Former US President Jimmy Carter has been widely slammed by reviewers for his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. A review by Alan Dershowitz on p. 28 explains why. Another example comes from New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, who, reviewing the book for the Washington Post (Dec. 10), notes that “Carter makes it clear in this polemical book that, in excoriating Israel for its sins – and he blames Israel almost entirely for perpetuating the hundred-year war between Arab and Jew – he is on a mission from God.”
However, some of the most scathing words about the book have come from Professor Kenneth Stein, the Middle East Fellow of the Carter Center at Emory University and previously Executive Director of the Carter Center for more than a decade.
Stein, who is the William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History at Emory, has resigned his role at the Carter Center, saying: “My continued association with the Center leaves the impression that I am sanctioning a series of egregious errors and polemical conclusions which appeared in President Carter’s book. I can not allow that impression to stand.”
Stein says of the book:
“President Carter’s book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. 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. 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…The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary.”
Meanwhile, Carter’s responses to the reception the book has received has seemed to vindicate the reviewers who imply he appears to be driven by more than a desire to put forth his opinion. He told viewers on MSNBC’s “Hardball” TV program that the Israeli occupation was worse than the genocide of almost one million Tutsis in Rwanda and that “No-one can go [to the Palestinian territories] and visit the different cities in Palestine without agreeing with what I have said.”
Carter also reportedly said that the only reason people do not agree with him is “because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States,” and has spoken of “voices from Jerusalem” who “dominate in our media”. He claimed, quite falsely, that “Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organisations.” In a similar paranoid vein, he said, “My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrolment.”
Mr. Carter’s long sojourn away from Washington appears to have led him to some troubling places.
Human Rights Abused
The international NGO Amnesty International is often given a free ride because of its pioneering work on behalf of human rights, but it is time to recognise that the group now uses the rhetoric of human rights to promote an explicitly political agenda. This trend has been apparent for some time, but has accelerated under current President Irene Khan.
In its eagerness to condemn the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, Amnesty declared it a “gulag” and, ridiculously, even argued that the very act of incarcerating people was “tantamount to torture”.
During the Lebanon conflict, Amnesty focused almost exclusively on accusing Israel of “grossly disproportionate” use of force, often relying on the uncorroborated claims of Hezbollah-affiliated villagers that Hezbollah had no presence anywhere near buildings attacked.
Khan recently visited Israel and in an interview with the Jerusalem Post (Dec. 11), she explained she was there to promote a new “political process” because “the Road Map in many ways was inadequate in the sense that it did not address fundamental human rights issues.” Khan said that, to do so, Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders, dismantle the security barrier, and remove every single settler on the other side of the green line, since all of this, she argued, was illegal. She implied all of this must be done immediately and unconditionally. She also argued that Israel must also cease all security measures such as closures and checkpoints, and end the withholding of funds from the PA. While she added some throwaway lines about how she condemned attacks on civilians by both sides, she strongly implied that only Israel is really responsible for the situation. Answering a question about the legal status of the green line, she stated “The issue is not so much the legal technicalities of it, the lawyers will sort that out, but there is a real sense of grievance and injustice that has to be tackled. Day-to-day human rights violations occur because of the indiscriminate use, or the disproportionate use of force, by the Israeli Defence Forces.”
She went on to imply that all military and other steps Israel takes for security reasons are invalid, because, “You need to define security comprehensively for both sides. The Palestinians still feel deeply insecure. They are there in Gaza totally closed off.”
No state in the world would accept the sort of “human rights” she is advocating, which essentially assert that the only legal response to cross-border terrorist attacks is appeasement. Human rights are too important to be allowed to be politicised and misused in this way, which is likely to discredit the whole enterprise.