30 January 2007

Most Americans are not aware of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis they bear so much responsibility in creating

A tale of two perspectives on Palestine, one that blindly casts a "Jew-hater" stamp upon the recent Jimmy Carter title "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid", based mostly, it appears, on self professed ignorance.
Jimmy Carter and his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, came up at a party last night. The gathering was fairly typical for my circle in Cambridge. About a third of the folks there were Jewish. The average age was 30s and the average education level somewhere between masters and medical doctor. Most of the folks were right-thinking kind-hearted sorts, who'd like to see a legally married gay couple in every 10th suburban house, a Prius in every garage, and organic produce on every table. For the gentiles at the gathering, Jimmy Carter was a hero, slightly ahead of Clinton in the pantheon of ex-presidents, and his latest book only increased his stature. Jimmy Carter never had a unkind word for anyone and, for many decades in and out of politics, managed to find the good in everyone with whom he interacted, domestically and internationally. For the gentiles, Jimmy Carter was entitled to wear the badge of "Nicest Guy in the World" (formerly belonging to Jesus?). If Jimmy Carter had surveyed the world's regions and chosen to single out Israel for condemnation, that was only because Israel was in fact the world's most evil state filled with the world's most evil people.

For the Jews at the party, there wasn't a strong feeling of kinship with Israeli Jews. They were American-born, descendants of the last waves of Jewish emigration to the U.S., roughly 100 years ago. Nonetheless, for the Jews at the party, Jimmy Carter was a garden-variety Jew hater and the book was prima facie evidence of his Jew-hatred. Why would he bother to take the time if he didn't hate Jews? [Disclaimer: Everyone in the discussion had read newspaper articles about Jimmy Carter and his book, but nobody had actually read the book!]

Another take, this one telling that an "apartheid" designation may be a tad too tame for the truth.

Israel has spent the last five months unleashing missiles, attack helicopters and jet fighters over the densely packed concrete hovels in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army has made numerous deadly incursions, and some 500 people, nearly all civilians, have been killed and 1,600 more wounded. Israel has rounded up hundreds of Palestinians, destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, including its electrical power system and key roads and bridges, carried out huge land confiscations, demolished homes and plunged families into a crisis that has caused widespread poverty and malnutrition.

The stark reality of Gaza, however, has failed to penetrate the consciousness of most Americans, who, when they notice the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, prefer to debate the merits of the word “apartheid” in former President Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” It is a sad commentary on the gutlessness of the U.S. press and the timidity of the Democratic opposition that most Americans are not aware of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis they bear so much responsibility in creating. Palestinians are not only dying, their olive trees uprooted, their farmland and homes destroyed and their aquifers taken away from them, but on many days they can’t move because of Israeli “closures” that make basic tasks, like buying food and going to the hospital, nearly impossible. These Palestinians, after decades of repression, cannot return to land from which they were expelled. The 140-plus U.N. votes to censure Israel and two Security Council resolutions—both vetoed by the United States—are blithly ignored. Is it any wonder that the Palestinians, gasping for air, rebel as the walls close in aThe debate over Jimmy Carter’s book, one that dishes up a fair number of Israeli myths about itself and states a reality that is acknowledged even by most Israelis, misses the point. The question is not whether Israel practices apartheid. Apartheid is a fond dream for most Palestinians. The awful question is rather will Israel be able to unleash a policy so draconian and cruel that it will obliterate a community that has lived on this land for centuries. There are other, far more loaded words for what is happening to the Palestinians. One shudders to repeat them. But unchecked, unstopped, the current wave of violence and abuse meted out to the Palestinians will echo down the corridors of history as one of the greatest moral and tactical blunders of the early part of this century, one that will boomerang on Israel and on us, bringing to our own doorsteps the evil we have allowed to be delivered to the narrow alleys and refugee camps in Gaza. When it was only apartheid, we had some hope.round them, as their children go hungry and as the Israelis turn up the violence?

There is nothing outrageous or bigoted about Jimmy Carter's book arguing that Palestinians are victims of apartheid. One rabbi writes that President Carter was the best friend the Jews ever had as president of the United States. As former assistant treasury in the Reagan administration states it, Jimmy Carter speaks truth to propaganda.

Now, I haven't read Carter's book either, but slinging charges of racism against the ex-president seems shortsighted, or worse, an attempt to rationalize unfounded beliefs.

Here is Jimmy Carter, in his own words, on the matter.

Finally, an anecdotal illustration, but illuminating nevertheless: Jerry in the West Bank and Gaza.


1. Kenneth Stein review is here: http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin... - Stein makes good points from a U.S. state diplomatic viewpoint, but none of it dispels the central point that Hedges and others make in the articles cited.

2. You can bang on commondreams for being a lefty site, but closer truth is that they just reprint material from other sources. Chris Hedges is the author of 2 of the articles I cited here. Funny how I am citing folks that have actually been there, living amongst the war torn, as opposed to the ivory towered bureaucrats who see matters as simply pawns on a chessboard.

3. Perhaps there is erroneous and factual misrepresentations in the book. But the PR that current conditions in the occupied territories are not akin to Apartheid and that saying so makes Carter a "Jew Hater" is absurd IMV.