Sunday, January 21, 2007

My Problem with Jimmy Carter's New Book

Defending his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter said this week that one of the two main premises of the book is "the horrible persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people." What Carter doesn't say in his sound bite is why the situation exists as it does today: that the Palestinians and millions of other Arabs surrounding Israel do not recognize Israel's right to exist and Israel is under constant military threat, forcing it to protect itself. Carter went on to say, "Israel needs peace and the Palestinian people need peace and justice and I hope my limited influence will help to precipitate some steps." He's implying that the Israelis do not need justice - the Israelis who suffer from regular domestic bombings, rocket attacks from across their borders, and rhetoric from Palestinian and other Arab leaders that all Jews should be killed.

I'm certainly not saying that everything Israel has done has been right or fair to the Palestinians, and I believe as much as anyone that what is needed first and foremost is peace. But if you believe that Israel has a right to exist, and if you believe that a people have a right to defend themselves from genocide, then how can you try to force them to stop defending themselves?

I haven't read the book, and don't intend to, for two reasons. The first is that I tried to read another of Jimmy Carter's books and couldn't get through it because it was so boring. (This even though I was a major fan of Carter's presidency and I read a lot of dense non-fiction.) The second is that the title is inflammatory and counter-productive and makes me not want to have anything to do with the content.

Carter should know that there are a lot of people in the west who believe that Israel does not have a right to exist, and the title of his book gives them justification to pursue those views. Anti-semites throw around the term apartheid to describe Israeli-Palestinian relations (as we learned in our recent Liberal leadership race). Whatever the fine points of his argument are (and I'm sure, knowing the man, that he has many good insights), his title is a blunder that will set back the cause of peace, not help it.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An interesting discussion here on the use of the term "apartheid" in this context ... and more.