PALESTINE PEACE NOT APARTHEID
by Jimmy Carter.
264 pp. Simon and Schuster. $27.
This "strange little book" as Ethan Bronner described it in the New York Times, requires a long review. It is like no book about the Middle East that I ever read, and probably like no book that you ever read. Consequently, it must be described in detail.
We cannot say that Jimmy Carter's book is "like" a conventional anti-Israel diatribe, or the account of a "New Historian" like Benny Morris. It is made differently and it has a different "feel" and different assumptions. If an American reads the history of the United States as recorded by a fairly hostile visitor from Alpha Centauri, it might feel the same to them as this book feels to me. The book has been so vilified and lauded, and the author is held in such high personal repute, that any assertions made about it must be meticulously backed by quotes and research.
The title of the book manifests a gross error in judgment. Carter chose to use a slogan that has been popularized by anti-Zionists who want to delegitimize Zionism and destroy the state of Israel. However, there is no evidence in this book that Jimmy Carter is an anti-Semite or an anti-Zionist, though he seems to lack awareness of Jewish national claims and the accomplishments of the Zionist movement. In parts of the book, he manifests an earnest and abiding love for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. That is incompatible with the systematic distortions and biased reportage in other parts of the book. The book is full of omissions, incorrect statements and bizarre interludes. Carter is earnest in the manner of a Christian missionary. He is so earnest, and radiates such profound religious convictions, but tells so many fibs, that while reading the book, I was often tempted to say out loud, "Jimmy Carter, didn't your Mama teach you that it's a sin to lie?"
Curiously, points that were glaringly apparent to me seem to have been missed by many of the most critical reviewers. Jews seem to have been critical of the book in a way that is not understood by non-Jews, for reasons that may become apparent from understanding Mr. Carter's approach.
Part of the strangeness of this book is apparently the underlying world view and approach. Mr. Carter's approach is not that of a Nobel prize winning statesman and ex-president who wrestled with the intricacies of geopolitics, brokered a meta-historical peace treaty and gave his name to a prestigious think tank and peace NGO. Whether he really believes it, or whether it is a device he uses to communicate with and convince his audience, Carter presents the whole question from a Christian religious perspective. "Palestine," not Israel, is mentioned in the title. Jesus is mentioned five times in this book, Herzl -- not once.
Carter writes of the security fence:
...an especially heartbreaking division is on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples, and very near Bethany, where they often visited Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus... (p. 194)
As a testament of faith it is touching. As a rhetorical device, it is devastating. How can one object to this sacred testimony in terms of mundane concerns such as suicide bombings and auto thefts?
Carter makes claims that are diametrically opposed to the historical record, as far as can be ascertained from public documents and from statements and books by ex-President Bill Clinton, by Dennis Ross and by others. Carter provides no documentation for any of his assertions, many of which are inexcusable on any grounds. According to Carter, Transjordan (72% of the area of the Palestine mandate) was created in "remote desert regions." He writes that Lebanon, which is at war with Israel, is "neutral as between Israel and Syria." He tells us that Shebaa farms has been considered part of Lebanon since 1924, but the UN did not find any evidence to support that statement, and Lebanese army maps from 1966 show Shebaa farms in Syria. Carter quotes Yasir Arafat uncritically when he says that the PLO never sought to kick the Jews out of Israel, contradicting the published text of the 1968 PLO Charter, as well as public declarations by PLO leaders. Carter never points out the error. On the other hand, when writing about the Israeli security fence, Carter calls it a "segregation wall" and shows various fictive plans and proposed routes without giving any direct sources for his "information." In discussing the final peace negotiations in 2000, Carter relies exclusively on Palestinian sources apparently, and ignores the published text of President Clinton's Bridging Proposal, as well as maps and explanations of Dennis Ross. He never tells us where he gets his information. Almost anyone with a nodding acquaintance of the Middle East could write a more balanced and more thorough account of the issues and history. Many of the detailed facts he relates about the Israeli occupation and the security fence might be true, but how can anyone believe any of his undocumented assertions, given that so much of his "information" is demonstrably false?
Continued (with maps and detials at http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000348.html Peace not apartheid - The definitive guide
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