Jimmy Carter on Israel versus True Support of Hatred

I have avoided comments on the controversy surrounding Jimmy Carter’s recent book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid as I have not had a chance to read it yet and I felt a close examination of what Carter is saying might be necessary in order to fully evaluate Carter’s position. Since the book has come out I have read a number of attacks on Carter for being “anti-Israel.” I have also seen a few responses from Carter, including a statement released Friday which ends as follows:

I am familiar with the extreme acts of violence that have been perpetrated against innocent civilians, and understand the fear among many Israelis that threats against their safety and even their existence as a nation still exist. I reiterated my strong condemnation of any such acts of terrorism. When asked my proposals for peace in the Middle East, I summarized by calling for Hamas members and all other Palestinians to renounce violence and adopt the same commitment made by the Arab nations in 2002: the full recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace within its legally recognized 1967 borders (to be modified by mutual agreement by land swaps). This would comply with U.N. Resolutions, the official policy of the United States, commitments made at Camp David in 1978 and in Oslo in 1993, and the premises of the International Quartet’s “Roadmap for Peace.” An immediate step would be the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, now absent for six years. President Mahmoud Abbas is the official spokesman for the Palestinians, as head of the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and has repeatedly called for peace talks. I asked the rabbis to join in an effort to induce the Israeli government to comply with this proposal.

In addition, I pointed out that the Palestinian people were being deprived of the necessities of life by economic restrictions imposed on them by Israel and the United States because 42% had voted for Hamas candidates in the most recent election. Teachers, nurses, policemen, firemen, and other employees are not being paid, and the U.N. has reported that food supplies in Gaza are equivalent to those among the poorest families in sub-Sahara Africa with half the families surviving on one meal a day. My other request was that American Jewish citizens help to alleviate their plight.

The chairman of the group, Rabbi Andrew Straus, then suggested that I make clear to all American Jews that my use of “apartheid” does not apply to circumstances within Israel, that I acknowledge the deep concern of Israelis about the threat of terrorism and other acts of violence from some Palestinians, and that the majority of Israelis sincerely want a peaceful existence with their neighbors. The purpose of this letter is to reiterate these points.

We then held hands in a circle while one of the rabbis prayed, I autographed copies of my book as requested, and Chaplain (Colonel) Rabbi Bonnie Koppell gave me a prayer book.

I have spent a great deal of my adult life trying to bring peace to Israel, and my own prayer is that all of us who want to see Israelis enjoy permanent peace with their neighbors join in this common effort.

Reading statements such as this from Carter cause me do doubt the reliability of those who are characterizing his book as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic. I have no doubt that there are disturbing things going on in the West Bank and Gaza, regardless of the underlying problems which brought about the current situation. After I read Carter’s full views in his book I may wind up agreeing or disagreeing with him on specifics, but I doubt that his view is either anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.

There are far bigger problems for Jews than someone not being one hundred percent in support of all of Israel’s policies. The Telegraph reports on hate crimes in Great Britain, noting that “Jewish people are four times more likely to be attacked because of their religion than Muslims, according to figures compiled by the police.” Of course the issue here is hatred, not the comparison between crimes committed against Jews or Muslims. I wonder if the numbers would be different in the United States, where there has been a considerable amount of anti-Muslim sentiment promoted since 9/11. I already note some conservative blogs are using these numbers to excuse their anti-Muslim bias.

The problem is not whether someone like Carter questions some Israeli policies, but the expression of hatred itself–regadless of who it is expressed against. Expressions of hatred must be opposed regardless of whether they are expressed at ourselves or others. There was a fascinating story on This American Life this week entitled Shouting Across the Divide. A Palestinian woman tells the story of how her daughter was ostracized in school after a book was used on the anniversary of 9/11 which blamed Muslims for 9/11 and characterized all Muslims as an enemy who hates our way of life. They protested to the school board but received little support (until the Justice Department got involved). She was the only practicing Muslim in the school and therefore she was told that nobody else expressed opposition to the teachings. While I was disturbed by many elements in the story, one aspect was that there was no opposition from anyone else and it was just assumed that only those personally attacked would have reason to object. Obviously outrage over a text which promotes hatred should not be limited to the group which is under attack, and I would certainly object if such anti-Muslim attitudes were taught in the local schools.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    oncall says:

    Ron,

    Thank-you for posting President Carter’s comments. Your committment to an even handed discussion of Israeli and Arab issues is so important. I have seen too many sites allow anti-Semitic comments to go unchallenged. Yes, there is a big difference between anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli. Interesingly many Israelis don’t practice Judaism, but live in a Jewish state.

    Many people easily fall into into anti-Semitic rants when they really mean to oppose Israeli policy. Jimmy Carter is not anti-semitic, Mel Gibson is.

    As regards to holocaust denials. What better way to eliminate Israel’s raison d’etre if one can convince others that the holocaust never happened?

  2. 2
    KerryDemocrat says:

    I tend to ignore in general the opinions of those that are expressed via name calling, or labeling, as that is an indication of one being lazy and not taking the time to fully understand one’s viewpoint. To call Jimmy Carter antisemitic is laughable, except that for those who are too young to remember, it becomes easy to adopt a viewpoint of Carter as antisemitic through that same laziness and unwillingness to ‘do the work’ required to actually know what someone is talking about.

    This is the same, constant fight that is fought over whether or not the holocaust actually happened. Of course, it happened! Do the homework.

    Carter’s book is a valiant attempt at focusing the world on resolving the conflict of conflicts in the middle east, and one that becomes critical to truly fostering democracy and peace in the middle east, and if that means calling out those who are fostering wrongheaded policies, then so be it.

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