I like Jimmy Carter. I have known him since he began his run for president in early 1976. I worked hard for his election, and I have admired the work of the Carter Center throughout the world. That's why it troubles me so much that this decent man has written such an indecent book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His bias against Israel shows by his selection of the book's title: "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid." The suggestion that without peace Israel is an apartheid state analogous to South Africa is simply wrong. The basic evil of South African apartheid, against which I and so many other Jews fought, was the absolute control over a majority of blacks by a small minority of whites. It was the opposite of democracy. In Israel majority rules; it is a vibrant secular democracy, which just today recognized gay marriages performed abroad. Arabs serve in the Knesset, on the Supreme Court and get to vote for their representatives, many of whom strongly oppose Israeli policies. Israel has repeatedly offered to end its occupation of areas it captured in a defensive war in exchange for peace and full recognition. The reality is that other Arab and Muslim nations do in fact practice apartheid. In Jordan, no Jew can be a citizen or own land. The same is true in Saudi Arabia, which has separate roads for Muslims and non-Muslims. Even in the Palestinian authority, the increasing influence of Hamas threatens to create Islamic hegemony over non-Muslims. Arab Christians are leaving in droves.
Why then would Jimmy Carter invoke the concept of apartheid in his attack on Israel? Even he acknowledges--though he buries this toward the end of his book--that what is going on in Israel today "is unlike that in South Africa--not racism, but the acquisition of land." But Israel's motive for holding on to this land is the prevention of terrorism. It has repeatedly offered to exchange land for peace and did so in Gaza and southern Lebanon only to have the returned land used for terrorism, kidnappings and rocket launchings.
I don't know why Jimmy Carter, who is generally a careful man, allowed so many errors and omissions to blemish his book. Here are simply a few of the most egregious.
•Carter emphasizes that "Christian and Muslim Arabs had continued to live in this same land since Roman times," but he ignores the fact that Jews have lived in Hebron, Tzfat, Jerusalem, and other cities for even longer. Nor does he discuss the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries since 1948.
•Carter repeatedly claims that the Palestinians have long supported a two-state solution and the Israelis have always opposed it. Yet he makes no mention of the fact that in 1938 the Peel Commission proposed a two-state solution with Israel receiving a mere sliver of its ancient homeland and the Palestinians receiving the bulk of the land. The Jews accepted and the Palestinians rejected this proposal, because Arab leaders cared more about there being no Jewish state on Muslim holy land than about having a Palestinian state of their own.
•He barely mentions Israel's acceptance, and the Palestinian rejection, of the U.N.'s division of the mandate in 1948.
•He claims that in 1967 Israel launched a preemptive attack against Jordan. The fact is that Jordan attacked Israel first, Israel tried desperately to persuade Jordan to remain out of the war, and Israel counterattacked after the Jordanian army surrounded Jerusalem, firing missiles into the center of the city. Only then did Israel capture the West Bank, which it was willing to return in exchange for peace and recognition from Jordan.
•Carter repeatedly mentions Security Council Resolution 242, which called for return of captured territories in exchange for peace, recognition and secure boundaries, but he ignores the fact that Israel accepted and all the Arab nations and the Palestinians rejected this resolution. The Arabs met in Khartum and issued their three famous "no's": "No peace, no recognition, no negotiation" but you wouldn't know that from reading the history according to Carter.
•Carter faults Israel for its "air strike that destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor" without mentioning that Iraq had threatened to attack Israel with nuclear weapons if they succeeded in building a bomb.
•Carter faults Israel for its administration of Christian and Muslim religious sites, when in fact Israel is scrupulous about ensuring every religion the right to worship as they please--consistant, of course, with security needs. He fails to mention that between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan occupied the West Bank 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 blames Israel, and exonerates Arafat, for the Palestinian refusal to accept statehood on 95% of the West Bank and all of Gaza pursuant to the Clinton-Barak offers of Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001. He accepts the Palestinian revisionist history, rejects the eye-witness accounts of President Clinton and Dennis Ross and ignores Saudi Prince Bandar's accusation that Arafat's rejection of the proposal was "a crime" and that Arafat's account "was not truthful"--except, apparently, to Carter. The fact that Carter chooses to believe Yasir Arafat over Bill Clinton speaks volumes.
•Carter's description of the recent Lebanon war is misleading. He begins by asserting that Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. "Captured" suggest a military apprehension subject to the usual prisoner of war status. The soldiers were kidnapped, and have not been heard from--not even a sign of life. The rocket attacks that preceded Israel's invasion are largely ignored, as is the fact that Hezbollah fired its rockets from civilian population centers.
•Carter gives virtually no credit to Israel's superb legal system, falsely asserting (without any citation) that "confessions extracted through torture are admissible in Israeli courts," that prisoners are "executed" and that the "accusers" act "as judges." Even Israel's most severe critics acknowledge the fairness of the Israeli Supreme Court, but not Carter.
•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.
•Carter also blames every American administration but his own for the Mideast stalemate with particular emphasis on "a submissive White House and U.S. Congress in recent years." He employs hyperbole and overstatement when he says that "dialogue on controversial issues is a privilege to be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and withheld from those who reject U.S. demands." He confuses terrorist states, such as Iran and Syria to which we do not extend dialogue, with states with whom we strongly disagree, such as France and China, with whom we have constant dialogue.
I hope President Carter will seriously consider addressing these omissions and mistakes. He begins his book tour soon and he will have an opportunity to correct the record.