Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jimmy Carter

Today, in the mail, I received the most recent of many pleas for money that have come from the Carter Center. I have never given any money to the Carter Center, and after Jimmy Carter's performance on the Lehrer report on November 28, there is not a chance in the world that I will ever give money to anything associated with Jimmy Carter. To see the transcript of the interview, see here: Jimmy Carter interview. Carter castigates the Israelis for not negotiating with the Hamas government after Gilad Shalit was kidnapped this summer (and two other Israeli soldiers were killed). Judy Woodruff, who was interviewing him, asked him about the Israeli refusal to negotiate with Hamas on the basis that Hamas did not recognize Israel's right to exist. He answered her question with this obfuscating reply:
The day after the election, I went and met with Mahmoud Abbas, who is the leader of the Palestinians. He's their president. He's the head of the PLO, which is the only organization, by the way, that the United States or Israel recognizes, the PLO, in which there's not a single Hamas member. Hamas has nothing to do with the PLO.

And after I met with Abbas to talk about a unity government, which he rejected, then I met with a Hamas leader. He's a medical doctor who was elected. He's now in prison, by the way. But he said -- when I insisted that they recognize Israel, he said, "Mr. President, which Israel are you talking about? Are you talking about the Israel that's occupying our land? Are you talking about the Israel that has built a wall around our people? Are you talking about an Israel that deprives us of basic human rights to move from one place to another in our own land?" He said, "We can't recognize that Israel."

But later, the prime minister of the Hamas government, Haniyeh, said, "We are strongly in favor of direct talks between Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the PLO and the head of the government, and the prime minister of Israel, Olmert." And he said, "If they reach an agreement in their discussions that's acceptable to the Palestinian people, we will accept it, also. Hamas will."

Carter ignores uncomfortable facts that he doesn't want to acknowledge, including the very recent Hamas refusal to recognize Israel's right to existence (it's been one of the stumbling blocks in the current Palestinian talks over a unity government). He has a very annoying mixture of naivete and sanctimony. I'm reminded again of why I decided not to vote for him in 1980 - when his UN ambassador Andrew Young met with Arafat, when it was official U.S. policy not to talk to the PLO, a policy that I certainly agreed with at the time, since the PLO was at that time as intransigent as Hamas is today. And with the title of his new book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," he certainly indicates where his sympathies lie.


  1. I have not read the book (yet), so I can't defend it. But I admire Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center. And, to be fair to him, he said multiple times and with clear emphasis (in an interview on Democracy Now) that he intended the book's title to be provocative. (Mission accomplished!)

    Moreover, he said that he does not claim that there is anything like an "apartheid" system in Israel itself. He emphasized, in the interview, the rights that Arabs enjoy within Israel. He said that Israel is moving towards an apartheid system on the West Bank. Is that wrong?

  2. So then why did he use the word "apartheid" in the book, if he's not accusing Israel of setting up an apartheid system in Israel? The West Bank is not part of Israel, by the way - Israel has not annexed it. Isn't Israel free to do things to divide itself from the West Bank?

    I do agree that Israel has inflicted unjust hardships on the Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip (even after its withdrawal from Gaza), not least because of the West Bank settlements and the preferences given to Israeli settlers. I believe in a two-state solution and that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank to provide the basis for a Palestinian state.

    But connecting Israel to apartheid is a rhetorical move intended to delegitimize the state - after all, what do you do to an apartheid state? Well, as with South Africa, you ostracize it and you support either peaceful or violent change of regime. It's for this reason that I question Mr. Carter's motives in naming his book this way.

  3. I am not going to pretend to know Carter's motives, but you ask, "Isn't Israel free to do things to divide itself from the West Bank?"

    Sure. But that's not the issue here. The issue is separation between Israeli settlers and Palestinians within the West Bank and restrictions on movement of even those who have legal rights to enter E. Jerusalem if they live on the other side of the separation wall (which follows arbitrarily drawn lines within the West Bank).

    I can't speak for Carter, but were the Israeli government building a wall to separate Israeli territory (even including all of Jerusalem, which I personally think should not be divided with a Palestinian state), I would not object. But that's not what this is about. Indeed, Israel has not annexed the West Bank. But its governments have promoted settlement, taken land, and put up barriers (of various kinds).