Posted by: noticeable | December 13, 2006

President Carter: How I See Palestine

President Carter’s new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has captured sizable attention. However, as President Carter discusses in the following piece, he wishes the discourse would focus more on the contents of the book rather its supposed “sensational” title. Please read on.

How I See Palestine by Jimmy Carter

I signed a contract with Simon & Schuster two years ago to write a book about the Middle East, based on my personal observations as the Carter Center monitored three elections in Palestine and on my consultations with Israeli political leaders and peace activists.

We covered every Palestinian community in 1996, 2005 and 2006, when Yasser Arafat and later Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and members of Parliament were chosen. The elections were almost flawless, and turnout was very high — except in East Jerusalem, where, under severe Israeli restraints, only about 2 percent of registered voters managed to cast ballots.

The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations — but not in the United States. 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 policies of the Israeli government is due to the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.

It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians. Very few would ever deign to visit the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City or even Bethlehem and talk to the beleaguered residents.

What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land.

With some degree of reluctance and some uncertainty about the reception my book would receive, I used maps, text and documents to describe the situation and to analyze the only possible path to peace: Israelis and Palestinians living side by side within their own internationally recognized boundaries.

These options are consistent with key UN resolutions supported by the US and Israel, official American policy since 1967, agreements consummated by Israeli leaders and their governments in 1978 and 1993 (for which they earned Nobel Peace Prizes), the Arab League’s offer to recognize Israel in 2002 and the International Quartet’s “Road map for Peace,” which has been accepted by the PLO and largely rejected by Israel.

My book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” is devoted to circumstances and events in Palestine and not in Israel, where democracy prevails and citizens live together and are legally guaranteed equal status.

Although I have spent a week or so on a book tour, it is already possible to judge public and media reaction. Sales are brisk, and I have had interesting interviews on TV, including “Larry King Live,” “Hardball,” “Meet the Press,” “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,” the “Charlie Rose” show, C-SPAN and others. But I have seen few news stories in major newspapers about what I have written.

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, D-Calif., 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.

The book describes 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. An enormous imprisonment wall is now under construction, snaking through what is left of Palestine, to encompass more and more land for Israeli settlers.

In many ways, this is more oppressive than what blacks lived under in South Africa during apartheid. I have made it clear that the motivation is not racism but the desire of a minority of Israelis to confiscate and colonize choice sites in Palestine, and then to forcefully suppress any objections from the displaced citizens. Obviously, I condemn acts of terrorism or violence against innocent civilians, and I present information about the casualties on both sides.

The ultimate purpose of my book is to present facts about the Middle East that are largely unknown in America, to precipitate discussion and to help restart peace talks (now absent for six years) that can lead to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors.

Another hope is that Jews and other Americans who share this goal might be motivated to express their views, even publicly, and perhaps in concert. I would be glad to help with that effort.

— Jimmy Carter was the 39th president of the United States. His newest book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” was published in November.

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Responses

  1. Gee, sounds fairly reasonable and balanced to me. And the title is “senstional?” On what planet? Aparteid is exactly what is going on in Palestine, calling it ethnic cleansing or cultural genocide would be sensational. I have always been amazed to the right’s knee-jerk rejection of any voice that contradicts in any way their beloved beliefs, no matter how reasonable and open to discussion such a voice may be. Sigh, the reaction to JCs book is more of the same, tis a sad day in America where hysterical condemnation and name-calling has replaced reasoned debate. JMO —Doug

  2. The civil war, Lebanon witnessed many of them and now their main concern should not return to the Arab and bloody wars, has vowed the Lebanese people in the 14th of March to remain united in perpetuity, Muslims and Christians chanted that behind Shahid Jubran Twini, Palestine, and is now about to fall into the trap of civil war, which the government has Israel is behind the assassination of children and the elderly.

  3. I would like to suggest a possible scenario which could assist in bringing peace to the middle east.
    My suggestion is for the palestinian government to seek out and seconde the services of high profile western ex political players who would be prepared to become dedicated overseers, one each for each palestinian government minister and/or member of parliament.
    Day to day decision making would then be able to be scrutinised by the overseer and could be corrected if needs be in the hope that world media would be more accurately informed of the difficulties in pursueing a peacefull conclusion to the regional difficulties

  4. Mr. Rowe,
    I hope your comment is simply sarcastic; but I’m not sure. Such a suggestion strikes deep at the heart of representative democracy and true Palestinian self-determination. I do hope that I’m wasting my breath here.


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