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Carter and Makdisi: cut from the same cloth

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December 30, 2006

Carter and Makdisi: cut from the same cloth

Rachel Neuwirth
Saree Makdisi , a Comparative English Literature professor at UCLA, wrote an article in support of former President Jimmy Carter's accusation of Israel as an apartheid state.  There is an eerie consistency in Makdisi's ideas and writing style.  His anchor point is always the indisputable validity of all Palestinian grievances.  To buttress this profession of faith, he shapes his own set of facts in the belief that his argumentation would gain him a few converts.  From selective facts to out of context facts, from distorted facts all the way through invented facts, Makdisi never shies away from the most egregious concoctions. He now finds an ally in former President Jimmy Carter, a master of fact fabrication.  It is not clear whether the discredited master needs all the help he can get to stem the downfall of his respectability, or whether the academic, in a desperate quest for credibility, resorts to " testimonial", a device well known to all propagandists.

The last refuge of the scoundrel is now the alliance with celebrities, no matter how far down these celebrities have fallen in disrepute.  A cursory look at the "facts" which, in Makdisi's view, support Carter's characterization of Israel as an apartheid society reveal the vacuity of the whole argumentation.

"Separate roads for Palestinians and Israelis"?  Certainly justified when Israeli motorists became regular targets of Arab gunmen.  "Army checkpoints"?  After dozens of potential suicide bombers were stopped at these checkpoints, it would be criminal to dismantle them.  "Closure and curfews"?  When the shielding of murderers among the Palestinian civilian population proved to be their standard modus operandi, closure and curfews turned out to be an efficient way to check the bloodshed.  "Closed military areas"?  Aren't those areas normally closed to civilians, especially in times of unrest?  "Different sets of rules for Jews and non-Jews in the West Bank"?  To put it mildly, Jews are not suicide-bombers!

Makdisi then oversteps Carter's criticism of Israel by denying that non-Jews "are given the same treatment under the law."  There are two sides to this issue.  First, Israeli law grants the same civil and religious rights to all its citizens.  Israeli Arabs are represented at some of the highest levels in parliament, in the judiciary and in various diplomatic positions.  Makdisi, of course, never alludes to that, nor does he mention the present state of affairs in the Arab world, which is light years behind the Israeli democracy.  Second, there are also many prominent Israeli Arabs, and a growing number of their followers, whose sole objective is to destabilize or destroy the State of Israel.  Among those are  a) the Islamists: Ibrahim Sarsur, who believes that "the Judaization of the state threatens [the Muslims]", and Sheikh Raed Salah who ignites the Muslim masses by urging them to "save Jerusalem from the hands of the Jews"; and  b) politicians such as MK Azmi Bishara who openly consorts with Israel's enemies and lavishes praise on them.  Demanding that these disloyal citizens benefit from equal treatment is preposterous not only in Israel but in any self-respecting democracy around the world.  Mr. Makdisi should understand that citizenship is not a right, but a privilege accorded to those who are prepared to assume their responsibilities.  These elementary nuances are obviously foreign to Makdisi's line of thought.

He further shows his callous ignorance when he proclaims that Israel should revert from being "the state of Jewish people" and turn into "the state of its actual citizens."  Since its inception, Israel has been the nation-state of the Jewish people.  This is and always will be the essence of Zionism, notwithstanding the extension of Israeli citizenship to 20% of its population which is essentially Arab, provided they respect the Jewish character of the state.  In that regard, comparing Israel to the United States is ludicrous, since the U.S. never had the vocation of a nation-state.  Rather than condemning what he calls "the indefensible", Makdisi should refrain from obscuring the perfectly understandable.  The indignation expressed by Makdisi should be directed to the real "apartheid" prevailing in Palestinian society where not a single Jewish community is tolerated and where its non-Muslim Arabs are being persecuted to the point of near extinction.  Again, this projection onto others of the actual failings within seems to be a staple of Makdisi's discourse.

Carter and Makdisi deserve each other.  These two Siamese minds will not recoil at any distortion to push their dubious agenda.  In light of the justified uproar that Carter generated in the wake of his latest publication, one wonders about Makdisi's staunch support.  When the Titanic was sinking, everyone was eager to jump ship.  No smart person would cling to what was bound to become a wreck, regardless of the impressive "Titanic" emblazoned on the stern.  There are many lifeboats, with the name "Truth" more modestly written on their bow, that would save Mr. Makdisi's reputation, should he decide to abandon the imposing darkness of the hull to which he desperately clings.  Many years ago, President Carter was as respectable as the Titanic was unsinkable.  But since his fateful encounter with Yasser Arafat and his stubbornly blind course on the Palestinian issue, a moral gash has affected his stature.  This has been obvious for some time, in spite of his steady cohort of admiring followers.  But his latest book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, signed his demise.  He will be the last one on board, perhaps with Makdisi at his side, trying to convince himself of those unsinkable ideas that can no longer float.

There is one inadvertent truth in the last sentence of Makdisi's article.  He writes "And the main lesson of Carter's book is that we have finally reached that limit."  The limit, according to the author, is the "cover up" of all the purported abuses that Israel inflicts on the Palestinians.  I wish he could see the real limit in Carter's book:  the peddling of falsehoods that insult the intelligence of a public which is far more acquainted with the truth than both Carter and Makdisi think.

Salomon Benzimra contributed to this article

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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