Jimmy Carter, probably the most decent man to
occupy the White House, received a lot of grief during his term in office, most
of it undeserved. His latest book, Palestine:
Peace Not Apartheid has brought him even more grief, none of it deserved.
My own appreciation of Jimmy Carter is new found. It began with his previous
Endangered Values, in which Carter criticized the direction in which
George W. Bush was taking America with his assaults on the Constitution and
international law. His latest book, currently a best seller, shows that Carter
has the courage to match his decency and commitment to peace in the Middle East.
A case can be made that while other US presidents focused on the Soviet or
communist threat, Carter perceived that the greater threat to world peace and
US interests was in the Middle East. With America’s backing Israel was a rising
military power whose policies and existence were viewed as a threat by Arab
countries. After Israel’s military successes and Carter’s success in arranging
peace between Egypt and Israel, new Arab-Israeli tensions arose from Israel’s
refusal to leave occupied Palestine and return to its own borders.
Over time the occupied lands have been appropriated by Israeli settlements
and now by a massive wall and special roads on which no Palestinian can travel.
Palestinian villages have been cut off from water, from their fields and groves,
from schools and hospitals, and from one another. Essentially, what was once
Palestine has become isolated ghettos in which the Palestinian inhabitants cannot
enter or depart without Israeli permission.
Israel’s policy is to turn Palestinians into refugees and to incorporate the
West Bank into Israel. Slowly over time the policy has been implemented in the
name of fighting terrorism and protecting Israel. Had Israel tried to achieve
this all at once, opposition would have been great and the crime too large for
the world to accept. Today Israel’s gradual destruction of Palestine has become
part of the fabric of everyday affairs.
Many people, including intelligent Israelis, believe that peace in the Middle
East cannot be achieved through military coercion and that peace requires Israel
to abandon its policy of stealing Palestine from Palestinians. Jimmy Carter,
whose long involvement with the issue makes him very knowledgeable and credible,
is one of these people.
The reason that Israel has been able to appropriate Palestine unto itself with
American aid and support is that Israel controls the explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. At least 90% of Americans, if they know anything at all of the issue,
know only the Israeli propaganda line. Israel has been able to control the explanation,
because the powerful Israel Lobby brands every critic of Israeli policy as an
anti-Semite who favors a second holocaust of the Jews.
In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter takes the risk of speaking
truth to propaganda. Predictably, the Israel Lobby and its shills ranging from
the "conservative" National Review to "liberal" media
and commentators have attempted to banish Carter by labeling him an "anti-Semite."
We must not let the Israel Lobby get away with demonizing an American president
who dares to stand up to their lies.
Carter’s book is a readable and factual history of the Israeli-Palestinian
issue and its various turnings. The most powerful chapter is the penultimate,
"The Wall as a Prison."
Carter makes clear that the wall has little to do with Israeli security and
a lot to do with dispossession of the Palestinians. Carter writes:
"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
and the occupied Jordan River valley. The Palestinians will have a future impossible
for them or any responsible portion of the international community to accept,
and Israel’s permanent status will be increasingly troubled and uncertain as
deprived people fight oppression and the relative number of Jewish citizens
decreases demographically (compared to Arabs) both within Israel and in Palestine.
This prospect is clear to most Israelis, who also view it as a distortion of
their values. Recent events involving Gaza and Lebanon demonstrate the inevitable
escalation in tension and violence within Palestine and stronger resentment
and animosity from the world community against both Israel and America."
Zionists and American neoconservatives could care less about what the world
community thinks. They are concerned only with Israeli hegemony in the Middle
East. They realize that this goal can only be obtained with military coercion
and have discarded any reliance on negotiation and compromise. Bush, for example,
has refused the unanimous recommendation of the Iraq Study Group to talk with
Iran and Syria. The US and Israeli electorates have proven to be powerless,
while a handful of neoconservatives and Zionist settlers drive Middle East policy.
Carter is well aware that the "Roadmap for Peace" has been turned
into a propaganda device. Carter writes that Israel uses the roadmap "as
a delaying tactic with an endless series of preconditions that can never be
met while proceeding with plans to implement its unilateral goals," and
that the US uses it "to give the impression of positive engagement in a
‘peace process,’ which President Bush has announced will not be fulfilled during
his time in office."
The Israel Lobby and its bought-and-paid-for minions tried to demonize Carter
for using the word "apartheid" to describe the Palestinian ghettos
that Israel has created. The word calls to mind the former South African government’s
policy of racial separation, which was mild compared to the restrictions and
dispossessions Israel has imposed on Palestinians. A number of commentators
have come to Carter’s defense, including Jewish scholar Norman
Finkelstein and former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit
Aloni (Yediot Acharonot, Israel’s largest circulating newspaper).
They point out that within Israel itself Israel’s policy is commonly called
If Americans could read the frank discussion in the Israeli press about Israel’s
inhuman treatment of Palestinians they would wonder how they, as Americans with
a “free press,” became so totally brainwashed.
In an act of honest statesmanship that is rarely witnessed, Carter concludes
“The bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East
only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law,
with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of
a majority of its own citizens – and honor its own previous commitments – by
accepting its legal borders. All Arab neighbors must pledge to honor Israel’s
right to live in peace under these conditions. The United States is squandering
international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism
by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization
of Palestinian territories. It will be a tragedy – for the Israelis, the Palestinians,
and the world – if peace is rejected and a system of oppression, apartheid and
sustained violence is permitted to prevail.”
One can add to Carter’s bottom line that the Bush administration, American
neoconservatives, and the Olmert Israeli government believe that the solution
lies in the use of military force to smash Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah
and to inflict cultural genocide on Muslims by deracinating Islam. This is the
path on which Bush with deceit and treachery is leading America.