I just finished Carter’s book, “Palestine : Peace not Apartheid”, and thought I would offer some comments on the book, and the various reactions to the book from the mainstream media.

First of all, before I even started the book, I was following very closely the various media attacks on Carter’s main thesis, that some form of Apartheid was being practiced in the Occupied Territories, and that the Palestinians were the victims of some type of systematic repression. Wolf Blitzer, a former representative of AIPAC, interviewed Kenneth Stein et al, who resigned in protest from the Carter Center, in his situation room. The burning question of the discussion was whether or not Jimmy Carter went over to the “dark side” so to speak, because the guests argued, valid or not, that Carter was a supporter of terrorism, a borderline anti-semite, and was using his good name and impeccable background to slander the always-the-victim state of Israel.

I also watched a great debate between Gil Troy of McGill University and Norman Finkelstein of Depaul University on “Democracy NOW”. I sent Gil Troy an email concerning issues that were raised during the debate that he never adequately answered in my mind. He responded to my comments and questions in a very respectful way. In Troy’s defense, his comments have not been as nearly as heated on the book as some other vocal pro-Israel ideologues, such as the plagiarist Dershowitz, or Kenneth Stein, or Abe Foxman of the ADL, or Dennis Ross, or any available NEOCON from any NEOCON hotbed who have spewed venom concerning the book’s contents.

I knew from reading these various commentaries about the book that Carter was probably right on. My experience with reading on the I-P issue is that the more substantive arguments are used to criticize Israeli behavior, the more the person making the arguments gets attacked by the mainstream media, pro-Israel zealots, NEOCONS, etc. They don’t bother attacking David Duke, they go after people like Chomsky and Finkelstein and Michael Lerner, and now Jimmy Carter.

About the book itself :

Carter himself acknowledged that the Apartheid system in the OT was not necessarily the same as the Apartheid system practiced in South Africa, where race was the motivating factor. The motivating factor in the Israeli case is land acquisition, and the creation of an atmosphere within the OT that might force out the humiliated Palestinians voluntarily, which is an Israeli goal.

Moreover, the inflammatory use of “apartheid” is quite commonplace in discussions within Israel concerning the status of the Palestinians in the OT. The term is used frequently in reports from groups like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’tSelem, etc. SO if the term is used within Israel, and within reputable mainstream human rights groups, why the dramatic controversy when an ex-President who negotiated the only lasting peace between Israel and any ARAB neighbor uses the term? Makes no sense; the controversy is quite contrived.

I was impressed with the level of detail with which Carter explained the evolution of the peace process. Carter, in general, did not draw conclusions so much as he did reveal some of the intimate details of Camp David in 1978, Oslo in 1993, Camp David under Clinton, and Taba, etc.

There were a few factual errors. His thesis was not affected by these details.

One of the main arguments used against the book, which in my mind would be a valid argument, is that Carter’s criticism is mostly reserved for Israel, and that he does not address the many actions on the side of the Palestinians that also warrant criticism. I do not dispute this, but would add that there are enough outlets which do this job already. Too much blame is placed on the Palestinians obviously, and not enough on the Israelis , and so maybe Carter wanted a counter-balance. He did issue some crucial qualifiers saying that suicide attacks within Israel are reprehensible. No one argues that point.

Some conclusions from me would be : Begin signed Camp David in 1978. These accords effectively removed Egypt from the Arab-Israeli conflict. Sadat was assassinated for having initiated them. The key provision of the accords (for the Palestinians) was the Israel would retreat to the pre-June 1967 borders and would dismantle settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza strip, in line with UN 242. Has this been accomplished? Sadly, 29 years later, the answer is still no. Geroge HW Bush froze Israeli aid because of the ongoing settlement activity, in violation of UN 242 and Israel’s commitment to the Camp David accords. The effect was that the settlement activity stopped immediately. Why doesn’t the good son use the same tool, which he would if he really believed in the “Roadmap” ?

Apart from other peace discussions, I think this fact stands out more, because this is an agreement that Israel signed and has not fulfilled. It is a slap to the face of Carter and the US.

Other conclusions that are obvious from the book: As the book is virtually conclusion free, just Carter providing some background of the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians, his personal history with working on this issue for decades, the reader is allowed to make up their own minds. If one juxtaposes Carter’s book (and Amnesty’s yearly reports, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH yearly reports, B’tSelem’s yearly reports) on the one hand, and the collective outputs from the ADL, AIPAC, mainstream US media, NEOCON thinktanks on the other, and ask yourself, who is telling the truth and who is distorting the factual record, I think there can only be one answer.

I will close this by saying yesterday I read about 50 customer reviews on Amazon. The vast majority were positive. And despite the controversy, or because of it, the sales of the book keep climbing. I heard it was at #4 on some Amazon list the other day. This is all positive news. Let the Zionists keep clamoring about anti-semitism, and let Americans keep reading books like Carter’s, for if they do, there will be a shift in foreign policy one day, one that contains some modicum of justice for the Palestinian people.

Carter’s Book
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9 thoughts on “Carter’s Book

  • Interesting review. By any account you could say the W admin has been the most obliging republican admin to the Israelis. Both Reagan and Bush I made moves the Israelis didn’t like (selling arms to Saudi Arabia, etc.) Politically this has been a big loser for W, as the polls clearly show that American Jews voted 80-20 against the Republicans in 2006. So, politically, there is little reason for Republicans to do favors for a constituency that will not vote for them.

  • I didn’t read the book, but if one were comparing Israel to South Africa there would be some stark contrasts. I don’t think that the black South Africans had the political power to elect their own leaders to run even a piece of South Africa. I don’t know whether Carter is arguing that a two-state solution is Apartheid, or that Israeli incursions into the OT is tantamount to that. I’m glad the US withheld financial support to the Hamas government, but your point about withholding aid from a belligerent ally (Israel) is a good one. From a financially conservative standpoint it makes sense to reduce aid to a rather wealthy country. By any accounts American Jewry are a financially well off minority and they can send remittances back to the homeland, if they wish. The guys who drive taxis around here are from Ethiopia or Somalia. They send money home all the time. They don’t get significant financial aid on the back of the taxpayer, neither should anyone else.

    Back to the point…is the two state “solution” considered a form of Apartheid, or only when the Israelis fail to recognize OT sovereignty (checkpoints on the border with Jordan and Egypt, etc.?)

    I’m not reading the book any time soon so don’t worry about spoilers.

  • Last point,

    What about all the defections of the Jewish contingent of the Carter Center? I take it they aren’t all fire-breathing Zionists, right? I mean, is it just that they’re getting pressure at their local synagogues, or do they have any valid points? I haven’t followed this story too much because I don’t take it too seriously, so I wanted to hear what you had to say about it.

  • Good review, Scottie.

    Still haven’t finished the book. Got distracted with a couple of others. Will comment as soon as I’ve finished it.

  • Johnny B,

    A few quaick responses.

    Carter’s main point is that the Palestinians have to live under a brutal occupation of their lands ; that Israel continues to defy UN 242, continues to defy the terms it agreed to in the original Camp David accords, has not lived up to the provisions of the “Roadmap”, and this oppressive system that they live under is tantamount to apartheid. He draws the main distinction that the system is not race-based as it was in South Africa, but based on the notion that Israel wants the Palestinians to leave the land that all parties agree (outside Israel) is Palestinian, namely the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza (which Israel still lords over despite the “disengagement”).

    I would actually argue with Carter a bit on the point that race does not play a role in the policies of the OT. I claim they do. There are people inside Israel, though extreme, like Avigdor Lieberman who not only want the Palestinians gone from the OT, but gone from Israel proper. These positions are extreme, even within an extremist state, but they do have political impetus.

    As far as the defections from the Carter Center, the ones who resigned their positions were Zionists, yes. The story that did not get reported is that more than 90% of Carter Center fellows have remained, which we should take perhaps not as an endorsement, but at least that the book’s contents were not offensive to them.

    Elephants are different to different people.

    After finishing Carter’s book, I kinda chuckled at what the critics of the book have gone on record as saying. Their comments did not accurately reflect the core content of the book.

    It is hard to argue points like Israel has not fulfilled things it said it would in 1978 and beyond. It is hard to argue with the more than 40 UN security council resolutions vetoed by the United States to shield its little buddy from criticism.

    It is much easier to make claims like the UN is biased against Israel, which is what the critics do. It is much easier to label Carter a “supporter of terrorism” or anti-semite, which they have.

    When it becomes difficult to deal with substantive arguments, zealots tend to create smokescreens. Yet at the end of the day, the apologists will stay claim that Israel is the historic victim, ignoring the massive volume of data that collectively shows that Israel continues to victimize the Palestinians who, according to the Israeli and US line of thinking, should continue taking it in the neck, and not resist.

    Bollocks!

    I am so happy to see the sales of Carter’s book climbing ever upwards !

  • PS Thanks for the responses to the post. I do not expect bloggers to agree with me on issues, but I do appreciate responses to signify that my posts are at least being read and not ignored.

    Best,

  • QUICK UPDATE :

    Carter’s book is currently #2 on the NY Times Non-Fiction hardback best-seller list!

    It must have really pained the editors to print the results !

  • Because the Times ran an editorial sharply criticizing the contents of Carter’s book. The bestseller list data indicates that Americans are not listening to the Times, good judgement on the part of the Carter book buyers, in my opinion.

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