director denounced it as "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments"--though he didn't actually elaborate on what these errors, superficialities, omissions or inventions might be.

While vitriolic criticism of the book has been everywhere in the media, opinions of Carter's supporters have been difficult to find--despite the fact that Carter says, "Out in the real world, however, the response has been overwhelmingly positive." In fact, the book has continued climbing the non-fiction best-seller's list, reaching number 4 at Amazon.com as of mid-January.

What else to read

Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid is climbing the best-seller's list, despite the attacks on it by pro-Israel forces.

For a left-wing analysis of Israel and Palestine, a good place to start is the Haymarket Books title The Struggle for Palestine, edited by Lance Selfa. For a focus on the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, see Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians.

The International Socialist Review contains regular coverage of Israel's war on the Palestinians. Also, Socialist Worker's ongoing coverage and features have been collected in a special archive called "Israel and Palestine."

 

Carter told the Los Angeles Times in December that he had asked a number of "campuses of high Jewish enrollment" to allow him to speak for free, and had been denied almost across the board.

When he solicited Brandeis University, President Jehuda Reinharz initially said he would only allow it only if Carter agreed to debate the often-quoted author of The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz. Carter's response: "There is no need for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."

Reinharz eventually caved and decided to allow Carter to speak anyway--Carter is slated to speak at Brandeis on January 22. Dershowitz plans to attend, telling Reuters, "There are some very, very hard questions that have to be asked to him."

Apparently shying away from the actual claims Carter levels at Israel, Dershowitz said he wanted to ask Carter "why he had accepted money from Saudi Arabia and why the Carter Center...had criticized Israel while not looking into human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia."

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IN A letter explaining their resignation, the 14 Carter Center advisers declared, "We can no longer endorse your strident and uncompromising position." The letter goes on to make a number of false statements, such as: "Israelis, through deed and public comment, have consistently spoken of a desire to live in peace and make territorial compromise to achieve this status."

Actually, Israel has consistently done the opposite--carried out indiscriminate bombings of populated areas, assassinated leaders of Palestinian organizations, bulldozed homes, built Jewish-only settlements on occupied land and excluded Arabs from the Israeli economy. The Israeli state relies on nothing short of ethnic cleansing in order to maintain its Jewish majority, and effectively isolate and control the Palestinians.

The consequences for Palestinians have been catastrophic, as Carter documents in his book. "Teachers and parents maintained that their schools and universities were frequently closed, educators arrested, bookstores padlocked, library books censored, and students left on the streets or at home for extended periods of time without jobs," he writes.

Elsewhere, he says of Israeli settlements, "There has been a determined and remarkably effective effort to isolate settlers from Palestinians, so that a Jewish family can commute from Jerusalem to their highly subsidized home deep in the West Bank on roads from which others are excluded, without ever coming in contact with any facet of Arab life."

The economic disparity between the Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages is startling. "Each Israeli settler uses five times as much water as a Palestinian neighbor, who must pay four times as much per gallon," Carter writes.

"[Palestinians] showed us photographs of Israeli swimming pools adjacent to Palestinian villages where drinking water had to be hauled in on tanker trucks and dispensed by the bucketful. Most of the hilltop settlements are on small areas of land, so untreated sewage discharged into the surrounding fields and villages."

Since 2002, Israel has been constructing a "security wall"--with the claim that it wants to prevent terrorism, but with the real aim of further dividing Palestinians and preserving Israeli control.

"Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have built the fence and wall entirely within Palestinian territory, intruding deeply into the West Bank to encompass Israeli settlement blocs and large areas of other Palestinian land," Carter writes.

"It is projected to be at least three-and-a-half times as long as Israel's internationally recognized border, and already cuts directly through Palestinian villages, divides families from their gardens and farmland, and includes 375,000 Palestinians on the 'Israeli' side of the wall, 175,000 of whom are outside Jerusalem.

"One example is that the wandering wall almost completely surrounds the Palestinian city of Qalqiliya with its 45,000 inhabitants, with most of the citizens' land and about one-third of their water supply confiscated by the Israelis."

As Carter continues, "The area between the segregation barrier and the Israeli border has been designated a closed military region for an indefinite period of time. Israeli directives state that every Palestinian over the age of twelve living in the closed area has to obtain a 'permanent resident permit' from the civil administration to enable them to continue to live in their own homes. They are considered to be aliens, without the rights of Israeli citizens...

"It is obvious that the Palestinians will be left with no territory in which to establish a viable state, but completely enclosed within the barrier."

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DESITE THE cries of "bias" and attempts to silence Carter, none of his accusations are lies. They are facts that Israel's supporters understandably find inconvenient in maintaining the near-total silence on this issue in the U.S.

But for all the crimes that Carter's book exposes, it rests on a deeply flawed historical and political understanding of what is typically called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Carter paints a picture of a "peace process" that has lost its way from the path his administration and others attempted to lay the groundwork for. This conception should be rejected.

Far from ever being an honest broker, the U.S. government has funded Israel massively since its victorious 1967 war against its Arab neighbors--which proved its usefulness to the U.S. as a client state in the region. From 1967 to 1972, annual U.S. aid to Israel jumped from $13.1 million to $600.8 million. Carter's presidency continued this trend of increasing aid to the state.

The event often cited as evidence for Carter's determination to achieve peace in the Middle East--the Camp David Accords, which resulted in Israel, over time, giving control of the Sinai, seized in 1967, back to Egypt--is discussed at length in Palestine.

While Carter claims that the accords were "a major step toward a Palestinian state," in reality, they made no attempt to stop Israel's constant building of settlements in the remaining territories in 1967, and U.S. aid to Israel continued to balloon. In reality, Egypt only accepted the agreement after being bribed, to the tune of billions of dollars. Today, Egypt remains the number two recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel.

Carter's language throughout the book misrepresents what can only be described as a colonial relationship between Israel and the Palestinians as simply a "conflict" or a "cycle of violence." He pointedly does not use the term "resistance" when describing violence coming from Palestinians, instead preferring terms like "guerrilla movements."

While Carter does not seem to regard both sides as equally wrong, he claims that the beliefs of "some Palestinians" and "some Israelis" continue to be "obstacles to permanent peace" in his summary. Elsewhere, he writes against the recent election of Hamas, saying, "The fate of all Palestinians depends on whether those in the occupied territories choose to pursue their goals by peaceful means or by continued bloodshed."

The idea that Palestinians can be held responsible in any way for Israel's destruction of their homes and expulsion from their land--that they should simply do nothing and accept their fate--is akin to the recent practice among U.S. senators of blaming Iraqis for the nightmare that followed the U.S. invasion and occupation.

Carter's vision of the present situation has provoked venomous attacks from Zionist apologists, who would prefer that the world blindly see Israel as "the only democracy in the Middle East." But his conception of Israel's history is riddled with whitewashing--and lets the U.S. off the hook entirely. His framework for understanding that history is that of the liberal wing of the ruling class.

One particularly jarring contradiction is Carter's current condemnation of apartheid in Israel, and his administration's steadfast opposition to United Nations sanctions on South Africa during his presidency because of U.S. capital's links with the apartheid regime.

The overall effect of Carter's book, however, has been to cast a light on the indefensible crimes of Israel. It will allow at least some people who have been kept in the dark about this terrible history to recognize the justice of the Palestinian struggle.

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