A review of Palestine Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006, 288 pages, $27
By titling his book as he has, Jimmy Carter is not merely being provocative to sell books, he appears to be giving aid and comfort to the new anti-Semites whose goal since the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, has been to link Israel to apartheid South Africa.
Curiously enough, if you read through almost the entire book, which persistently accuses Israel of apartheid acts, you arrive at page 189, where he specifically contradicts the entire thesis by stating, “The driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa.” In fact, the only tangential support for the title of the book is an anonymous quotation from an Israeli lamenting the treatment of Palestinians.
It is clear from the beginning, however, that facts are of little concern to Carter who sees Israel as “the tiny vortex around which swirl the winds of hatred, intolerance, and bloodshed.” It is certainly true that Israel is subject to these winds, the question is why he blames the victim. Why doesn’t he see the Islamist rejection of a Jewish presence in the region as the problem, or the unwillingness of the Palestinians to accept a two-state solution?
Get the Facts First, Then Distort Them
The book appears to have been hastily written with casual observations and remembrances slapped together. Given Carter’s resources, it is surprising that it appears to contain little or no research, which only partially explains the astounding level of inaccuracy and misrepresentation of historical facts. Carter is entitled to his opinions, but he cannot be allowed to get away with falsifying history, which he does to such an extent that the book often reads like a work of fiction. Rather than correct and refute his statements paragraph by paragraph, I will limit my critique to the most egregious problems, and even this requires many more pages than a typical review.
Some statements are outright falsehoods, such as his unsubstantiated claim that Israel stole money sent to the Palestinians for humanitarian purposes when, in fact, Israel itself provides such funds, as does the United States and many other countries. While he presents no evidence for his assertion, he ignores reports by organizations such as the World Bank, which found that Yasser Arafat stole $900 million of the international aid.
Carter says the Palestinians were forcibly evicted from their homes in 1967. This is also untrue. The Palestinians were caught in the crossfire of a war started by Jordan and moved eastward on their own.
On his first trip to Israel, Carter says he thought Israelis “ejecting” Palestinians from their homes was like the Indians in Georgia being forced from their homes to make room for “our white ancestors.” The Jews, unlike Carter’s ancestors in Georgia, were living in their homeland. The Palestinians were not ejected, most chose to leave during the violence of 1947-1949 provoked by the Arab rejection of the UN partition resolution. Prior to that, the Palestinian population had been growing, as Carter acknowledges elsewhere, when he states that the Arab population increased dramatically from 1931 to 1945. He notes that the newcomers were attracted by economic opportunity, but neglects to mention those opportunities were created by the Jews.
Like the most radical Palestinians, Carter implies the creation of Israel itself was a sin. He says the “taking of land had been ordained by the international community” in the UN partition resolution. This is a gross misinterpretation of history, which ignores the fact that the Zionists purchased land from the Arabs and that the UN also called for the establishment of an Arab state. Had the Arabs not rejected compromise and tried to destroy Israel, the Palestinian state Carter favors would now be celebrating its 60th anniversary. Elsewhere in the book, Carter takes UN decisions as the final word on international law (which they are not), but suggests the resolution creating Israel was the one unjust and invalid decision.
The description of the postwar history is equally distorted. He says that Israel took 77% of the disputed land and the Palestinians were left with Gaza and the West Bank. Historic Palestine included not only Israel and the West Bank, but also all of modern Jordan. It is Israel, including the disputed territories, that is only 22% of Palestine. If Israel withdrew completely from the West Bank, it would possess only about 18%. And from Israel’s perspective, it is the Zionists who have made the real sacrifice by giving up 82% of the Land of Israel. In fact, by accepting the UN’s partition resolution, they were prepared to accept only about 12% of historic Israel before the Arab states attacked and tried to destroy the nascent state of Israel.
Furthermore, at the end of the 1948 War, neither Jordan, which occupied the West Bank, nor Egypt, which controlled Gaza, had any interest in granting the Palestinians independence. One of the few accurate statements in the entire historical review is Carter’s observation that “No serious consideration was given by Arab leaders or the international community to establishing a separate Palestinian state.” He misleadingly says in the same sentence, however, that this was the Palestinian people’s “ancient” homeland, when it would be more accurate to say it was the Jewish people’s ancient homeland as the Palestinians arrived, at best one thousand years later.
Carter’s description of the period following the 1967 War is equally problematic. He says, for example, that UN Resolution 242 “mandates Israel’s withdrawal.” In fact, the resolution was carefully worded to exclude the word “all” so it is clear Israel is not required to evacuate all the territories. Furthermore, like the Arabs, he chooses to ignore the rest of the resolution, which says that Israel has the right to secure and defensible borders and calls for a “peaceful and accepted settlement.” Carter’s interpretation of 242 reflects the book’s them that only Israel has obligations and the Arabs need do nothing to foster peace. Incidentally, nowhere in resolution 242 are the Palestinians mentioned or is there any suggestion that the disputed territory belongs to them.
Another example of getting basic facts wrong is his claim that Arab leaders didn’t decide to create the PLO in 1964 until Israel tried to divert water from the Sea of Galilee and Jordan to irrigate the west and Negev. The creation of the PLO had nothing to do with water issues; the organization was established as a weapon the Arab League wished to use in its ongoing effort to destroy Israel.
Carter claims that as a result of 1967 War, 320,000 Arabs were forced to leave lands occupied by Israel, but they left in the course of the war that Jordan started by attacking Israel. Similarly, he claims that Syria and Egypt attacked lands occupied by Israel in 1973, ignoring the fact that Israel came to hold the territories because of a war those two countries provoked in 1967, and still held them because those countries rejected proposals to trade land for peace.
He also says the U.S. has vetoed more than 40 UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel. Actually, the 40th veto was cast after his book was written. Meanwhile, more than 100 critical resolutions were adopted.
Singling Out Christians
One of the most nefarious elements in the book is Carter’s effort to paint Israel as hostile to Christians. He repeatedly refers to “Christians and Muslims” rather than simply the Palestinians in a transparent effort to suggest that Israeli actions were harming Christians and not just Muslims or Arabs. He claims, for example, that “many priests and pastors” were disturbed by the control of Israeli religious parties over “all forms of worship.” On a visit to Jerusalem in 1990, he said he met with a variety of Christian leaders who he said complained of various abuses. He doesn’t offer a single specific example, but tars Israel with bigotry. He then says that Prime Minister Shamir told him that religious parties had authority over all religious matters because of the needs of the coalition government. Carter says that this conversation made him understand why “there was such a surprising exodus of Christians from the Holy Land.”
These charges are so vile they require a more substantial response. First, while Christians are unwelcome in Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, and most have been driven out of their longtime homes in Lebanon, Christians continue to be welcome in Israel. Christians have always been a minority in Israel, but it is the only Middle East nation where the Christian population has grown in the last half century (from 34,000 in 1948 to 145,000 today), in large measure because of the freedom to practice their religion.
By their own volition, the Christian communities have remained the most autonomous of the various religious communities in Israel, though they have increasingly chosen to integrate their social welfare, medical and educational institutions into state structures. The ecclesiastical courts of the Christian communities maintain jurisdiction in matters of personal status, such as marriage and divorce. The Ministry of Religious Affairs deliberately refrains from interfering in their religious life, but maintains a Department for Christian Communities to address problems and requests that may arise.
In Jerusalem, the rights of the various Christian churches to custody of the Christian holy places were established during the Ottoman Empire. Known as the “status quo arrangement for the Christian holy places in Jerusalem,” these rights remain in force today in Israel.
It was during Jordan’s control of the Old City from 1948 until 1967 that Christian rights were infringed and Israeli Christians were barred from their holy places. The Christian population declined by nearly half, from 25,000 to 12,646. Since then, the population has slowly been growing.
Jonathan Adelman and Agota Kuperman noted that Yasser Arafat “tried to erase the historic Jesus by depicting him as the first radical Palestinian armed fedayeen (guerrilla). Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has adopted Islam as its official religion, used shari’a Islamic codes, and allowed even officially appointed clerics to brand Christians (and Jews) as infidels in their mosques.” The authors add that the “militantly Islamic rhetoric and terrorist acts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizballah...offer little comfort to Christians.”
WhenYasser Arafat died, Vatican Radio correspondent Graziano Motta said, “The death of the president of the Palestinian National Authority has come at a time when the political, administrative and police structures often discriminate against [Christians].” Motta added that Christians “have been continually exposed to pressures by Muslim activists, and have been forced to profess fidelity to the intifada” (Christians in Palestine Concerned About their future,” Zenit News Agency, November 14, 2004).
While Carter charges Israel with a variety of unspecified anti-Christian acts, Motta reported, “Frequently, there are cases in which the Muslims expropriate houses and lands belonging to Catholics, and often the intervention of the authorities has been lacking in addressing acts of violence against young women, or offenses against the Christian faith.”
It certainly wouldn’t be difficult for Carter to find evidence of mistreatment of Christians in the PA if he were interested, but unlike Christians who enjoy freedom of speech as well as religion in Israel, beleaguered Palestinian Christians are afraid to speak out. One Christian who has gone public is Samir Qumsiyeh, a journalist from Beit Sahur who told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Christians were being subjected to rape, kidnaping, extortion and expropriation of land and property. Qumsiyeh compiled a list of 93 cases of anti-Christian violence between 2000 and 2004. He added that “almost all 140 cases of expropriation of land in the last three years were committed by militant Islamic groups and members of the Palestinian police” and that the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped from 75% in 1950 to 12% today. “If the situation continues,” Qumsiyeh warned, “we won’t be here anymore in 20 years.” Thus, it is Palestinian Muslims who are seizing Arab lands and would be the more appropriate target of Carter’s wrath (Jerusalem Post, October 28, 2005; Harry de Quetteville, “‘Islamic mafia’ accused of persecuting Holy Land Christians,” Telegraph, September 9, 2005).
A Post-Zionist Critique
Like the post-Zionists, Carter puts the worst possible interpretation on any Jewish deed or word, while validating anything said or done by Palestinians. He also repeatedly contradicts himself.
Throughout the book, for example, he asserts that Israel does not want peace, is stealing Palestinian land, and refuses to trade land for peace. Yet, he reports that on his first visit to Israel in 1973, Israeli leaders wanted to trade land for peace. Later, he acknowledges that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin concluded an agreement with Jordan and announced his willingness to negotiate with Syrians and had concluded an agreement withYasser Arafat on Gaza and Jericho.
He claims that Israel puts “confiscation of Palestinian land ahead of peace” despite the fact that Israel has withdrawn from 94% of the territory it captured in 1967. Rather than annex land, Israel evacuated completely from Gaza and nearly half of the West Bank. Israel has also offered to give up 97% of Judea and Samaria. While he gives the impression that Israel holds large swaths of land that it refuses to negotiate over, the truth is the entire territorial dispute with the Palestinians, assuming they were ever to accept the existence of Israel, boils down to 6% (about 1,600 square miles) of the West Bank.
Carter returns again and again to the theme that Israel has stolen “Palestinian land,” but he presents no evidence that the land belongs to the Palestinian and ignores all Israeli claims. How is it colonization for Israelis to move to areas such as Hebron and Gush Etzion where they lived before being expelled by the Arabs? Why don’t Israelis have the right to live in areas that are in dispute?
Another familiar theme is that Israeli settlements are the obstacle to peace. Of course, this is easily disproved by the fact that the Arabs were not willing to make peace prior to the establishment of settlements in the territories and Palestinian terror has continued after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.
Carter suggests that Israel is to blame for the failure of the road map because Israel attached reservations to its acceptance while the Palestinians “unequivocally accepted” it. Here, he ignores the fact that the Palestinians never implemented the first point of the agreement, which said that a two-state solution “will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.”The Palestinian Authority has consistently said it has no intention of fulfilling its promise to dismantle terrorist organizations or to confiscate illegal weapons. Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorist groups rejected the road map and declared their intention to use violence to sabotage peace negotiations, which they have done.
Siding with Dictators
For a former president and self-proclaimed Middle East expert, Carter shows remarkable ignorance and naivete when he discusses the Arab world. Without any basis, and ignoring all the evidence to the contrary, Carter says the Arabs will all recognize Israel once it reaches an agreement with the Palestinians. Syria has given no such indication. Hizballah and other Islamic terrorist groups have made clear that Israel’s existence is the provocation rather than its presence in the disputed territories.
In several places Carter talks about the West Bank as though he has no knowledge of the history of the Six-Day War. He says, for example, that King Hussein of Jordan’s “greatest political disaster” came during the war when “Israeli troops occupied East Jerusalem and the entire West Bank.” He ignores the fact that it was Hussein that attacked Israel after being warned to stay out of the war. Had he not attacked Israel, Jordan might still be controlling those territories.
One of Carter’s techniques for attacking Israel throughout the book is to repeat whatever anti-Israel comments he says others have made. In describing discussions with Hussein, for example, he quotes a litany of the King’s complaints about Israel without making any effort to get a response from Israel. Meanwhile, he has nothing critical to say about the dictatorial monarch. He doesn’t even criticize Hussein for failing to support the peace initiatives during his presidency.
It often seems that Carter did not read the book before sending it to his publisher because he contradicts himself from one chapter to another, and also contradicts what he has written elsewhere. For example, on page 42, Carter says Hussein and Syrian President Hafez Assad were not willing to participate in peace efforts, but he still spends most of the book blaming Israel for the lack of a comprehensive peace. On page 130, he says he visited Assad in 1990 and that he was willing to negotiate with Israel over the Golan Heights. Elsewhere, Carter talks glowingly about Assad even as he describes the Syrian strongman as viewing himself as a modern Saladin who hoped to expel the Jews from the Middle East as the great Arab warrior had driven out the Crusaders.
Carter doesn’t seem to remember what he wrote about Assad in his autobiography. In that book, Carter quoted from his diary about meeting with Assad to discuss his plan for a peace conference and found him “very constructive,” “somewhat flexible” and “willing to cooperate.” He then recorded retrospectively, “This was the man who would soon sabotage the Geneva peace talks...and who would...do everything possible to prevent the Camp David Accords from being fulfilled.”
The one interesting reference in the new book is to Assad’s honesty about Lebanon. Carter says that Assad believed Lebanon and Syria were “one country and one people” and that maps showed no international boundary between the two.
In a fawning section about the Saudis, Carter talks about the “impressive closeness” of the monarchy to the subjects while ignoring the apartheid aspects of Saudi society. He says nothing about the Saudis’ crude anti-Semitism and their rejection of the idea that Jews should rule over any Muslim territory. Carter praises the Saudi peace proposal without examining the various elements that made it a nonstarter for serious negotiations with Israel, not to mention the Saudi rejection of directly negotiating with Israel or any Saudi traveling to Israel.
While Carter talks about how Saudi Arabia “can be a crucial and beneficial force in the Middle East,” he ignores that it is a sponsor of terrorism (remember 9/11 and the terrorthon to support Palestinian martyrs?) and the principal funder of schools that teach the most radical views on Islam. In describing the Saudis’ “caution in dealing with controversial issues” as “justified,” he shows he is a mere apologist for one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Carter criticizes American political leaders for overlooking the Saudis’ “serious human rights violations,” apparently forgetting that as the leader who put the greatest emphasis on human rights in foreign policy, he was perhaps the worst offender of all during his presidency.
Carter’s narrative (it can’t be called an analysis, because there is no critical consideration of the issues) is transparently self-serving, holding himself out to be the one person who sees the problem and solution clearly. It is therefore not surprising that he cannot look at his one triumph, Camp David, truthfully. Nowhere does he discuss Egypt’s failure to live up to the spirit of the agreement, the Egyptian media’s rampant anti-Semitism, the military’s focus on Israel or President Hosni Mubarak’s unwillingness to visit Israel (except for Rabin’s funeral). The Israeli-Egyptian relationship is universally regarded as a cold peace, but the only fault he finds is with Israel for failing to grant autonomy to the Palestinians. This ignores the fact that the Palestinians rejected Camp David entirely, condemned Anwar Sadat and refused to discuss autonomy. Less surprising is Carter’s unwillingness to acknowledge that the negotiations at Camp David were possible only because Sadat found Carter’s policies so wrongheaded that he decided to go behind his back to negotiate directly with the Israelis.
Bashing His Successors
Like many critics of U.S. policy, Carter falsely claims that the “lack of a persistent effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a major source of anti-American sentiment and terrorist activity....” The most serious terrorist attack against the United States, on 9/11, had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue. The Islamist war against the United States, Israel and the West, in general, also has nothing to do with the peace process. Carter’s myopia is apparent in failing to acknowledge the radical Muslim agenda to spread Islam across the globe.
In his pseudo historical survey of the conflict, Carter spends 10 pages on the eight-year Reagan administration (his own four-year administration merits 16 pages while George H.W. Bush gets four pages, Bill Clinton six and George W. Bush eight). He inaccurately claims that the Israeli people were divided over the wisdom of the “militant policy” of destroying the Iraqi nuclear reactor, annexing the Golan Heights and building more settlements in the territories. In truth, only settlement policy was controversial within Israel and history has shown that the rest of the world, including the United States, was wrong in condemning Israel’s attack on Iraq. Carter also incorrectly states that the U.S. made little effort to promote peace. In fact, Reagan, like his predecessors, offered a peace plan, which was a failure.
Camp David 2000
Carter rewrites the history of the Clinton-Arafat-Barak negotiations. He claims Ehud Barak did not make a generous offer to create a Palestinian state and did not respond to the Clinton plan when in fact Barak said Israel would withdraw from 97% of the West Bank, dismantle isolated settlements and accept a Palestinian state with part of Jerusalem as its capital. He casually mentions that Yasser Arafat rejected the proposal and ignores what Clinton’s chief peace negotiator, Dennis Ross, said about Yasser Arafat being unwilling to end the conflict at any price. Carter insists no Palestinian leader could have accepted the deal and survived, but Yasser Arafat was a dictator and could have done anything he wanted. Later, Palestinians publicly expressed regret that they had not accepted Barak’s offer.
Carter also makes a number of inaccurate statements about what the Palestinians were offered. He includes maps that were never presented at Camp David (no maps were drawn) and contradicts what Dennis Ross says was negotiated. In Ross’s book, The Missing Peace, he has produced a map that reflects what was offered, which is consistent with what Carter labels in his book as “Israel’s interpretation” of the negotiations.
The Helpless Palestinians
The book is filled with criticism of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, but Carter has little to say about the behavior of the Palestinians toward Israelis or toward each other. He says, for example, that Palestinian human rights must be protected, but he does not say anything about the PA’s denial of those rights.
He admiringly speaks about how Yasser Arafat became the leader of the PLO, raised money for the care and support of refugees, established diplomatic missions and became a powerful voice in international councils. He says nothing about Arafat’s role in hijackings and other terrorism. He also minimizes the role of violence with a passing reference to “persistent PLO attacks on Israel...within the occupied territories and from the adjacent Arab nations.” He ignores the attacks on Jews elsewhere in the world.
In 1990, Carter met Arafat, who told him the PLO never advocated the annihilation of Israel and that it was the Zionists who invented the idea that the Palestinians wanted to drive the Jews into the sea. Carter cites this as if it were undeniable when he could have referred to the PLO charter’s call for Israel’s destruction.
His entire history of the PLO paints such a misleading picture of the terrorist group that it is barely recognizable. He talks about it consisting of different groups “eager to use diverse means to reach their goals.” What diverse means? Each is committed to terror to liberate Palestine. He says that UN resolutions supporting Palestinians are “proof of their effectiveness and the rightness of their cause.” UN resolutions prove that terror is justifiable? Do resolutions supported by an automatic majority prove anything?
He acknowledges that “only rarely did anyone directly criticize the PLO.” He quotes one anonymous Palestinian attorney who criticized Arafat, but doesn’t say that no one would go on the record for fear of their lives. He also ignores the kleptocracy that Arafat ran and the responsibility he and other PLO officials bore for the Palestinians’ plight.
A good indication of how warped Carter’s values are is his reference to Marwan Barghouti as a “revered prisoner” without mentioning the fact that he was convicted of multiple counts of murder. Carter claims Barghouti and other prisoners have great influence and offered a proposal to unite Fatah and Hamas and endorsed a two-state solution. He doesn’t say that Mahmoud Abbas never managed to hold a vote on the document because it was opposed by Hamas, which does not accept a two-state solution. He leaves out the fact that some of the signers repudiated the document and that the “prisoners’ peace plan” is really not about peace with Israel at all; it is aimed at ending the civil war between Palestinian factions. The document calls on the people to “confront the Israeli enterprise,” to form a “united resistance,” and to “liberate” their land and prisoners. Nowhere in the document is there any mention of a Palestinian state coexisting with a Jewish State or any explicit recognition of Israel.
As an observer for the 1996 Palestinian election, Carter jubilantly reports that it was “nothing less than an overwhelming mandate, not only for forming a Palestinian government but also for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.” He doesn’t mention the fact that Yasser Arafat was the only real candidate and that there was no indication from Arafat’s words or deeds that he was interested in reconciliation. On the contrary, he continued to pursue the terrorist agenda for the remainder of his life.
Carter was again on the scene for the 2005 Palestinian election and makes the undocumentable statement that “there was no doubt that Abbas had the support and respect of his people and that he was dedicated to the immediate pursuit of a peace agreement in accordance with the roadmap.” Abbas was never popular and his corrupt leadership was so reviled that Hamas won the election in 2006. He showed no dedication whatsoever to peace and never took the minimal steps to fulfill the Palestinian promises first made more than a decade earlier in the Oslo negotiations (which Carter conveniently ignores) and reiterated in the road map.
When Carter does discuss the Hamas victory in 2006, he glosses over Abbas’ corruption and repeats the Palestinian president’s excuse that his defeat was a result of the failure of Israel to help him. Carter also accepts Abbas’s claim that the PA doesn’t have the money to meet its payroll, but never asks what happened to the $6 billion in aid provided to the PA by the international community.
In his discussion of the results of the 2006 election, Carter mentions the three top cabinet posts held by members of Hamas, referring to each as “Dr.” as though they were honorable professors or physicians rather than leaders of a terrorist organization. In fact, he never discusses the Hamas covenant and goal of destroying Israel at all.
In one of the rare references to Palestinian terrorism, Carter mentions two suicide bombings in March 1996. He is not bothered, however, by the atrocities or the fact that they contradicted his interpretation of the election. The problem for Carter was that the attacks allowed the “hawkish” Benjamin Netanyahu to defeat Shimon Peres in Israel’s election. To maintain his fictional thesis that Israel has no interest in peace and is continually taking Palestinian land, he says Netanyahu promised never to exchange land for peace, but leaves out the fact that it was Netanyahu who agreed to give up Israeli control of Hebron, the most sensitive city in the entire disputed territories.
He also repeatedly recites Palestinian “claims.” For example, he says Palestinians “claimed” the Jews of Hebron were trying to drive non-Jews from the area, even though he noted a few sentences earlier that 150,000 Palestinians lived there and that multitude was somehow endangered by the harassment of 450 “militant Jews.”
Carter says teachers and parents “maintained” that their schools were closed, educators arrested and books censored. He doesn’t mention that the schools were closed because they were frequently the source of violent activities, that textbooks were educating young Palestinians to hate, that schools glorified terrorism and that maps showing the State of Israel cannot be found in Palestinian classrooms.
See No Evil
The entire discussion of the Palestinians reads like an apologia for terror. He places no demands on the Palestinians to do anything to promote peace. He does not even suggest that the Palestinians have alternatives to violence, such as negotiating, compromising or practicing nonviolence.
Carter also selectively quotes from polls to make the Palestinians look moderate. Readers can judge for themselves from the November 2006 survey by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University, which found that
He also regurgitates Palestinian propaganda about the situation in Gaza where Israel’s disengagement gave the Palestinian Authority the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to peace as well as its ability to govern. Instead the PA has proven its commitment to terror and inability to provide security for its people from their fellow Palestinians. Carter also ignores the PA’s failure to build a single house for a Palestinian refugee or to complete the projects that were to be constructed on the rubble of the Jewish settlements. He accuses of Israel of inhibiting Gaza’s development, but says nothing about the Palestinians’ vandalism of the greenhouses American Jews bought from the settlers to help the Palestinian economy.
Carter says the “cycle of violence erupted once more in June 2006” when the Palestinians attacked Israeli soldiers and kidnaped one. It is not a cycle, however, it is a persistent war waged by Palestinian terrorists that leaves Israel with no choice but to defend its citizens. Worse, Carter doesn’t condemn the attack. He says the Palestinians offered to exchange the soldier for prisoners as though kidnaping is a justifiable ploy to win the release of criminals. Israel is then cast as the villain for refusing to give in to blackmail by releasing prisoners.
Carter is particularly concerned about the “large number of women and children being held” and gives the impression that Israel is unjustly throwing little kids and mothers into prison. In fact, out of the 109 women and 313 juveniles currently in prison, 64 women and 91 juveniles “have blood on their hands.” Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18 threw Molotov cocktails, transported weapons and associated with terrorist organizations. The women planned suicide attacks, prepared bombs and assisted suicide bombers; they also attacked Israeli soldiers and joined terrorist organizations. Ahlan Tanimi, for example, brought the bomb that murdered 16 in the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem. Kahira Sa’adi drove a terrorist to King George Avenue, where he blew up three people. Hanady Jaradats killed 21 in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa.
He also makes the false statement that “confessions extracted through torture are admissible in Israeli courts.” In fact, the Israeli Supreme Court has been very clear about the illegality of torture.
The Security Barrier
Carter is offended by Israel’s construction of a security barrier and makes no attempt to explain that Israel reluctantly built it only after terrorists had killed more than 850 people. The fence has been very effective in preventing infiltrations that continue to be attempted nearly every day. Carter wants readers to believe, however, it is a capricious means of persecuting Palestinians.
In his discussion of the fence, Carter repeats a number of canards about how it will surround the West Bank and is really just another land grab. In fact, the fence route has repeatedly been modified by order of the Israeli Supreme Court to take greater account of the impact on the Palestinians. The current route runs closer to the Green Line than the original plan and incorporates only 7% of the West Bank. Carter also ignores the fact that the fence can be opened, moved, or torn down should the Palestinians ever choose negotiations over violence and a two-state solution over an effort to liberate Palestine.
The preoccupation with the fence also causes Carter to give a totally inaccurate description of the Israeli election of 2006. Carter claims that Kadima ran on the pledge of unilateral expansion of the “great wall.” It’s not clear where he came up with this term, but it certainly was not Kadima’s. It is primarily a fence, as Carter knows, and not a wall, and this was not an issue in the campaign. Kadima’s victory was based on the pledge to do just what Carter says he wants, namely, dismantle settlements and withdraw from territory. After Hizballah and the Palestinians demonstrated that Israel will get terror for land instead of peace, however, that plan has been at least temporarily shelved.
In a final dig at the Israeli election, Carter asserts that no Israeli Arabs are in the cabinet. This is a transparent effort to imply Israel is discriminating against Arabs. Actually, an Arab in the Kadima party is a deputy minister in the government. Twelve Israeli Arabs and Druze are members of the Knesset, three are members of the Zionist parties and another nine belong to the communist and Arab parties.
Carter’s Loss is Israel’s Gain
The former president is so convinced of Israel’s malevolent agenda that he has not noticed the dramatic changes in Israeli politics since his time in office. Carter believes Israelis are trying to create “Greater Israel” and says it is “obvious that the Palestinian will be left with no territory in which to establish a viable state.” This statement completely ignores the fact that the mainstream parties have accepted a two-state solution. Rather than colonizing more territory as Carter claims, Israel has been moving toward relinquishing territory as illustrated by the realignment plan proposed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The overall direction of Israeli policy is toward evacuating most of the West Bank and retaining only a handful of settlement blocs that President Clinton and even Yasser Yasser Arafat were prepared to concede. As maps of the likely final settlement indicate (see the “Israeli” Camp David map in the book), the Palestinians could have a contiguous state in perhaps as much as 97% of the West Bank. Whether it is viable is another question, but one that has less to do with Israeli policy than Palestinian capabilities, as illustrated by their utter failure to govern in Gaza.
The only thing new that I learned in the entire book dated back to Carter’s administration. In 1978, Israel attacked the PLO in Lebanon after a terrorist seized a sightseeing bus and killed 35 Israelis. Carter thought Israel’s actions were an overreaction and a threat to peace. He also objected to the use of American weapons. What I did not know was that Carter threatened a cutoff of military aid to Israel if Prime Minister Menachem Begin didn’t withdraw Israel’s forces from Lebanon.
At the end of the book, Carter summarizes what he considers the two obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East: the belief he says Israelis hold that they can “colonize” Palestinian land and subjugate and persecute the Palestinians, and the reaction of some Palestinians by honoring suicide bombers. Though here he mentions terrorism, the book is devoted almost entirely to his accusations against Israel. And even in referencing terrorism, he says it is only a reaction to Israeli policies rather than a tactic independent of any Israeli action. The fact that Palestinians used terror against Israel long before a single settlement existed in the West Bank is irrelevant to Carter. Furthermore, he does not see Islamism or inter-Arab or inter-Muslim rivalries as obstacles to peace in the region.
Paradoxically, it is Carter whose views border on racism (as well as anti-Semitism) in his paternalistic view of the Palestinians as incapable of independent, reasoned behavior. He portrays them as governed by forces beyond their control emanating primarily from the Jews.
The principal question that emerges from the book is why Carter has become persuaded by the arguments of the new anti-Semites. One hates to psychoanalyze him, but he clearly has never gotten over the feeling that Begin lied to him about freezing settlements (Begin agreed to freeze them for three months and Carter believed it was to be permanent). This sense of betrayal may contribute to his venomous attitude toward Israel. Carter is also frustrated that the Israelis never accepted his vision for a comprehensive peace (the Arabs, including Sadat, did not accept it either, but he does not blame them). He is also undoubtedly still bitter over losing reelection in part because Jews voted in record numbers for Ronald Reagan because of their conviction that his policies were harmful to Israel.
Few, if any Jews realized, however, just how nefarious Carter’s views really were until he left office. In retrospect, their votes may have saved Israel.