Bush Jumps Over Maine, Carter Lands in Gaza

“And you know, because I was president it sends a message all around. Go out and get something doing. Just ’cause … old guys can still have fun and still do stuff.”

– Former President George H.W. Bush in an interview prior to skydiving over Maine on his 85th birthday, 12 June 2009.

“My primary feeling today is one of grief and despair and an element of anger when I see the destruction perpetrated against innocent people. I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been wracked against your people. I feel partially responsible for this as must all Americans and Israelis. [This school was] … deliberately destroyed by bombs from F16s made in my country.”

– Former President Jimmy Carter, 84, in comments made near the Israeli-leveled American International School during his tour of Gaza, 16 June 2009.

There is little doubt that at their age, both former United States presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter remain vigorous, energetic, spirited individuals. The activities they engaged in this past week however, could not have been more different.

Bush Sr. went skydiving in a tandem jump over Maine as he turned 85, and pledged to do the same at 90. Few would deny it was a remarkable feat for his years. Yet the bravery required to undertake the birthday skydive paled in comparison to what Carter did just a few days later:

He went to Gaza.

And what he saw there nearly caused him to weep. Remarkably, he took responsibility for the devastation wrought by Israel’s 23-day offensive – as far removed from it as he was – on behalf of the U.S. and all Americans.

He went even further, saying what no U.S. politician (let alone former president) could dare bring themselves to utter:

“The citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings.”

Were these words heard by anyone in the U.S. or Europe? If so, they would have also heard his entreaty for them to exert pressure on Israel and Egypt so that vital supplies may be allowed to enter the territory.

Yes, the aftermath of the Iranian elections far overshadowed Carter’s trip but it was nevertheless ignored by the media. Not so with Bush’s jump; the few minutes it took to complete received much more attention than all of Carter’s travels to Lebanon, Syria, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza combined.

In Gaza, he met with Ismail Haniyah, the Palestinian prime minister elected in the 2006 parliamentary contests (characterized by Carter as “open, honest, and fair”) which Hamas won. In addition to calling for an end to violence by both Hamas and Israel, he passed on a letter to the group’s leaders from the parents of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to their son. He unfailingly took the time to remind us of the indefinite detention of 11,700 Palestinians currently held in Israeli jails without charge or access to legal representation as well.

Carter also reiterated the pledge he received from Hamas Chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus; namely that Hamas would accept any agreement reached between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, provided it was approved by the Palestinian people in a national referendum. It appears it took an ex-president to belie the myth that the “rejectionist” group would do nothing of the sort.

Readers are encouraged to review the transcript of the address Carter made during his short time in Gaza to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Human Rights Graduation for his additional insights.

Although the bombing has stopped, the tragedy of Gaza endures. But can we expect the ongoing pleas for help to be heard six months after the brutal Israeli attack when they were ignored during the war itself?

Carter’s voice was solitary, yet forceful. “The starving of 1.5 million human beings of the necessities of life – never before in history has a large community like this been savaged by bombs and missiles and then denied the means to repair itself,” he said.

It was a clarion call to which the Obama administration and world community remain largely deaf.

He may not have leapt from a plane at 10,500 feet, but Carter’s forthright remarks were by far the more courageous act.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator. He may be reached at: rbamiri AT yahoo DOT com.



More articles by:

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

November 20, 2019
Vijay Prashad
The Coup in Bolivia Has Everything to Do With the Screen You’re Using to Read This
Kenneth Surin
Labor and the UK General Election
Ron Jacobs
The Trumpists’ Attempts at Snark Define Their Day: Impeachment Day Three
George Ochenski
The Walls are Closing in on Donald Trump
Timothy M. Gill
Towards a Democratic Socialist Foreign Policy
Robert Hunziker
Neoliberalism Backfires
Thomas S. Harrington
Let’s Give Three Cheers for Those “Western Ears” 
Michelle Renee Matisons
Freedom, Valor, Love: On Snowden’s Permanent Record
James C. Nelson
How Trump is Warping the Federal Courts: the Case Against Lawrence VanDyke
Rev. William Alberts
Whistleblowing Religion
Chandra Muzaffar
The Coup That Ousted Morales
Mike Garrity
Trump Administration Ignores Court Order Stopping 85,000 Acre Payette Forest Logging and Burning Project, Conservation Groups Sue
Andrew Moss
Raising the Stakes in the Struggle Over Immigration Detention
Dean Baker
Making Andrew Yang Smarter
Lawrence Wittner
The People of the World
November 19, 2019
Ramzy Baroud
How Western Media Bias Allows Israel to Getaway with Murder in Gaza
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Kurds is Still Happening
Dave Lindorff
Student Protesters are Walking a Tightrope in Hong Kong
Richard Greeman
French Yellow Vests Celebrate First Birthday, Converge With Planned Labor Strikes
Dean Baker
Impeachment is a Kitchen Table Issue
Walden Bello
Is China an “Imperial Power” in the Image of the West?
Jim Britell
Modern Biology and Ecology: the Roots Of America’s Assertive Illiteracy
Sabri Öncü
Non-Financial Private Debt Overhang
John Steppling
Baby Shark Coup
Binoy Kampmark
Open Guidelines: The Foreign Interference Problem in Australian Universities
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Greece and the Struggle for Freedom
Colin Todhunter
Lab Rats for Corporate Profit: Pesticide Industry’s Poisoned Platter
James Graham
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn on the Eve of the Debate
Elliot Sperber
Scrutiny – From Scruta
November 18, 2019
Olivia Arigho-Stiles
Protestors Massacred in Post-Coup Bolivia
Ashley Smith
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Macho Camacho: Jeffery R. Webber and Forrest Hylton on the Coup in Bolivia
Robert Fisk
Michael Lynk’s UN Report on Israeli Settlements Speaks the Truth, But the World Refuses to Listen
Ron Jacobs
Stefanik Stands By Her Man and Roger Stone Gets Convicted on All Counts: Impeachment Day Two
John Feffer
The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Shock Therapy and the Rise of Trump
Stephen Cooper
Another Death Penalty Horror: Stark Disparities in Media and Activist Attention
Bill Hatch
A New Silence
Gary Macfarlane
The Future of Wilderness Under Trump: Recreation or Wreckreation?
Laura Flanders
#SayHerName, Impeachment, and a Hawk
Ralph Nader
The Most Impeachable President vs. The Most Hesitant Congress. What Are The Democrats Waiting For?
Robert Koehler
Celebrating Peace: A Work in Progress
Walter Clemens
American Oblivion
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors