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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Carter: Speaking frankly about Israel and Palestine

Speaking frankly about Israel and Palestine,0,7999232.story

Jimmy Carter says his recent book is drawing knee-jerk accusations of
anti-Israel bias.
By Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States. His newest book is
"Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," published last month. He is scheduled to
sign books Monday at Vroman's in Pasadena.
December 8, 2006

I signed a contract with Simon & Schuster two years ago to write a book about
the Middle East, based on my personal observations as the Carter Center
monitored three elections in Palestine and on my consultations with Israeli
political leaders and peace activists.

We covered every Palestinian community in 1996, 2005 and 2006, when Yasser
Arafat and later Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and members of
parliament were chosen. The elections were almost flawless, and turnout was
very high - except in East Jerusalem, where, under severe Israeli restraints,
only about 2% of registered voters managed to cast ballots.

The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for
Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations - but
not in the United States. For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and
experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the
facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is
because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political
Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.

It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a
balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply
with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for
Palestinians. Very few would ever deign to visit the Palestinian cities of
Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City or even Bethlehem and talk to the
beleaguered residents. What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the
editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States
exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments
expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land.

With some degree of reluctance and some uncertainty about the reception my
book would receive, I used maps, text and documents to describe the situation
accurately and to analyze the only possible path to peace: Israelis and
Palestinians living side by side within their own internationally recognized
boundaries. These options are consistent with key U.N. resolutions supported
by the U.S. and Israel, official American policy since 1967, agreements
consummated by Israeli leaders and their governments in 1978 and 1993 (for
which they earned Nobel Peace Prizes), the Arab League's offer to recognize
Israel in 2002 and the International Quartet's "Roadmap for Peace," which has
been accepted by the PLO and largely rejected by Israel.

The book is devoted to circumstances and events in Palestine and not in
Israel, where democracy prevails and citizens live together and are legally
guaranteed equal status.

Although I have spent only a week or so on a book tour so far, it is already
possible to judge public and media reaction. Sales are brisk, and I have had
interesting interviews on TV, including "Larry King Live," "Hardball," "Meet
the Press," "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," the "Charlie Rose" show, C-SPAN
and others. But I have seen few news stories in major newspapers about what I
have written.

Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by
representatives of Jewish organizations who would be unlikely to visit the
occupied territories, and their primary criticism is that the book is
anti-Israel. Two members of Congress have been publicly critical. Incoming
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for instance, issued a statement (before the book
was published) saying that "he does not speak for the Democratic Party on
Israel." Some reviews posted on call me "anti-Semitic," and others
accuse the book of "lies" and "distortions." A former Carter Center fellow has
taken issue with it, and Alan Dershowitz called the book's title "indecent."

Out in the real world, however, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
I've signed books in five stores, with more than 1,000 buyers at each site.
I've had one negative remark - that I should be tried for treason - and one
caller on C-SPAN said that I was an anti-Semite. My most troubling experience
has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on
university campuses with high Jewish enrollment and to answer questions from
students and professors. I have been most encouraged by prominent Jewish
citizens and members of Congress who have thanked me privately for presenting
the facts and some new ideas.

The book describes the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied
Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict
segregation between Palestine's citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
An enormous imprisonment wall is now under construction, snaking through what
is left of Palestine to encompass more and more land for Israeli settlers. In
many ways, this is more oppressive than what blacks lived under in South
Africa during apartheid. I have made it clear that the motivation is not
racism but the desire of a minority of Israelis to confiscate and colonize
choice sites in Palestine, and then to forcefully suppress any objections from
the displaced citizens. Obviously, I condemn any acts of terrorism or violence
against innocent civilians, and I present information about the terrible
casualties on both sides.

The ultimate purpose of my book is to present facts about the Middle East that
are largely unknown in America, to precipitate discussion and to help restart
peace talks (now absent for six years) that can lead to permanent peace for
Israel and its neighbors. Another hope is that Jews and other Americans who
share this same goal might be motivated to express their views, even publicly,
and perhaps in concert. I would be glad to help with that effort.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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