This article attempts to summarize and illustrate selected notable representative critical reaction to and commentary on the book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006) by former president Jimmy Carter, which has been highly controversial. The reception of the book has itself raised further controversy, occasioning Carter's own subsequent responses to such criticism.
The book is causing an uproar among those in America who consider themselves as "friends of Israel," for one thing because of its title: "Palestine - Peace Not Apartheid." . . . Predictably, some are accusing Carter of anti-Semitism. Carter is closely following the responses, including on the Internet, and responding to his critics. He is prepared to lecture for free about his views –– but Jews don't want to hear, he complains. An Israeli reader won't find anything more in the book than is written in the newspapers here every day. . . . One reason the book is outraging "friends of Israel" in America is that it requires them to reformulate their friendship: If they truly want what's good for Israel, they must call on it to rid itself of the territories. People don't like to admit that they've erred; therefore, they're angry at Carter."
Raja Shehadeh, a lawyer and author, including of Occupier’s Law: Israel and the West Bank, a "founding member" of the Al Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the legal team which argued the case against the barrier at the International Court at the Hague, regards Palestine Peace Not Apartheid as a "fresh debate" on Israel's policies in the West Bank. In his book review, which he gives a five star rating to in the California Literary Review', he relates the book to his own experience:
From the point of view of a Palestinian who has suffered the consequence of Israel’s policy of building settlements and seen promises, pressures and governments come and go in Israel and the US, the one constant in life is that more settlements get established and the existing ones are expanded. Thus Carter’s [point of view], [his] "provocation" to the American public and government into discussing their blind support of Israel’s criminal behavior towards the Palestinians and their country and stopping their real financial and political support for the illegal settlements, is long overdue. The facts speak for themselves and the effect of the Israeli policy on Palestine and on prospects of peace in the region is disastrous.Shehadeh believes that "With his well documented book and its provocative title, Carter is working to achieve 'one of the major goals of [his] life' as he makes clear at the outset of his book: 'to help ensure a lasting peace for Israelis and others in the Middle East.'
In his article of December 23, 2006 in the London Independent, Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, a resident of Beirut, Lebanon for the past twenty-five years, declares that the book is "a good, strong read by the only American president approaching sainthood," adding: "Needless to say, the American press and television largely ignored the appearance of this eminently sensible book - until the usual Israeli lobbyists began to scream abuse at poor old Jimmy Carter, albeit that he was the architect of the longest lasting peace treaty between Israel and an Arab neighbour - Egypt - secured with the famous 1978 Camp David accords.
This book offers a historical overview in the form of a personal memoir, tracing developments since the 1970s as Carter experienced and understood them. He may thus be said to be both a source for the historian and himself a historian of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. This little book merits a reading on both counts. Carter concludes that "Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land." That statement, so out of line with the way mainstream American political figures (even those retired from public office) frame the issue, ensures that the book will be attacked by many. Perhaps it will be read as well.
Writing in The Nation on November 20, 2006, Michael F. Brown, a fellow at The Palestine Center of The Jerusalem Fund, a non-profit organization working to raise funds to the aid of Palestinian people, and former executive director of Partners for Peace and Washington correspondent for Middle East International, characterizes the book's title as "extraordinarily bold--and apt" and suggests: "Perhaps President Carter should send copies of his book to members of Congress. . . . [so that] they might learn a thing or two about the long-festering conflict at the heart of so many of our current troubles in the region."
On December 5, 2006, in the The Arab American News, a weekly bilingual newspaper representing Arab Americans published in Dearborn, Michigan, Sherri Muzher, Palestinian-American director of Michigan Media Watch, an organization aimed at "Combating bias in Michigan's media by promoting accurate, factual and balanced coverage of the Middle East," writes: "Nobody expects instant miracles to come from Carter’s book, but hopefully, it will spark the sort of robust discussions that even Israeli society and media already engage in.
As posted in TomPaine.com, an "online public affairs journal of progressive analysis and commentary," on December 6, 2006, Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, calls Carter "the only president to have actually delivered for the Jewish people an agreement (the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt) that has stood the test of time." He continues: "We know that critique is often an essential part of love and caring. That is precisely what Jimmy Carter is trying to do for Israel and the Jewish people in his new book". He further stresses that "Carter does not claim that Israel is an apartheid state. What he does claim is that the West Bank will be a de facto apartheid situation if the current dynamics . . . continue."
In his column published in the Toronto Sun on December 15, 2006, Canadian labour union leader Sid Ryan writes: "Former U.S. president Carter is just the latest world figure to openly challenge the policies of Israel in Gaza and the West Bank. He joins Rev. Desmond Tutu, another Nobel Prize winner. Each time a trade union or church group or world leader steps forward to break the cone of silence around this issue, the more difficult it becomes for the lobby groups to spew their propaganda.
Ali Abunimah, co-founder and editor of the Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan, 2006), begins his editorial on the book published in the Wall Street Journal on December 28, 2006:
President Carter has done what few American politicians have dared to do: speak frankly about the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has done this nation, and the cause of peace, an enormous service by focusing attention on what he calls "the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine's citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank."Calling Carter "the most successful Arab-Israeli peace negotiator to date," Abunimah praises him for having "braved a storm of criticism, including the insinuation from the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League that his arguments are anti-Semitic.
Israeli Knesset member Yossi Beilin, the current leader of Meretz-Yachad, a left-wing social democratic party allied with the Israeli peace camp, writes in The Forward of January 19, 2007, that, while he "disagreed . . . mostly with the choice of language, including his choice of the word 'apartheid' . . . what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories — and perhaps no less important, how he says it — is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves."
On the face of it, the two regimes are very different.... Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial discrimination that the white minority in South Africa employed to maintain power over the black majority.... In principle, the purpose of military occupation is different from that of apartheid. It is not designed as a long-term oppressive regime but as an interim measure that maintains law and order in a territory following an armed conflict and pending a peace settlement. But this is not the nature of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since 1967 Israel has imposed its control over the Palestinian territories in the manner of a colonizing power, under the guise of occupation. It has permanently seized the territories' most desirable parts — the holy sites in East Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem and the fertile agricultural lands along the western border and in the Jordan Valley — and settled its own Jewish "colonists" throughout the land.
Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories has many features of colonization. At the same time it has many of the worst characteristics of apartheid.... Many aspects of Israel's occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel's large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites....
In the London Financial Times, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Agency (NSA) advisor to President Carter and current professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agrees with the main thesis of the book:
President Carter, in my judgement, is correct in fearing that the absence of a fair and mutually acceptable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to produce a situation which de facto will resemble apartheid: i.e., two communities living side by side but repressively separated, with one enjoying prosperity and seizing the lands of the other, and the other living in poverty and deprivation. That is an outcome which must be avoided and I interpret his book as a strong plea for accommodation, which needs to be actively promoted by morally responsible engagement especially by America.Brzezinski also condemns the "abusive reactions directed at [President Carter], including some newspaper ads" for being "objectionable and designed to intimidate an open public discussion."
UCLA professor of English literature Saree Makdisi, a frequent commentator on the Middle East, writes, in the San Francisco Chronicle, that "Carter's apartheid charge rings true," observing: "Israel maintains two sets of rules and regulations in the West Bank: one for Jews, one for non-Jews. The only thing wrong with using the word 'apartheid' to describe such a repugnant system is that the South African version of institutionalized discrimination was never as elaborate as its Israeli counterpart--nor did it have such a vocal chorus of defenders among otherwise liberal Americans.
In an essay published in The Nation (issue of 22 Jan. 2007, posted online 4 Jan. 2007), Henry Siegman, a former senior fellow and director for the U.S./Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations, former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, and visiting professor in the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, begins by observing that the "book's title more than its content" caused an "uproar" even prior to publication, because it "seemed to suggest that the avatar of democracy in the Middle East may be on its way to creating a political order that resembles South Africa's apartheid model of discrimination and repression, albeit on ethnic-religious rather than racial grounds" and provoked such controversy due to "the ignorance of the American political establishment, both Democrat and Republican, on the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict"; in Siegman's view: "Carter's harsh condemnation of Israeli policies in the occupied territories is not the consequence of ideology or of an anti-Israel bias. . . . Accusations by Alan Dershowitz and others that Carter is indifferent to Israel's security only prove that no good deed goes unpunished.
Norman Finkelstein, an assistant professor of political science at DePaul University and author of numerous books relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict and anti-Semitism such as Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995), The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years (1998), The Holocaust Industry (2003), and Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (2005), defends Carter's analysis in Palestine Peace Not Apartheid as (in his view) both historically accurate and non-controversial outside the United States: "After four decades of Israeli occupation, the infrastructure and superstructure of apartheid have been put in place. Outside the never-never land of mainstream American Jewry and U.S. media[,] this reality is barely disputed." In claiming the apartheid comparison "is a commonplace among informed commentators", Finkelstein cited such a comparison by historian Benny Morris, a widely quoted scholar on the Arab-Israeli conflict (whom Finkelstein has also fiercely criticized in other contexts). Morris responded to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America that "Norman Finkelstein is a notorious distorter of facts and of my work, not a serious or honest historian. ... As to the occupied territories, Israeli policy is fueled by security considerations (whether one agrees with them or not, or with all the specific measures adopted at any given time) rather than racism (though, to be sure, there are Israelis who are motivated by racism in their attitude and actions towards Arabs) — and indeed the Arab population suffers as a result. But Gaza's and the West Bank's population (Arabs) are not Israeli citizens and cannot expect to benefit from the same rights as Israeli citizens so long as the occupation or semi-occupation (more accurately) continues, which itself is a function of the continued state of war between the Hamas-led Palestinians (and their Syrian and other Arab allies) and Israel.
George Bisharat, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, begins his "Commentary" on the book in The Philadelphia Inquirer of January 2, 2007: "Americans owe a debt to former President Jimmy Carter for speaking long hidden but vital truths. His book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid breaks the taboo barring criticism in the United States of Israel's discriminatory treatment of Palestinians. Our government's tacit acceptance of Israel's unfair policies causes global hostility against us."
To start with, no one has yet thought to accuse Israel of creating a phony country in finally acquiescing to the creation of a Palestinian state. Palestine is no Bantustan... Furthermore, Israel has always had Arab citizens.... No doubt many Israelis have racist attitudes toward Arabs, but the official philosophy of the government is quite the opposite, and sincere efforts are made to, for example, instill humanitarian and egalitarian attitudes in children. That is not true, of course, in Arab countries, where hatred of Jews is a standard part of the curriculum.
Citing what he calls "the most tragic difference," Kinsley concludes: "If Israel is white South Africa and the Palestinians are supposed to be the blacks, where is their Mandela?
Yes, there are two sides to every dispute, and heaven knows the Palestinian people have suffered throughout the past six decades, but Carter apes the Palestinian position and calls it evenhandedness.Lowry feels the "book marks Carter’s further disgraceful descent from ineffectual president and international do-gooder to apologist for the worst Arab tendencies", citing a passage from the book. Lowry criticizes Carter's idea that America lacks discussion about Israel, saying that media outlets have been "replete with criticisms of the Jewish state." In regards to comments about the pro-Israel lobby, Lowry writes: "He apparently believes that if only the Palestinian Authority had better lobbyists, then members of Congress would flock to the cause of this chaotic, corrupt, terrorist-supporting excuse for a governmental entity.
Carter, like all Israel bashers, proclaims his courage. Please. It takes courage to criticize Israel? The world is teeming with Israel-haters. No other nation in the world — not Russia, not Saudi Arabia, not Cuba — is the subject of so much concentrated calumny. In Europe,... Israel is cursed not just among the rabble but at elegant dinner parties and embassy soirees. And while it’s true that in the United States, Israel enjoys high levels of support, it is also routinely castigated (and nearly always by people who imagine they are defying some powerful cabal).Charen presents examples of what she regards as "simplistic, naïve, or tendentious" ideas in the book about the Six-Day War, Hezbollah, and Oslo Accords.
In "Jews, Arabs and Jimmy Carter," published in the New York Times Book Review of January 7, 2007, deputy foreign editor of The New York Times Ethan Bronner, draws attention to what he describes as "the narrowness of Carter’s perspective," and argues that Carter fails to highlight legitimate objections to Israel's current policies in the course of "simply offer[ing] a narrative that is largely unsympathetic to Israel" while engaging in some "misrepresentations . . . [which] are a shame because most of what Carter focuses on is well worth reading about." To Bronner, "Carter's picture feels like yesterday’s story, especially since Israel’s departures from southern Lebanon and Gaza have not stopped anti-Israel violence from those areas. . . . This book has something of a Rip van Winkle feel to it, as if little had changed since Carter diagnosed the problem in the 1970s." Despite his own disagreements with aspects of the book and his acknowledgment that Carter overstates his case in it, Bronner finds that others have criticized the book "unfairly": "Their biggest complaint against the book — a legitimate one — is the word "apartheid" in the title, with its false echo of the racist policies of the old South Africa. But overstatement hardly adds up to anti-Semitism." In contrast, Bronner's own concern is with what he calls "another subtler issue . . . [which] has to do with Carter’s religious focus," which Bronner thinks leads to Carter's "tone deafness about Israel and Jews." After relating an "episode" involving Carter and Golda Meir to illustrate differences between her and today's "leaders of the religious Zionist parties who consider the West Bank not a Palestinian area where Jews once lived, but their God-given birthright that must not be yielded," Bronner concludes: "Carter never tells us how he squares his notions of God’s punishment of secular Jews with the policies of such devout politicians."
In "Jimmy Carter's Legacy of Failure", published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Cinnamon Stillwell is critical of Palestine Peace Not Apartheid and Carter's past approach to foreign policy. Pointing out Carter's explanations of "the inflammatory title," Stillwell says: "When an author concedes that his chosen title is inaccurate, it calls into question the entire premise of his book." She calls Carter's depiction of the Israeli attitudes on giving land for peace to be "laughable.... Successive administrations, whether under Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon or now Ehud Olmert, have offered or given up territory, only to be met with increased aggression." She argues that Carter's efforts in the Middle East can continue to be "largely ineffective and in the long run incredibly damaging" considering Carter's "apparent fondness of Hamas" and "cozy relationship with Palestinian dictator Yasser Arafat." Finding Carter responsible for "some of the major challenges" in the world, including "his botched approach to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 inspired Islamic terrorists all over the world, culminating in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," Stillwell includes the book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid in "the pantheon of propaganda.
The Economist reviewed Palestine Peace Not Apartheid and found it to be "a weak one, simplistic and one-sided ... Israeli expansionism gets the drubbing it deserves; Arab rejectionism gets off much too lightly.
In "What Would Jimmy Do?" (subtitled: "A Former President Puts the Onus for Resolving the Mideast Conflict on the Israelis"), published in the Washington Post Book World, staff writer for The New Yorker Jeffrey Goldberg, a native of New York who moved to Israel while in college, took Israeli citizenship, and served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a prison guard during the First Intifada describes Carter as a "partisan of the Palestinians" who has offered a "notably benign view of Hamas" and who, he alleges, creates "sins to hang around the necks of Jews when no sins have actually been committed" as Carter "blames Israel almost entirely for perpetuating the hundred-year war between Arab and Jew." The featuring of this book review by Goldberg as one of three "editorial reviews" listed with the book by Amazon.com has raised a "campaign" to boycott the online retailer by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), which has alleged that Goldberg is "biased" and "hostile against Carter's viewpoint," demanding that the review be moved to "'See all Editorial Reviews' page" by January 22, 2007.
In "The Question of Carter's Cash", Claudia Rosett writes, "Even in Carter's long history of post-presidential grandstanding, this book sets fresh standards of irresponsibility. Purporting to give a balanced view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Carter effectively shrugs off such highly germane matters as Palestinian terrorism. The hypocrisies are boundless, and include adoring praise of the deeply oppressive, religiously intolerant Saudi regime side by side with condemnations of democratic Israel." Rosett, the journalist who exposed the corruption behind the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food Programme, "follows" Carter's reception of money.
And it's not just that [Carter] admired Hafez Assad, admired him more than any other political leader--Carter called him a "statesman"-- in the region. Or that he always had good words to say about Arafat. Or that he now has good words to say about Hamas. He almost never has a sympathetic or empathetic word to say about the Jewish state... But if anybody else is killed in the area it is the fault of the Israelis. Even the suicide bombers are the fault of the Israelis. And the arms smugglers. Plus the rocket wielders... It shows just how silly he is ... and malicious. And ignorant, since it also proves that he knows next to nothing about what apartheid was like in South Africa.
In an opinion piece in The Australian, lesbian self-proclaimed Muslim activist Irshad Manji states, "To be sure, I've long admired the former US president. In my book The Trouble with Islam Today I cite him as an example of how religion can be invoked to tap the best of humanity. In no small measure, it was Carter's appreciation of spiritual values that brought together Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, compelling these former foes to clasp hands over a peace deal. Which is why Carter's new book disappoints so many of us who champion co-existence. ...Israel is far more complex - and diverse - than slogans about the occupation would suggest." She maintains that certain "contradictions of the Israeli state should be exposed, discussed, even pilloried. And they are: openly as well as often. So there's little point in deciding whose camp is the paragon of vice or virtue. The better question might be: who's willing to hear what they don't want to hear?", as Manji exemplifies Israel to be.
While I have tremendous respect for former President Carter, I fundamentally disagree and do not support his analysis of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On this issue President Carter speaks for himself, the opinions in his book are his own, they are not the views or position of the Democratic Party. I and other Democrats will continue to stand with Israel in its battle against terrorism and for a lasting peace with its neighbors.Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated:
With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel. Democrats have been steadfast in their support of Israel from its birth, in part because we recognize that to do so is in the national security interests of the United States. We stand with Israel now and we stand with Israel forever.
The Jewish people know what it means to be oppressed, discriminated against, and even condemned to death because of their religion. They have been leaders in the fight for human rights in the United States and throughout the world. It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously.
According to Siegel, "Several Democratic members of New York’s House delegation — Reps. Steve Israel, Charlie Rangel and Jerrold Nadler — also have issued statements criticizing Carter’s book, as did Rep. John Conyers, Jr [of Michigan]." Representative Israel said: "I disagree with President Carter fundamentally. The reason for the Palestinian plight is the Palestinians. Their leadership has no regard for the quality of life for their people and no capability of providing security or enforcing peace, and they have no one to blame but themselves," adding that the "book clearly does not reflect the direction of the party; it reflects the opinion of one man." Representative Rangel, who led an anti-apartheid measure relating to South Africa in 1987, stated, "Words like these may sell papers and books, but they do little to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. For diplomacy to have a chance, we must create an environment that will allow both sides to come together and make the necessary but difficult steps to stop the violence and improve the lives of everyone in the region." Representative Conyers, who, according to Jennifer Siegel, "is often criticized by members of the Jewish community for his failure to support Israel in a certain instance" and had also been active against apartheid, added: "I cannot agree with the book's title and its implications about apartheid.... I recently called the former president to express my concerns about the title of the book, and to request that the title be changed." For Conyers the title "does not serve the cause of peace[,] and the use of it...is offensive and wrong."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) mounted a campaign against the book early in November 2006, using as its "primary weapon" full-page advertisements in "major newspapers" such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post, claiming in their headlines in bold capital letters that 'There’s only one honest thing about President Carter’s new book. The criticism." Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the ADL and the author of Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (2003), declares in his review of Carter's book published on the ADL website: "One should never judge a book by its cover, but in the case of former President Jimmy Carter’s latest work, 'Palestine Peace Not Apartheid', we should make an exception. All one really needs to know about this biased account is found in the title." As reported by James D. Besser, in The Jewish Week, Foxman has also said: "I believe he [Carter] is engaging in anti-Semitism. . . . For a man of his stature and supposed savvy to hold forth that the issues of Israel and the Middle East have not been discussed and debated because Jews and Zionists have closed off means of discussion is just anti-Semitism." According to Besser, "Foxman particularly objected to Carter’s claim in a Los Angeles Times op-ed ['Israel, Palestine, Peace and Apartheid'] that while issues of peace are hotly and freely debated in Israel, [in Carter's words] 'for the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee [sic] and the absence of any significant contrary voices.' . . . That, Foxman argued, is anti-Semitism because it reinforces the anti-Semitic canard that 'our power is so great that you can’t even talk about these issues'"; yet, "Foxman said that Carter’s success in promoting the book refutes his claims about Jewish control of the debate. . . . 'If we’re so powerful, why is he traveling across the country, appearing on every television show in the world?' he asked." James Traub comments further on contemporary contexts of this controversy relating to these "issues" of "anti-Semitism" and "bigotry" pertaining to Carter's book both specifically and generally. The ADL is featuring an article about "Anti-Semitic Reactions to Jimmy Carter's Book: White Supremacists" in its website section on Anti-Semitism: International.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a pro-Israel American media monitor,, provides a webpage of reviews and commentaries about the book. There CAMERA posts what it calls a "comprehensive collection of Jimmy Carter's errors. Lee Green, director of letter writing for CAMERA, in an article dated December 1, 2006, posted on its website, criticizes the book, saying "Almost every page of Carter's book contains errors, distortions or glaring omissions." For example, Green asserts that Carter's current statements about Israel being required to withdraw to the 1949 boundaries contradict what is written in the 1978 Camp David agreements, which were signed by Carter himself. In another piece posted by CAMERA, one of its senior research analysts, Gilead Ini, criticizes the former president for ignoring The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004), a memoir by former Clinton administration Middle East envoy Dennis Ross: "Not only did Carter ignore the authoritative source on what transpired at the Camp David negotiations, he apparently also didn't bother to consult news reports from the era. On Dec. 28, 2000, the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune and others all reported on the Israeli cabinet's acceptance [of] Clinton's parameters as a basis for discussion.
In an "Op-Ed" published on December 4 in The Jerusalem Post and on December 7, 2006 in the Chicago Sun-Times, David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), says that he finds it "startling that a former president who prides himself on his ongoing contribution to world peace would write a crude polemic that compromises any pretense to objectivity and fairness": "Carter leaves out what any reasonable observer, even those that share his basic views of the conflict, would consider obvious facts, but does include stunning distortions". ; Harris "cite[s] just two of the numerous examples" of what he calls "such mendacity." The first of these, Harris says, is that "Carter discounts well-established claims that Israel accepted and Arafat rejected a generous offer to create a Palestinian state." The second "manifest distortion," according to Harris, is that "Carter states that Israel plans to build a security fence 'along the Jordan River, which is now planned as the eastern leg of the encirclement of the Palestinians'"; whereas well-informed observers know that "Israel has modified the projected route of the security fence on numerous occasions (the current route roughly tracks the parameters that Clinton advanced to the parties in negotiations) and that there is no plan to hem the Palestinians in on the eastern border." In omitting "these well-known developments," Harris argues, Carter is "leaving readers to think that a route that was once contemplated in proposed maps but never adopted or acted upon represents current reality."
Thanks so much for your articles about President Carter's book. I don't know where his information (or conclusions) came from, but Dennis Ross has tried to straighten it out, publicly and in two letters to him. At any rate, I'm grateful.
On January 11, 2007, according to the Associated Press, "Fourteen members of an advisory board to Jimmy Carter's human rights organization," the Carter Center, "resigned . . . to protest his new book. . . ." In their "letter of resignation," as reported by the AP, the "departing members of the Center's Board of Councilors told Carter . . . 'You have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side'. . . ." The Carter Center's Board of Councilors, from which the fourteen members resigned, consists of over 200 members. Prior to those fourteen resignations, Kenneth W. Stein had already resigned from the board in protest against what he states are the book's "errors".
Soon after the announcement of the resignation of the additional fourteen advisory board members, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the largest organization of rabbis in the U.S., cancelled a planned visit to Carter’s human rights center, stating that Palestine Peace Not Apartheid unfairly criticizes Israel: "The book contains numerous distortions of history and interpretation and apparently, outright fabrications as well. Its use of the term 'apartheid' to describe conditions in the West Bank serves only to demonize and de-legitimize Israel in the eyes of the world." Representatives of the CCAR assert that President Carter's "attempted rehabilitation of such terrorist groups as Hezbollah and Hamas demonstrated either a clear anti-Israel bias, extreme naivete or both" and criticizes him for implying that there has been "a 'Jewish conspiracy' at work to discourage conversation about the Palestinians' plight."
On December 11, 2006, National Public Radio reported that "Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says his organization has received over 20,000 letters of complaint, so far, against President Carter." According to the website of the Wiesenthal Center, "Upon receiving word that 14 members of the Carter Center Advisory board resigned in protest over President Jimmy Carter’s book, 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,' Rabbi Hier echoed ADL's Abraham Foxman: 'President Carter has only himself to blame. He wrote a book that, from its title to its contents, is blatantly one-sided and unbecoming of a former President, especially one who brokered peace between Egypt and Israel.'"
BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, I've known you for many years. You've always been a very, very strong supporter of Israel. Are you comfortable with President Carter's use of the word "apartheid" in this new book?
MONDALE: The president and I haven't talked about this. I have read the book. I think there's a lot of good materials in there. I do have a few problems with it, but if I might, I'd like to talk to the president about it first.
In a later appearance on Late Edition on April 15, 2007, Mondale said that he agrees with Carter "that the buildup of the settlements on the West Bank ... have gone clear beyond what is acceptable" and he credited Condoleezza Rice for being the first in the Bush administration "to do anything on the diplomatic front to find an alternative to this madness going on there. ... The fact that we haven't been active diplomatic has helped Hamas develop into the danger that now exists." Mondale also said that he considers the use of the word "apartheid" to be "an inapt selection.
During a speech delivered to the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County, former President Bill Clinton spoke about issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to the natural environment. In his remarks about the peace process,
Clinton stressed that for serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to resume, the Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority must cool its demands for a major rollback of Israeli territory and unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist.
He warned that the United States must be prepared militarily to enforce any agreement.
"The United States has to be prepared to give a security guarantee like we give our NATO allies both to Israel and to the new Palestinian state because they will both be under attack," he said.
Clinton criticized former President Carter's controversial book on the Middle East, which likens Israel's policies to the apartheid system of South Africa.
"If I were an Israeli, I wouldn't like it because it's not factually accurate and it's not fair," he said.
Malcolm Hedding, a minister who grew up in apartheid South Africa and preached against his government's racist practices, contends that "Calling Israel an 'apartheid state' is absolute nonsense. You might have structures that look like apartheid, but they're not. The barrier fence has nothing to do with apartheid and everything to do with Israel's self-defense. There was no such barrier until the second intifada, when people were being murdered on the highways. And the country does not dehumanize its minority in the sense of apartheid. The issues are totally different."
Hedding believes Israel has more than proven its desire to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians, while granting political rights to its own Arab citizens within a liberal democratic system. Nevertheless, the Palestinians remain committed to Israel's destruction. By contrast, he says, it was a tiny minority in South Africa that held power and once democracy came, the Nationalist Party that had dominated the masses disappeared.
Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard Law School, and author of several books on the Arab-Israeli conflict –– including The Case For Israel and The Case for Peace –– points out that Carter's book has been condemned in reviews as "moronic" by Slate, "anti-historical" by The Washington Post, and "laughable" by the San Francisco Chronicle, and claims that it is "riddled with errors and bias." Dershowitz writes that "[m]any of the reviews have been written by non-Jewish as well as Jewish critics, and not by 'representatives of Jewish organizations' as Carter has claimed." Dershowitz argues that there are factual inaccuracies in Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, including its statement that "Israel launche[d] preemptive attacks on Egypt, Syria, Iraq and then Jordan" (5), observing that, in the 1967 Six-Day War, "Jordan attacked Israel first, Israel tried desperately to persuade Jordan to remain out of the war, and Israel counterattacked after the Jordanian army surrounded Jerusalem, firing missiles into the center of the city."
In an op-ed published in the New York Sun on November 22, 2006, Dershowitz criticizes Carter for misleading his readers by waiting until the end of his book to qualify the use of the term "apartheid" in the title and earlier parts of the book: "[Carter's] use of the loaded word 'apartheid,' suggesting an analogy to the hated policies of South Africa, is especially outrageous, considering his acknowledgment buried near the end of his shallow and superficial book that what is going on in Israel today 'is unlike that in South Africa — not racism, but the acquisition of land.'"
In an open letter published in The New York Sun on December 8, 2006, as reported by the Associated Press, Kenneth W. Stein, William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies and Director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel of Emory University, who was the founder of the Middle East program at the Carter Center and the Center's first director (Feb. 1984 – 1986), presents strong criticisms of the book as follows: "President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analysis; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. In his letter sent to President Carter and others, Stein also observes: "Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book." He adds: "Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade." At the end of the first week of December, Karen DeYoung reported that Stein had not yet provided a full outline of such alleged factual errors in the book. Yet, according to Zelkowitz's report, Professor Stein has "outlined his criticisms" of the book, "list[ing] two 'egregious and inexcusable errors' and several other inaccuracies." A month later, on January 11, 2007, StandWithUs, "[a]n advocacy organization that promotes education and understanding that will bring a secure future for Israel and her neighbors," posted a notice announcing that Stein would be presenting a "lecture" that night at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by that temple and StandWithUs. In that lecture, Rebecca Trounson reports in the Los Angeles Times, Stein presented details of the book's perceived errors; among the most serious, Stein says that Carter misrepresented UN Resolution 242 and gave a false account of a meeting held with former Syrian President Hafez Assad in 1990, which Stein attended and has the transcript of. Yet, according to The Jewish Advocate of January 9, 2007, for another planned lecture, sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and entitled "Corruptions & Truth: Telling the History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict," to take place on January 18, 2007, at Temple Emanuel, in Newton, Massachusetts, Stein has said that he was not planning to discuss Carter's book. He has written "a lengthy review of the book for the Middle East Quarterly where he cites several errors and omissions in specific." A copy of that review, entitled "My Problem with Jimmy Carter's Book," and his other views of the book, along with what he and the Institute that he directs consider "Book Reviews and Articles of Significance," are posted on the Emory University website for the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel.
Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University and author of five books including Why I Am a Zionist (2006), a "manifesto" on Jewish identity which he first published in 2001, opines: "[I]f Carter is so innocent as to be unaware of the resonance that term has [apartheid], [then] he is not the expert on the Middle East or world affairs he purports to be." He elaborates:
Sadly, Israelis and Palestinians do not enjoy the kind of harmony the Israeli Declaration of Independence envisioned. Carter and his comrades use "Apartheid" as shorthand to condemn some of the security measures improvised recently. . . . Israel built a security fence to protect its citizens and separate Palestinian enclaves from Israeli cities. Ironically, that barrier marks Israel’s most dramatic recognition of Palestinian aspirations to independence since Israel signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. . . . Applying the Apartheid label tries to ostracize Israel by misrepresenting some of the difficult decisions Israel has felt forced to make in fighting Palestinian terror.
In a news account in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of December 22, 2006, Ernie Suggs reports that, "in protest over Carter's book," Melvin Konner, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology at Emory University and author of Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews (Viking, 2003), sent a letter to Carter Center Executive Director John Hardman declining a position on an advisory panel offered to him. The full letter, said to be sent on December 17, 2006, was subsequently released on the Internet on December 26, 2006. In this letter Konner, who defines himself as a very disappointed "decades-long supporter" of both Carter and the Carter Center, advises Hardman:
If you want The Carter Center to survive and thrive independently in the future, you must take prompt and decisive steps to separate the Center from President Carter's now irrevocably tarnished legacy. You must make it clear on your web site and in appropriately circulated press releases that President Carter does not speak for The Carter Center on the subject of the Middle East conflict or the political role of the American Jewish community. If you do not do this, then President Carter's damage to his own effectiveness as a mediator, not to mention to his reputation and legacy will extend, far more tragically in my view, to The Carter Center and all its activities.Deanna Congileo, President Carter's spokeswoman, told Suggs that while Carter and the Carter Center "have gotten thousands of letters from people either praising 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid' or denouncing some aspects of it . . . [t]he Carter Center has no official position on the book itself, which President Carter said during his book tour was a personal project and not that of The Carter Center. . . ."
In an article published in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal on December 26, 2006, Michael B. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and the author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East and Power, Faith, and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, begins by agreeing with Jeffrey Goldberg that Palestine Peace Not Apartheid attempts to make Christian evangelicals reconsider their support of Israel, revealing Carter's "religious problem" as the book "bewails the fact that Israel is not the reincarnation of ancient Judea but a modern, largely temporal democracy"; Oren concludes: "In his apparent attempt to make American Christians rethink their affection for Israel, Jimmy Carter is clearly departing from time-honored practice. This has not been the legacy of evangelicals alone, but of many religious denominations in the U.S., and not solely the conviction of Mr. Bush, but of generations of American leaders. In the controversial title of his book, Mr. Carter implicitly denounces Israel for its separatist policies, but, by doing so, he isolates himself from centuries of American tradition.
In an article published on January 20, 2007, in The Washington Post, Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and the author of Denying the Holocaust, criticized Jimmy Carter for what she calls his "Jewish Problem", complaining that, now "facing a storm of criticism, he has relied on anti-Semitic stereotypes in defense." In a more-recent public appearance at a rally in London, in the first week of February 2007, Lipstadt charged that, in this book, Carter engages in what she terms "soft-core denial". According to Paul, "She received huge applause when she asked how former US President Jimmy Carter could omit the years 1939-1947 from a chronology in his book"; referring to him and to Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, she said: "'When a former president of the United States writes a book on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and writes a chronology at the beginning of the book in order to help them understand the emergence of the situation and in that chronology lists nothing of importance between 1939 and 1947, that is soft-core denial.'"
Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organizations who would be unlikely to visit the occupied territories, and their primary criticism is that the book is anti-Israel. Two members of Congress have been publicly critical. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for instance, issued a statement (before the book was published) saying that "he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel." Some reviews posted on Amazon.com call me "anti-Semitic," and others accuse the book of "lies" and "distortions." A former Carter Center fellow has taken issue with it, and Alan Dershowitz called the book's title "indecent."
Out in the real world, however, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I've signed books in five stores, with more than 1,000 buyers at each site. I've had one negative remark — that I should be tried for treason — and one caller on C-SPAN said that I was an anti-Semite. My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment and to answer questions from students and professors. I have been most encouraged by prominent Jewish citizens and members of Congress who have thanked me privately for presenting the facts and some new ideas.
As Greg Bluestein of the Associated Press observes, Carter replied generally to charges by Ross, Dershowitz, Stein, and others that his book contains errors and inaccuracies by pointing out that the Carter Center staff as well as an "unnamed 'distinguished' reporter" fact-checked it.
In a videotaped clip broadcast as part of the same segment on CNN's The Situation Room in which Dennis Ross was interviewed (December 8, 2006), Carter responded to Ross's claim that maps in Palestine Peace Not Apartheid derive from maps published in his own book The Missing Peace. Carter said that he has "never seen" Ross's book and that the maps "came from an atlas that's publicly available." According to CNN's correspondent Brian Todd, who comments on the video clip presented on The Situation Room on December 8, 2006, President Carter has identified the specific atlas as A Geopolitical Atlas of Palestine (January 2000): "We tried to contact the firm that Carter says he got those maps from, it's called the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem[,] to see if they got those maps from Dennis Ross. We were unable to reach that company. A spokeswoman for President Carter's publisher, Simon and Schuster, says they are tracking all of these accusations, but they stand by the president's book. . . ." At George Washington University on March 8, 2007, Carter said that he has had several long conversations with Ross and that he respects Ross and believes that Ross respects him.
On Larry King Live in late November 2006, Larry King quoted Alan Dershowitz's saying that Carter's "use of the loaded word 'apartheid'[,] suggesting an analogy to the hated policies of South Africa[,] is especially outrageous" and asked the former president: "What's the analogy? Why use the word apartheid?" Carter replied:
Well, he [Dershowitz] has to go to the first word in the title, which is "Palestine," not "Israel." He should go to the second word in the title, which is "Peace." And then the last two words [are] "Not Apartheid." I never have alleged in the book or otherwise that Israel, as a nation, was guilty of apartheid. But there is a clear distinction between the policies within the nation of Israel and within the occupied territories that Israel controls[,] and the oppression of the Palestinians by Israeli forces in the occupied territories is horrendous. And it's not something that has been acknowledged or even discussed in this country. . . . (Italics added.)
With regard to the criticisms of Kenneth W. Stein, Carter has also pointed out "that Stein hadn't played a role in the Carter Center in 13 years and that his post as a fellow was an honorary title. 'When I decided to write this book, I didn't even think about involving Ken, from ancient times, to come in and help.'" Carter's biographer Douglas Brinkley has observed that Stein and Carter have a "passionate, up-and-down relationship" and that Stein has criticized some of Carter's previous statements about Israel. In response to Professor Stein's current criticism of the book, representatives of its publisher, Simon & Schuster, state: "We haven't seen these allegations, we haven't seen any specifics, and I have no way of assessing anything he [Stein] has said. . . . This is all about nothing. We stand behind the book fully, and the fact that there has been a divided reaction to it is not surprising.
As cited in various news accounts, "Carter has consistently defended his book's accuracy against Stein and other critics"; in a prepared statement, Carter's press secretary Deanna Congileo responds "that Carter had his book reviewed for accuracy throughout the writing process" and that "[a]s with all of President Carter's previous books, any detected errors will be corrected in later editions. . . ."
In response to the Associated Press's request for a comment on the aforementioned resignations of Stein and fourteen other members of the Center's Board of Councilors, speaking on behalf of both Carter and the Carter Center, Ms. Congileo also provided a statement from its executive director John Hardman, who, according to Zelkowitz, "also fact checked Palestine, saying that the members of that board "'are not engaged in implementing the work of the Center.'"
After receiving 25,000 petitions against his book presented to him by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, former President Carter sent a hand-written one-sentence note dated January 26, 2007, to the Center's dean and founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, which the organization posted on its website, in which Carter states: "I don't believe that Simon Wiesenthal would have resorted to falsehood and slander to raise funds." (Rabbi Hier's reply to Carter dated February 2, 2007, also appears on the website, reiterating his criticism of the book and declaring that he believes "that Simon Wiesenthal would have been as outraged by your book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, as I was.")
Not surprisingly, an examination of the book reviews and published comments reveals that these points have rarely if ever been mentioned by detractors of the book, much less denied or refuted. Instead, there has been a pattern of ad hominem statements, alleging that I am a liar, plagiarist, anti-Semite, racist, bigot, ignorant, etc. There are frequent denunciations of fabricated "straw man" accusations: that I have claimed that [apartheid exists within Israel; that the system of apartheid in Palestine is based on racism; and that Jews control and manipulate the news media of America.
As recommended by the Hamilton-Baker report, renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are a prime factor in promoting peace in the region. Although my book concentrates on the Palestinian territories, I noted that the report also recommended peace talks with Syria concerning the Golan Heights. Both recommendations have been rejected by Israel's prime minister.
It is practically impossible for bitter antagonists to arrange a time, place, agenda, and procedures that are mutually acceptable, so an outside instigator/promoter is necessary. Successful peace talks were orchestrated by the United States in 1978-79 and by Norway in 1993. If the American government is reluctant to assume such a unilateral responsibility, then an alternative is the International Quartet (United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union) –– still with American leadership.
An overwhelming majority of citizens of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine want peace, with justice for all who live in the Holy Land. It will be a shame if the world community fails to help them reach this goal.