Friday, December 08, 2006

Georgia Cracker Pisses off Jews

Above title is probably too blunt. That has been the complaint of Jimmy Carter’s latest book title, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Even the respected iconoclast congressman John Conyers wrote Carter imploring him not to use “apartheid” in the title as it would be too inflammatory. If Carter’s description is right, "...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..." is certainly inflammatory enough to warrant the book title.

Pass this concept by the average American Jew and the disagreement is palpable. According to Carter in his op-ed piece in today’s Los Angeles Times

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 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."

The key here is that Carter has been to the Palestinian cities, and is reporting on the situation. The critics of his book on the whole do not have this complete point of view.

I found Carter’s reminiscence of his first trip to Israel in the 1970’s fascinating, not only for the picture it paints of a territory whose history goes back over 3,000 years, but because of his reaction to the Jews and Muslims he met. His depiction is quite genuine and unencumbered by pre-judgment. In fact, Carter saw what I’ve come to understand—that people are the same everywhere, and that they have the same aspirations. The difference in Israel is the variety of hard-kept minority opinions based on the tie to the land which is very strong, and these points of view get more attention than the numbers they represent.

I find the book to be exactly as Carter has stated:

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.

The unnamed blame for the absence of peace talks lies squarely on the shoulders of the present inept chief executive Bush and his deplorably incompetent staff led by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. To let events go as they may without any diplomatic intervention in the highly volatile Middle East leads to such disasters as the recent ugly conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. One wonders if the same conflagration would have taken place under Clinton’s watch, or Carter's.

Radical Islamic terrorism, the factions surrounding US Iraq occupation, Middle East stability, American and world safety—all depend on a peaceful status between Israel and the Arab neighbors. Let those who condemn Carter for anti-Jewish bias read his book, and try to be objective, as I have.

The former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner taught the bible in school for 20 years before he entered politics. He’s still teaching with his new book; the leaders involved in shaping Middle East policy really have a lot to learn in order to stave off catastrophes due to ignorance and intransigence towards the region. And the electorate needs to bone up on the facts in order to make informed choices for representation on these matters.

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