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Friday, December 1, 2006

On Jimmy Carter's 'Apartheid' Book: An Annotated Interview

On Jimmy Carter's 'Apartheid' Book: An Annotated Interview

Jimmy Carter was interviewed on the PBS (US public television network)
"Newshour" broadcast of Nov. 28.
Carter makes it clear to me (although surely not to all) that he's not an
enemy of Israel, but he is an overly one-sided critic. For example, he admits
to being provocative in using the noxious term, "apartheid," in the title of
his new book, but he immediately explains that he's not referring to Israel
within its pre-1967 boundaries. What follows is an abbreviated version of this
interview interspersed with my comments italicized in brackets.-- Ralph

JUDY WOODRUFF, NewsHour Special Correspondent: The former president and Nobel
Peace Prize-winner has just written his 21st book.... The title, you chose,
"Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid": Did you mean to be provocative, because this
immediately calls to mind South Africa, the repression of blacks by whites?

JIMMY CARTER: Yes.... I wanted to.... provoke discussion, debate, inquisitive
analysis of the situation there, which is almost completely absent throughout
the United States, but it's prevalent every day in Israel and in Europe. This
is needed, I think, for our country to understand what's going on in the West

And I chose this title very carefully.... This is the Palestinians' territory,
not Israel....

Apartheid doesn't apply at all, as I made plain in my book, anything that
relates to Israel, to the nation. It doesn't imply anything as it relates to
racism. This apartheid, which is prevalent throughout the occupied
territories, the subjection of the Palestinians to horrible abuse, is caused
by a minority of Israelis -- we're not talking about racism, but talking about
their desire to acquire, to occupy, to confiscate, and then to colonize
Palestinian land. So the whole system is designed to separate through a
ferocious system Israelis who live on Palestine territory and Palestinians who
want to live on their own territory.

In order to have peace, Israel has got to withdraw from the occupied
territories, not just from token withdrawals from a few settlements leaving
about 150 other settlements on Palestinian land.

[I have no fondness for the settlements either, but this surprisingly ignores
the prospect of a territorial swap of those settlement blocs closest to Green
Line Israel for other territory going to the Palestinians, as envisioned in
the Geneva Accord/Initiative -- probably a more realistic basis for peace than
the unlikely scenario of Israeli doves mobilizing the support of a majority of
the electorate to remove all 300-400,000 settlers wholesale. Carter even
attended the gala unveiling of the Geneva Accord, in Switzerland in December
2003. Since a trade of territory is acceptable to prominent Palestinians who
have signed onto Geneva, why is this concept absent from Carter's discussion?]

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... your book comes out at a moment when ... you have the
Israeli prime minister, Mr. Olmert, announcing just yesterday that he is
putting a proposal on the table.

He's saying, "We will give back most of the West Bank...." He's saying, "We
will release prisoners, if there will be a good-faith effort on the part of
the Palestinians." Is this the kind of progress you're looking for?

JIMMY CARTER: I think that's a minor first step, yes, to give back some of
their land. The demand is for them to give back all the land. [Again, if there
are mutually-agreed upon swaps, why "all"? And his underwhelming response to
Olmert's new peace initiative is chilling.]

The United Nations resolutions that apply, the agreements that have been made
at Camp David under me and later at Oslo for which the Israeli leaders
received the Nobel Peace Prizes, was based on Israel's withdrawal from
occupied territories.

And the present only game in town -- that is, the international quartet's road
map -- calls for the withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories. That road
map, by the way, all of the terms of it have been adopted by the Palestinians.
All the major terms of the road map have been rejected officially by the
Israeli government.... [This is news to me. In principle, even Sharon accepted
the road map; where he was blameworthy was in not removing all the "illegal
outposts." Has the Hamas government yet signed onto the road map or any
international agreement concerning Israel?]

JUDY WOODRUFF: But are you dismissing what Mr. Olmert is proposing as of

JIMMY CARTER: Well, the New York Times said it was a non-substantive speech
that didn't bring anything new to the table. I haven't read the entire

But when he says we're going to withdraw from part ... of the land that we're
occupying, and keep the rest, we're going to keep our wall there, which
surrounds the remnant of the Palestinians' land that they're going to be
permitted to live on, where we're going to keep Israeli settlements all over
the land even that the Palestinians will retain, and keep the wall around
Gaza, all of these things need to be changed and not just a token withdrawal
from some of the land that the Israelis have acquired. [Carter speaks of the
"wall" as if it were not a response to hundreds of civilian deaths from terror
attacks; he coldly speaks of Israeli actions as if they were simply malicious
acts which occurred in a vacuum.]

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you're saying it's not nearly enough?

JIMMY CARTER: No, it's not nearly enough, and everybody knows that. In fact
.... a strong majority of the Israeli people all agree that, in order to have
peace, Israel has got to withdraw from the occupied territories, not just ...
from a few settlements....

And as a matter of fact, Hamas, whom everyone criticizes -- the fact is that
Hamas, since August of 2004, has not committed a single act of terrorism that
cost an Israeli life, not a single one.

[This was true only until this past summer, when Hamas participated in that
cross-border raid that not only captured Gilad Shalit but killed two of his
comrades; and they have since participated in rocket attacks, alongside other
groups, which have killed at least two Israeli civilians. This complete
exoneration of Hamas, also leaves out the fact that even as the governing
party in the Palestinian territories, Hamas refused to condemn, let alone act
to prevent, suicide bombings and rocket attacks by other groups during the
time that Hamas was formally holding to its 'Tahidya' (the half-hearted

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Carter, people would listen to what you're saying
here, and they would read your book, and they would say, "He's putting the
onus here on the Israelis." And many would return that by saying, "But wait a
minute. It's the Palestinians who continue to fire rockets into Israeli land.
It's the Palestinians who have kidnapped Israeli soldiers. It's the
Palestinians that continue to perpetuate terrorist acts against the Israelis."

JIMMY CARTER: Sure, that's what you say, and that's the general consensus in
the United States. The fact is that, when the Palestinians dug under the
Israeli wall from Gaza and captured the Israeli soldier, one soldier, at that
time, Israel was holding 9,200 Palestinians prisoner, including 300 children
... some of them 12 years old, and holding almost 100 women prisoner.

And immediately, the Palestinians who took that soldier said, "We want to swap
this soldier for some of our women and children." And the Israelis rejected
that proposal and refused to swap at all with the Palestinians in the West
Bank. That was the key to the issue.

So it's right that the Palestinians took a soldier, which they should release.
But for Israel to keep 9,000 Palestinians and not release any of them is
something that you don't mention in the question, and it's generally not even
known in this country....

[What you don't know from what either Ms. Woodruff or Pres. Carter say here is
that this cross border attack that captured one Israeli soldier also killed
two; this and the fact of eight deaths in the initial attack from Lebanon this
past summer, is largely lost in the public memory because newscasters are
constantly referring to "kidnapped" soldiers and not those killed.]

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what would you say, President Carter, to the Israeli public
who would, again, listen to what you're saying, and they would say, "Wait a
minute. You're asking us to put our faith in a people, in a government that
doesn't even recognize our right to exist?" Isn't that the posture of the
Hamas government and the Palestinian territories?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, we were there -- the Carter Center was there, and we
monitored the election in January when Hamas did win a victory. They won 42
[actually, 44] percent of the vote. It was an open, free, fair, safe election,
as certified by the Carter Center, and National Democratic Institute, and the
European Union observers. Nobody questioned the integrity of it.

That was an expression of will by the Palestinian people on whom they wanted
to serve in their parliament. Well, at that time, I thought that this would be
a matter of a unity government. But immediately, the United States and Israel
said, "We will not accept a government that has Hamas leaders in it."

And so, as a result of that, all financial aid to the entire population of
Palestine was cut off just because they expressed their will in a free vote.
And as a matter of fact, Hamas, whom everyone criticizes -- the fact is that
Hamas, since August of 2004, has not committed a single act of terrorism that
cost an Israeli life, not a single one. [As if the cross-border raid of June
did not happen, as if two Israeli civilians were not killed in Sderot in the
past weeks.]

JUDY WOODRUFF: I think many Americans would be surprised to hear that.

JIMMY CARTER: I know. They would be surprised, but it's an actual fact. And

A majority of Israelis, in every public opinion poll that's been done since
1967, have favored exchanging the confiscated Palestinian land for peace.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about not recognizing Israel's right to exist?

JIMMY CARTER: 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....

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

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."

Those things are not even known in this country; they're a matter of record.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you're saying that, if the U.S. doesn't get involved,

JIMMY CARTER: Then there won't be much progress. You know, it's been proven in
the past that some outside group needs to get involved. And in 1978 and '79, I
got involved and negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and its only
formidable opponent, that is Egypt.

In 2003, the Norwegians concluded an agreement, the Oslo Agreement. In both
cases, the Israeli leaders won the Nobel Peace Prize for adopting the
principles that Israel would withdraw from the territory in order to get
peace. That has been abandoned now under the last three leaders of Israel.

[This last point was true of Sharon, but both Netanyahu and Barak, as prime
ministers, negotiated on the basis of land for peace; in fact, the last
successful negotiated withdrawal-- from most of Hebron in 1997-- was
implemented under Netanyahu.]

And as I said earlier, a majority of Israelis, in every public opinion poll
that's been done since 1967, have favored exchanging the confiscated
Palestinian land for peace. But there's a small minority in Israel, a
substantial minority, that says we would prefer the land, and we will not
relinquish it in order to get peace....

JUDY WOODRUFF: [A] Very quick final question about Iraq. Can you have peace in
Iraq without fixing the Israeli-Palestinian problem, or is it vice versa? Do
you must -- you first need to fix Iraq?

JIMMY CARTER: There is no way to separate the two. President Bush is over
there now trying to harness supporters among the moderate Arabs. He just was
in Jordan, and in Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and others that I need not name
right now.

To get them to support us enthusiastically in Iraq means that he's going to
have to alleviate their deep concern and their animosity -- with less than
five percent of Jordanians and Egyptians looking with favor on our
government -- because the main obstacle for their full support of the United
States now in Iraq and other places is because we have not shown any interest
for the last six years in alleviating the horrible plight of the Palestinians.

[This is an exaggeration. US diplomacy is complicated by the ongoing conflict
with the Palestinians, and it surely helps in Jihadist recruitment efforts,
but there is no way that peace with the Palestinians is going to end the
conflict in Iraq.]

We've made no effort in the last six years to bring peace to Israel or to
their adjacent neighbors, the Palestinians.... [I concur with Carter on this
final point.]

Ralph Seliger is editor of both the Meretz USA Weblog and of ISRAEL HORIZONS, its quarterly magazine.

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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