Jimmy Carter, probably the most decent man to occupy the White House, received a lot of grief during his term in office, most of it undeserved. His latest book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid has brought him even more grief, none of it deserved.
My own appreciation of Jimmy Carter is new found. It began with his previous book, Our Endangered Values, in which Carter criticized the direction in which George W. Bush was taking America with his assaults on the Constitution and international law. His latest book, currently a best seller, shows that Carter has the courage to match his decency and commitment to peace in the Middle East.
A case can be made that while other US presidents focused on the Soviet or communist threat, Carter perceived that the greater threat to world peace and US interests was in the Middle East. With America’s backing Israel was a rising military power whose policies and existence were viewed as a threat by Arab countries. After Israel’s military successes and Carter’s success in arranging peace between Egypt and Israel, new Arab-Israeli tensions arose from Israel’s refusal to leave occupied Palestine and return to its own borders.
Over time the occupied lands have been appropriated by Israeli settlements and now by a massive wall and special roads on which no Palestinian can travel. Palestinian villages have been cut off from water, from their fields and groves, from schools and hospitals, and from one another. Essentially, what was once Palestine has become isolated ghettos in which the Palestinian inhabitants cannot enter or depart without Israeli permission.
Israel’s policy is to turn Palestinians into refugees and to incorporate the West Bank into Israel. Slowly over time the policy has been implemented in the name of fighting terrorism and protecting Israel. Had Israel tried to achieve this all at once, opposition would have been great and the crime too large for the world to accept. Today Israel’s gradual destruction of Palestine has become part of the fabric of everyday affairs.
Many people, including intelligent Israelis, believe that peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved through military coercion and that peace requires Israel to abandon its policy of stealing Palestine from Palestinians. Jimmy Carter, whose long involvement with the issue makes him very knowledgeable and credible, is one of these people.
The reason that Israel has been able to appropriate Palestine unto itself with American aid and support is that Israel controls the explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At least 90% of Americans, if they know anything at all of the issue, know only the Israeli propaganda line. Israel has been able to control the explanation, because the powerful Israel Lobby brands every critic of Israeli policy as an anti-semite who favors a second holocaust of the Jews.
In Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter takes the risk of speaking truth to propaganda. Predictably, the Israel Lobby and its shills ranging from the “conservative” National Review to “liberal” media and commentators have attempted to banish Carter by labeling him an “anti-semite.”
We must not let the Israel Lobby get away with demonizing an American president who dares to stand up to their lies.
Carter’s book is a readable and factual history of the Israeli-Palestinian issue and its various turnings. The most powerful chapter is the penultimate, “The Wall as a Prison.”
Carter makes clear that the wall has little to do with Israeli security and a lot to do with dispossession of the Palestinians. Carter writes:
“It is obvious that the Palestinians will be left with no territory in which to establish a viable state, but completely enclosed within the barrier and the occupied Jordan River valley. The Palestinians will have a future impossible for them or any responsible portion of the international community to accept, and Israel’s permanent status will be increasingly troubled and uncertain as deprived people fight oppression and the relative number of Jewish citizens decreases demographically (compared to Arabs) both within Israel and in Palestine. This prospect is clear to most Israelis, who also view it as a distortion of their values. Recent events involving Gaza and Lebanon demonstrate the inevitable escalation in tension and violence within Palestine and stronger resentment and animosity from the world community against both Israel and America.”
Most Zionists and American neoconservatives could care less about what the world community thinks. They are concerned only with Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. They realize that this goal can only be obtained with military coercion and have discarded any reliance on negotiation and compromise. Bush, for example, has refused the unanimous recommendation of the Iraq Study Group to talk with Iran and Syria. The US and Israeli electorates have proven to be powerless, while a handful of neoconservatives and Zionist settlers drive Middle East policy.
Carter is well aware that the “Roadmap for Peace” has been turned into a propaganda device. Carter writes that Israel uses the roadmap “as a delaying tactic with an endless series of preconditions that can never be met while proceeding with plans to implement its unilateral goals,” and that the US uses it “to give the impression of positive engagement in a ‘peace process,’ which President Bush has announced will not be fulfilled during his time in office.”
The Israel Lobby and its bought-and-paid-for minions tried to demonize Carter for using the word “apartheid” to describe the Palestinian ghettos that Israel has created. The word calls to mind the former South African government’s policy of racial separation, which was mild compared to the restrictions and dispossessions Israel has imposed on Palestinians. A number of commentators have come to Carter’s defense, including Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein (CounterPunch, Dec. 28, 2006) and former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni (Yediot Acharonot, Israel’s largest circulating newspaper). They point out that within Israel itself Israel’s policy is commonly called apartheid.
If Americans could read the frank discussion in the Israeli press about Israel’s inhuman treatment of Palestinians they would wonder how they, as Americans with a “free press,” became so totally brainwashed.
In an act of honest statesmanship that is rarely witnessed, Carter concludes his book:
“The bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens–and honor its own previous commitments–by accepting its legal borders. All Arab neighbors must pledge to honor Israel’s right to live in peace under these conditions. The United States is squandering international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization of Palestinian territories. It will be a tragedy–for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the world–if peace is rejected and a system of oppression, apartheid and sustained violence is permitted to prevail.”
One can add to Carter’s bottom line that the Bush administration, American neoconservatives, and the Olmert Israeli government believe that the solution lies in the use of military force to smash Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah and to inflict cultural genocide on Muslims by deracinating Islam. This is the path on which Bush with deceit and treachery is leading America.
PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com