Blue and White

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jimmy Carter And His Book

Ok, I had decided not to write about it. Why? Because I did not want to get into a controversial issue as such, especially after reading this review from my conservative friends. But watching Walter Mondale and Jimmy Carter on CNN somehow made me change my mind. Anyway, I read recently, during the holidays, the book of Jimmy Carter. And below, I write what I think of it.

Before you read further, and as a general disclaimer, I am a very strong supporter of Israel. Despite being very very liberal (as you probably already noticed), I am in favor of unilateral separation of populations in that area. I believe that Israel is doing the right thing building the wall. That view clearly contradicts the view of Jimmy Carter. Why do I think that? Only because there is zero chance for peace there unless there is complete separation of the populations. History has shown again and again in other instances that you can not have peace after such prolonged and extensive bloodshed, unless the different ethnic groups are separated. And lets not forget that the main opponent of Israel there now is Hamas. A group of fanatic islamic fundamentalists who do not hessistate to use suicide bombers to attack civilians in Israel. So what should Israel do? The only way out of this was to separate the populations and control better who gets in and out of Jewish areas. That was the only rational thing to do and Israel did that effectively. Thats why the terrorist/suicide bombing acts in Israel have decreased dramatically.

Now, let me simply say that I did not think Carter's book was that bad. Although I have some significant disagreements with the title and some of his views, I believe that it is an interesting book, probably worth reading. The major problem of the book is the word "Apartheid" in the title. I think that the use of this word is unfortunate. Technically, the term may be in some ways correct, as as Carter writes in his book "... there is a system of partial withdrawal, enapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories". However, as Carter himself knows well, Israel and the Israelis have nothing to do with South Africa and racism. The only reason things are like that is because there is an ongoing war WITHIN Israel. Carter believes that this has to do with "acquisition of land". Anyway, Carter makes it clear in his book that this is a very different "apartheid" than the South African apartheid (something that his critics deliberately fail to mention). I think that Carter intentionally picked that title, in order to create controversy and bring attention to the problem.

Thee are 2 key questions relating to this book: 1. Is this book anti-Israel? 2. Is Carter himself anti-Israel or antisemitic (!!) as some in the far right accuse him to be? Here is what I think:

Question #1: NO. This book summarizes Carter's experience in dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a president of the USA and afterwards. There is no question that the book is critical of several decisions of the Israeli goverments. Does that make the book anti-Israel? Of course not. Let me give you another example. During the recent war between Hezbollah and Israel, many Israelis were critical of the Israeli army. Many thought that the Israeli army did not do a good job. And they were right. The Israeli army should have moved much faster in Lebanon and not rely for a while on air bombings. They should have also avoided some stupid blunders, like the bombing of the UN post. Does that criticism make anyone who says it, anti-Israel? Of course not. In fact the chief of the Israeli army recently resigned over such criticisms. In a similar way, the criticisms in Carter's book do not have a hidden anti-Israeli message. I believe that they are friendly criticisms.

Question#2: NO. Accusing Jimmy Carter as being anti-Israel or even antisemitic (!!!) is beyond ridiculous. Jimmy Carter was the ONLY US president who was able to broker peace between Israel and an arab country (Egypt). Would someone like Menachem Begin trust Carter and work with him if he were anti-Israel? Of course not. During the CNN interview, Walter Mondale who is well-known to be VERY pro-Israel and was the VP of Carter, said that although he had some issues with the book, he was proud to work with Carter then and that his administration did much more for the security of Israel than any other administration. Carter is not anti-Israel. He attempts to be objective. That does not mean, of course, that whatever he writes is right.

I disagree with Carter on this issue. He seems to put the blame for the failure of peace over the years, primarily to the Israelis. I dont think thats the case. Anyway, I believe that the only motivation he has is to bring peace in the region. As it is mentioned in this article entitled "An Israeli Defense of Jimmy Carter", : " Carter, (is) a longtime friend of Israel and the Jewish people".

Whether you agree or disagree with him, Jimmy Carter is a person of the highest integrity, with the highest moral values. I only wish there were more people like him.