In his unrelenting attack against Israel - beginning with his screed Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, and continuing in his media blitz - Jimmy Carter frequently invokes religion, in an apparent effort to turn religious Christians against the Jewish State. He started by recounting a bizarre conversation he once had, before he became president, with then Prime Minister Golda Meir in which he warned her that there was "a common historical pattern... that Israel was punished whenever the leaders turned way from devout worship of God." What Chutzpah! An American private citizen lecturing the Prime Minister of Israel to make her country more religious. Imagine if Meir had listened? Imagine how much more difficult peace would be if Israel were a religious state whose claims were based on God's words in the Bible?
Carter has tried hard to turn the mideast conflict into a religious one. He constantly refers to Israel as the "Holy Land," which he defines as follows:
"It became increasingly clear that there were two Israels. One encompassed the ancient culture and moral values of the Jewish people, defined by the Hebrew Scriptures with which I had been familiar since childhood and representing the young nation that most American envisioned."
Carter condemns Israel for its administration of Christian and Muslim religious sites, when in fact Israel is scrupulous about ensuring those of every religion the right to worship as they please consistent, of course, with security needs. He fails to mention that between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan occupied the West ank and East Jerusalem, the Hashemites destroyed and desecrated Jewish religious sites and prevented Jews from praying at the Western Wall. He also never mentions Egypt's brutal occupation of Gaza between 1949 and 1967.
Carter goes out of his way to point out that some Christians are separated from their churches by the "Apartheid Wall," without mentioning that it was Muslim terrorists who used Christian churches as terrorist sanctuaries.
Carter even blames Israel for the "exodus of Christians from the Holy Land,"; totally ignoring the Islamization of the area by Hamas and the comparable exodus of Christian Arabs from Lebanon as a result of the increasing influence of Hezbollah and the repeated assassination of Christian leaders by Syria.
Jeffrey Goldberg, in The Washington Post, sees a pattern in all of this:
"Carter seems to mean for this book to convince American evangelicals to reconsider their support for Israel. Evangelical Christians have become bedrock supporters of Israel lately, and Carter marshals many arguments, most of them specious, to scare them out of their position. Hence the Golda Meir story, seemingly meant to show that Israel is not the God-fearing nation that religious Christians believe it to be. And then there are the accusations, unsupported by actual evidence, that Israel persecutes its Christian citizens. On his fateful first visit to Israel, Carter takes a tour of the Galilee and writes, "It was especially interesting to visit with some of the few surviving Samaritans, who complained to us that their holy sites and culture were not being respected by Israeli authorities -- the same complaint heard by Jesus and his disciples almost two thousand years earlier."
"There are, of course, no references to "Israeli authorities" in the Christian Bible. Only a man who sees Israel as a lineal descendant of the Pharisees could write such a sentence. But then again, the security fence itself is a crime against Christianity, according to Carter; it "ravages many places along its devious route that are important to Christians." He goes on, "In addition to enclosing Bethlehem in one of its most notable intrusions, an especially heartbreaking division is on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples." One gets the impression that Carter believes that Israelis -- in their deviousness -- somehow mean to keep Jesus from fulfilling the demands of His ministry."
I see in Carter's wrongheaded, upside-down view of the mideast conflict an example of what Isaiah so strongly condemned:
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own conceits."
Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. His most recent book is Preemption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways (Norton, 2006).