Jimmy Carter is a bete noir for a certain type of American Jew who supports Israel to the hilt and sees Aipac as THE address for Israel activism in this country. Why? Carter’s views about the Mideast are probably not far from Bill Clinton’s. So why is Carter despised in some quarters and Clinton revered as a true friend of Israel? Certainly, there’s an element of Clinton’s charm and guile which prevents his enemies from laying a glove on him much in the way Reagan did. Jimmy Carter is what you’d have to call a relatively guileless politician. He said what he meant. He didn’t have time for the studied statement or the art of diplomatic doublespeak which so many American presidents have exhibited on this subject.
So what are they up in arms about this time? The book’s title for one: Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. You see “apartheid” is a treif term for the ultra-Israel crowd. You must not equate Israel with South Africa. Israel, so the argument goes, isn’t racist. The difference between the two countries is that Palestinians are a true existential threat to Israel’s existence whereas Blacks were not in South Africa. Besides, Jews find it deeply offensive in the light of the Holocaust that Israel should be accused of racism.
This article from The Forward quotes a few salient passages on this subject from the new book:
Israel’s current policy in the territories, Carter writes in the book’s summary, is “a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights.” In a separate passage in the advance draft, the former president stated that “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.”
In addition, Carter takes what is being interpreted by some critics as a swipe at the pro-Israel lobby. “Because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned,” the former president writes.
Strong stuff, yes. A bit provocative? Perhaps. But inaccurate? Certainly, the pro-Israel crowd will take deep offense at the attack on Aipac. Aipac is a group which some Jews are so defensive and protective of, that when it is attacked they circle the wagons and prepare to defend to the last Jew. But he’s absolutely right about the power of the lobby. Israel will NEVER be criticized in Congress due to Aipac’s stranglehold over Mideast policy. Israel will very rarely be criticized from the steps of the White House for similar reasons. Some see that fear and intimidation as a good thing for Israel. Carter and I don’t.
Some Israel supporters will take strong issue with Carter’s contention that Israel and the Occupation is the “primary obstacle to a comprehensive peace agreement.” I don’t. They’ll argue that Palestinians rejectionism and terror are the primary obstacles. No doubt, they are obstacles. But as obstacles they have much less obstructive power than Israel’s hand on virtually all the levers that control this conflict through its ironclad control of the Occupied Territories.
But is Jimmy Carter anti-Israel or anti-Semitic as his enemies claim? Of course not. Jimmy Carter is CRITICAL. And being critical, especially if you’re a notable world leader, is an unpardonable sin in the eyes of the ultra-Israel community. Keep in mind that you can read opinions and analysis virtually identical to Carter’s in the pages of virtually every Israeli newspaper or public affairs periodical, on TV and radio. His views are certainly not a majority there, but they are a sizable minority as they are in this country. So why shoot the messenger when it’s the message you hate?
So why all the fuss? Because Aipac can make lots more hay and lucre by having a “monster in the closet” to trot out when necessary. Iran is one of their current big monsters. Just mention their president by name and you can hear the sounds of pens scribbling lots of 0’s on donation checks. Similarly, Carter instills anxiety and fear among these folks like no other former president. He’s good for an episode of fear-mongering among the pro-Israel community.
For a final word on Carter’s supposed anti-Israel bias, does this 1977 speech sound like the words of an Israel hater?
“It’s absolutely crucial that no one in our country or around the world ever doubt that our number one commitment in the Middle East is to protect the right of Israel to exist, to exist permanently, and to exist in peace.”
Carter’s critics should pay very close attention to this statement from Aaron Miller, currently of Seeds of Peace, who served in several Administrations including Carter’s. Miller is not fully supportive of all of Carter’s current Mideast views. But nevertheless he says:
Carter has a “demonstrated track record of success,” said Miller, now a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, referring to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty that the former president helped broker at Camp David in 1978. “He’s the only American president that’s succeeded in brokering a permanent status agreement between Arabs and Israelis, the only one, and you know, he deserves an enormous amount of credit for that,
OK, you Little Green Footballs and Bushite types, name me a single Republican president (or any President for that matter) who presided over a signed peace agreement between Israel and an Arab nation. Can’t think of one, can you. That should tell you something.
m. gorsky says
As I have not yet read Carter’s book, I am not sure whether he recognizes the right of Palestians who left what is now Israel, and their decendents, to return to Israel. This would have a great deal to do with how I view his recommendations. Certainly, if he recognizes such right of return as essential to a settlement, I could not agree with him. I notice that he refers to the implementation of UN resolutions. I will have to see if this includes one that has been interpreted by many as incorporating such a right. On the other hand, if it is interpreted as relating to a fair financial settlement for lands lost, that would be another matter. Many people mean different things when they speak of a two state solutio. One group means a Jewish state (Israel) alongside an Arab Palestinian state (Palestine). Others mean a state (Israel) with a likely Arab Palestinian majority following the implementation of a right of return, alongside an an Arab Palestinian state (Palestine). I think it is important to state ones position when referring to such a resolution.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to state my concern.
Richard Silverstein says
The financial settlement approach to the Right of Return is inscribed at the heart of the Geneva Initiative & I assure you that this is what Carter favors. He is pragmatic enough to realize that a literal interpretation of this Law would not be acceptable to Israelis.
Keith Egli says
Thank you for an opposing opinion. I have been concerned about the dominating and corrosive effect AIPAC has on our political system. It seems to me that their influence has infiltrated to an extent that very many congressmen and senators no longer have the choice to represent their American constituents due to AIPAC sponsored contributions. I have questioned a congressman and a senator: “What is expected from you in return for your acceptance of (amount of contribution) from AIPAC?” That was months ago and to date I have gotten no response.
I find it difficult to be critical of Israeli policy without being considered anti-Semetic. That is analogous to being called anti-German if one were critical of the Nazis.
Again, I appreciate your efforts to present a viewpoint that is difficult to express.
Wallace Brand says
Many claim that Israel has ignored the UN resolution requiring the return of the Arabs to Israel. The UN’s resolution referred to refugees, and not specifically Arab refugees. It included both Arab refugees from Israel and Jewish refugees from adjacent Muslim states. The Israelis have been willing to negotiate on both. The Arabs have never been willing to discuss compensaton for the Jewish refugees.
The UN’s usual definition of refugees refers only to indiigenous peoples that have been displaced. Buit it created a special definition for the Arabs in Palestine. For these, to qualify as a refugee, one must only have lived in Palestine for two years as of 1948. The original inhabitants of the refugee camps included many who did not even meet the lax two year standard because, according to the testimony of the UNRRA official, they did not want to turn away anyone in need. Their special definition also includes as refugees the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of those who left Israel and who have never even seen the place the call their home. Most of those who left in 1948 left of their own volition, many even prior to the commencement of hostilities. Some, such as those in Jaffa, were expressly asked to stay by Jaffa Jewish authorities. Claims by the Arabs that they were dispossessed of their lands are fraudulent, see “Avneri, “Claim of Dispossession. Avneri also documents that many of those “indigenous Palestinians” in 1948 were immigrants from adjacent states that came to the area economically developed by the Jews, to seek a better life. Some several hundred thousand Arabs have been permitted to return to Israel to allow the reunification of families.
Richard Silverstein says
Oh do pls. provide a source to authenticate this claim. I’ve never in decades of following this conflict heard of any statement from Israel that it was willing to discuss the return of Arab refugees to Israel.
Do pls. provide a credible source to authenticate this specious claim. Besides how would you or anyone know. What research would’ve been done at the time or even after that could prove such a statement. Many historians generally concede that perhaps hundreds of thousands of Arab residents of Israel were forcibly displaced or were in fear for their lives & fled unwillingly when they heard the stories of wholesale pillage and rape by Israeli forces told by other Arab victims.
Pls. provide quotations from credible sources authenticating this claim. And I’d like to know on what historical documents or survivor interviews they’re basing any such claim. And Avneri is but one source & by no means the only one. If he indeed says what you claim, there are other reputable sources who say quite otherwise.
Again, provide a credible source. And besides, the current Israeli government now specifically prohibits such reunifications.
tom farley says
the details are not all there, but the premises are. I didn,t find the book anti palestinian or anti israel. But from the comments of my jewish friends, they wont even read it.
Richard Silverstein says
Your Jewish friends are being a tad defensive, but it’s a common predilection among some Jews who are extremely skittish about any criticism of Israel, esp. when it comes fr. non-Jews like Carter.
Ira Glunts says
It is always a pleasure to read a fellow Jew swimming against the AIPAC funded tide. In my Google searches , I often come upon your blog which I considered enlightened and refreshing.
I am a little puzzled at your question, “why is Carter despised in some quarters and Clinton revered as a true friend of Israel?” Let me take a stab at an answer.
Firstly, Carter in recent years has blamed Israel for its diplomatic intransigience. In his last book he states that the Israelis were greatly responsible for the failure of the Oslo Peace Process and specifically for Clinton’s Camp David summit. Clinton, on the other hand, places the blame for the Camp David Summit on the intransigience of Yassir Arafat. In doing so, he has added credibility to the false claim that Israel made the Palestinians “a generous offer” which no reasonable people could refuse.
Secondly, when Carter helped negotiate the treaty between Israel and Egypt, he did so with much greater even-handedness than Clinton. Many pro-Israel supporters claim, and not without justification, that Carter conspired with Sadat against Begin in order to acheive a final agreement. Conversely, Clinton acted in accord with Barak to pressure Arafat to accept a basically pre-arranged agreement which was an expression of the Israeli government’s position at the time.
In this matter I agree with the AiPAC crowd. Clinton is a “friend” of Israel and is on the AIPAC team. Carter is not playing ball and deserves a “Mearsheimmer.”
Bruce Levitz says
I listened to Carter’s book recently (read by himself) and I found his writing libelous toward Israel and one sided for the Arabs. He attempts to connect Israel’s alleged mistreatment and disrespect of Christians as a way of gaining their empathy for the Arabs. Carter gives the ‘impression’ of being “balanced” but his rhetoric barely conceals his underlying contempt for Israel and perhaps Jews and his overt favoritism toward an Arab perspective. He talks of the forced displacement of the Palestinians from their homes but gives short shrift to the same phenomenon that Jews suffered in Arab countries by writing that Jews “fled” rather than acknowledging that they were expelled, murdered and had their personal possessions confiscated without compensation or justice (Cf. From Time Immemorial). I am not saying that Arabs have not been mistreated but I believe a balanced and objective approach must be fair to both sides and the cause and effect relationships fully developed.
One has to question if Carter is really an objective reporter when he presents history so one-sidedly, omits pertinent historical facts or downplays Arab terrorism against Israel? Throughout his book he minimizes Arab terrorism and emphasizes Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. Atrocities committed by Arabs against Jews are only mentioned in passing and given no importance, whereas each Israeli’ misdeed against Arab is expanded and repeated ad nausea without any real cause and effect exploration.
Carter comes off as a prosecutor against Israel rather than the balanced reporter we were expecting, especially coming from a man who has held the highest office in the US. His terrible impressions of Jews/Israelis left a bad taste in my mouth and gave me a sickened feeling that I was hearing the same anti-Semitic diatribes and slanderous misrepresentation that the Nazis used to degrade the Jews by comparing them to vermin and rats, except behind the polished veneer of a former statesman. Without using these exact metaphors, Carter deprecates Jews and Israelis by making them out to be cold, murderous, land grubbing evil incarnates with hardly a redeeming quality.
Carter tries to ameliorate his harsh comments and perhaps contempt for Israel by stating that his criticism is only directed against those ‘belligerent minority’ of Israelis who are really the bad Jews, but the reader can hardly make the separation once the libel is complete. We’ve heard similar disingenuous assertions from other bigots who say, “Oh, I have a Jewish or black friend” with everyone understanding that the proponent is thinly disguised racist.
I was hoping that Carter would give us a balanced perspective but it will be the critics that need to point out his imbalances, purposeful omissions, bigotry and historical stretches.
Lastly, the same wall the purportedly contains the Palestinians must necessarily contain the Israelis, but Carter seems to ignore that.
Richard Silverstein says
Bruce Levitz: You’re entitled to yr opinion but don’t dare dream that it will be accepted as fact at this blog.
Carter’s views of Israel are “libelous??” What ever could you mean? Pls. give a single example of something that comes remotely close to being libelous.
This too is a pathetic misunderstanding of what Carter actually says. I have no idea what you mean by his belief that Israel has ‘mistreated’ or ‘disrespected’ Christians. The contrary is actually true. That Carter decries a too close relationship betw. right wing evangelicals and Israel. If anything Carter is upset that Israel is TOO CLOSE to Christians.
Right, the only U.S. president who successfully negotiated a peace agreement between Israel and one of its front line enemy states. A man who’s spoken out forcefully and passionately on behalf of peace and security for BOTH Israelis and Palestinians–this man holds Israel in “contempt.” Puh-leeze. You’ve taken lv. of yr. senses to say such a preposterous & outrageous thing.
You apparently have never heard of, nor do you understand the concept of proportion or balance. Carter does not deny that Jews were mistreated in some Arab countries. But in countries like Morocco which had huge Jewish communities before 1948, it was Israeli emissaries who persuaded multitudes to emigrate en masse to Israel (many others left for France or Canada). The Moroccan king and his officials practically begged Jews to stay, but few did.
On the other hand, Israeli historians estimate that as many as 750,000 Israeli Arabs left their homes within Israel in the 1948 period. All of them left under some form of duress–either they were in direct fear of their lives & their flight was forced or they believed they were in imminent danger and left of their own volition. This is what I mean by balance. Israeli treatment of its new Arab citizens was far harsher than Arab nations’ treatment of their Jewish citizens.
Further, Israeli agents in Iraq and Egypt deliberately created terror attacks on Jewish targets in order to create panic and mass flight to Israel. This story is far from the black & white image you seek to portray.
This is patently, blatantly false. Jimmy Carter does not minimize Arab terror against Israel. He has always denounced it & does so in this book. Either you’re reading a diff. book than I’m reading; or perhaps your version was translated into a special rightist nationalist pro-Israel language only you and those other knee jerkers understand.
More crap. Carter is an advocate for peace. It is the prospect of peace that provokes such fear in you. Carter criticizes both sides for their mistakes. He criticizes Israel because its enormous military power, its control of land and water resources, & its Occupation of Palestinian territory poses a special threat to peace. That criticism, which you will read here, is entirely justified as is criticism of Palestinian violence against Israel, which Carter is not averse to expressing.
Another mirage. This impression is entirely yours & yours alone (& shared only by rightists). Any objective reader would never come away with such an impression of Carter or his book.
Now, we know truly that you’ve taken leave of yr senses. Carter, like Nazis, compares Jews to “vermins and rats???” Are you insane? Pls. cite me a single reference that reflects this delusional impression of yours.
No, your mistake (but one of many) is that you confuse Carter’s entirely just and apt criticism of the Israeli settler movement with criticism against all Jews or Israelis. Settlers and their supporters in the Israeli government ARE cold, murderous, land-grubbing individuals. But no one, including Carter, says that all Israelis or Jews can be characterized in this way. After all, a very significant majority of Israelis and Jews are entirely opposed to the settler enterprise. These people are surely not cold, murderous or land grubbers.
You mean YOU cannot make the “separation.” The rest of us reasonable readers can make the distinction just fine, thank you. I’d suggest you read this book prepared to think the worst of it. You took out yr scalpel and sliced & diced the pgs. & ideas & pasted them back together so they looked precisely like the blood libel you expected when you opened it in the first place.
Spare us fr. your learned disquisitions on the subject. I’m still waiting for a cogent, well-reasoned critical appraisal of the book. You certainly haven’t provided it.
What ever could you mean? That the Wall somehow places limits on Israeli expansionism because it prevents them fr. stealing even more land than the wall has already extorted?? That’s a magnificent idea. And a more twisted one I haven’t heard in some time. Keep it up, you have the makings of a really twisted propagandist if you keep working at it and hone yr skills (such as they are).
Bruce Levitz says
Comments to Silverstein:
If you Jewish you probably want to explore the roots of your own anti-Semitism with a good shrink. I’ve never encountered such strong sentiments against members of one’s own ethnic or religious background which borders on traitorous self-hatred or in black lexicon, an Uncle Tom.
That aside, you attempt to make your points by insult rather than argument, to wit: “pathetic misunderstanding” “You’ve taken lv. of yr. senses” “Are you insane?” “twisted” – matters of opinion are just that so if I am entitled to my opinion as you say, and if you advocate free speech, then your proclivity for name calling and harassing remarks do not persuade me one bit other than to demonstrate that you are a pulpit bully who resorts to insults when logic fails you or arguments are advanced contrary to your own highly held opinions, You might as well be talking with yourself.
I say give the Arabs the entire land of Israel and be done with it in exchange for the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and a permanent peace agreement. To hell with religion and religious sites that have engendered nothing but animosity, murder and misanthropy.
Richard Silverstein says
Bruce Levitz: The fact that you view me as a “traitor to my race” not only is pathetic; it also provides much more insight into the insularity & provincialism of yr own perspective on Jewish identity. My perspective is that of a “big tent” that includes Jews of many denominations and political stripes. Your perspective is that of a narrow band of victims who maintain an ideologically narrow & pure version of Jewishness.
Finally, yr accusations are total calumnies. Using the word “traitor” to describe my relationship to my religion & ethnic identity; and disparaging my mental health–besides being a tired old rhetorical trick used by too many previous commenters here–is a disgusting ad hominem attack & is grounds for banning & you are toast as far as this blog is concerned.
As for my style of address to you: all I can say is that I modulate my comments according to the commenter. Respectiful readers who disagree are treated similarly respectfully. But if you hurl patently false, unfounded charges at me, Jimmy Carter, or either Israel or Palestinians, you will be addressed in kind.
And in case you hadn’t noticed, the sign over the door here has MY name on it. That means the blog is mine & mine to do with it what I will. If you don’t like the treatment you’re accorded here you have 2 choices: change yr tone of debate to tone down the hatred or take a hike. The choice is yours.
Sorry, but I’ve honored free speech by allowing you to publish two comments which were erroneous & unfounded. I’ve discharged my duty to free speech in that sense. There is no free speech rule here or anywhere that says that if you disrespect me or my views that I have to give you a high-five & slap on the back and make nice. No, if you come out with guns blazing (rhetorically, not literally) then you will receive the same treatment in return.
I’m certainly not “talking” to you since you came here not to read or understand anything I say but rather to do battle. As for “talking to myself,” 800 unique visitors came here yesterday. 255,000 in the past year. My visitor count has increased 50% or more in that period fr. the yr. prior. The blog has 60 subscribers. Does that sound like “talking to myself?”
Finally, I just reviewed my first response to you and I admit that I did get carried away rhetorically. There were some zingers which I used and shouldn’t have. This doesn’t tone down my disagreement & even anger with yr false & even odious comments about Carter’s book. But I took out after you a little too hard for which I apologize.