Friday, March 30, 2007

Just For Fun: Early Observations on Jimmy Carter's Book

I recently (as in today) began reading a copy of Jimmy Carter's new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Of course, being the good citizen I am, I decided to give my thoughts on the first 60 pages or so.
At first glance, the print is massive. This looks like a children's book, with large margins large type, but a good deal higher level of vocabulary and better command of language. I remarked that the publishers. could have easily boiled this down to a pamphlet, to which a friend of mine responded: But then they wouldn't be able to sell a nice big hardcover edition. Which of course is true.
The text itself seems harmless enough, it generally seems like the heartfelt pinions and memories of a highly influential ex-president. But then, I come across this bit on page 15:
Although some extremists disagree, most Israelis have learned that they cannot reconstruct the Kingdom of David, which includes all of the West Bank the Golan Heights, and parts of Lebanon and Jordan.

This may seem innocuous, but it implies through the use of the word learned, that at one point most Israelis seriously hoped to reconstruct the Kingdom of David. This is simply false. Quite to the contrary, the Jews living in Mandatory Palestine accepted without hesitation every plan thrown at them, from the early ideas of the twenties which simply split off at the Jordan River and continued to the borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, to the 1947 partition passed by the United Nations, which though giving them 55 percent of the landmass, contained the barren Negev desert. This shows early on Carter's obvious bias.
For the next fifty pages or so, Carter chronicles his personal journies from his visit to Israel in 1973 through the Camp David accords. This section passes without much grumbling from me, just the occasional piece here and there which is hard to place, but still shows the book's bias.
On pages 65-66, Carter is discussing Jewish immigration to the land, and the population statistics pre-independence. He then writes on page 66:
There had been further waves of Jewish and Gentile immigration into Palestine, as indicated by official British date: the Arab population increased from 760,000 in 1931 to 1,237,000 in 1945, mostly attracted by economic oppurtunity.
No serious consideration was given by Arab leaders or the international commmunity to estblishing a separate Palestinian state while these people's ancient homeland was divided amog Jordan, Israel, and Egypt.
In the first section, through a statement of fact, namely the doubling of the Arab population in Palestine, Carter neglects to mention the driving force behind this sudden economic oppurtunity: the Zionist immigrants. This change from wasteland to up-and-coming economic player is well known to be the work of these hard working European Jews, who drained the swamps and built the farms throughout the land that drew the massive Arab immigration, creating their imaginary majority at the time of partition. I call this majority imaginary in reference to the great numbers of Jews who were disallowed and even turned away from entering the land by British law. The second quoted section is much more fun: It calls Palestine the ancient homeland of the local Arabs. Not disputing any claim to a homeland in part of this area, let's focus on the word ancient: Nearly half of the Arabs living in Palestine at the time were very recent immigrants, and of course for them to be considered Arab at all, they would have had to come from the Arabian Peninsula, which, coincidentally, does not include Palestine. Any claim to an "ancient homeland," put forth here by Carter, is false and misleading.
That's all for now. I'll point out more innacuracies, and obvious showings of bias as they come up. Check back soon...


  1. Some might be interested in the opinion of someone who has read the entire book. (One wonders how BlueTruth can be so sure that the rest of the book will be filled with errors.)

    Yossi Beilin, a former minister and current member of Israel's parliament, in the Jewish Weekly "The Forward" has reviewed President Carter's book on the Palestinian-Israeli problem. Here is what he has to say:

    "In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories — and perhaps no less important, how he says it — is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves."

    In the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, moreover, Carter has secured his place in history as the man who brokered the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab nation. The Camp David summit he convened in September 1978, which resulted in the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, was a historical watershed for the entire region. It inaugurated the Arab-Israeli peace process, without which the Oslo peace process would not have been possible, nor the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.

    In light of the failure of the second Camp David summit of July 2000, Carter’s successful mediation between such starkly different leaders as Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat is all the more impressive, and his achievement — which was a truly personal achievement — all the more remarkable.

    Every Israeli, and every Jew to whom the destiny of Israel is important, is indebted to Carter for breaking the ring of hostility that had choked Israel for more than 30 years. No American president before him had dedicated himself so fully to the cause of Israel’s peace and security, and, with the exception of Bill Clinton, no American president has done so since.

    This is why the publication of Carter’s recent book, and perhaps more than anything else, the title it bears, has pained so many people. And I must admit that, on some deeply felt level, the title of the book has strained my heart, too. Harsh and awful as the conditions are in the West Bank, the suggestion that Israel is conducting a policy of apartheid in the occupied territories is simply unacceptable to me.

    But is this what Carter is saying? I have read his book, and I could not help but agree — however agonizingly so — with most if its contents. Where I disagreed was mostly with the choice of language, including his choice of the word “apartheid.”

    But if we are to be fair, and as any reading of the book makes clear,Carter’s use of the word “apartheid” is first and foremost metaphorical. Underlying Israel’s policy in the West Bank, he argues, is not a racist ideology but rather a nationalist drive for the acquisition of land. The resulting violence, and the segregationist policies that shape life in the West Bank, are the ill-intended consequences of that drive.

    Of course, there is no appropriate term in the political lexicon for what we in Israel are doing in the occupied territories. “Occupation” is too antiseptic a term, and does not capture the social, cultural and humanitarian dimensions of our actions. Given the Palestinians’ role in the impasse at which we have arrived, to say nothing of Arab states and, historically speaking, of the superpowers themselves, I would describe the reality of occupation as a march of folly — an Israeli one, certainly, but not exclusively so.

    But if we are to read Carter’s book for what it is, I think we would find in it an impassioned personal narrative of an American former president who is reflecting on the direction in which Israel and Palestine may be going if they fail to reach agreementsoon. Somewhere down the line — and symbolically speaking, that line may be crossed the day that a minority of Jews will rule a majority of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — the destructive nature of occupation will turn Israel into a pariah state, not unlike South Africa under apartheid."
    Additional reading:

  2. Robert-
    In fact I have finished the book. It contains many other errors throughout, such as saying that the first intifada was spontaneously begun by elements outside the PLO and without the knowledge of Arafat and his crew.
    The worst part is the entire tone of the book gives an overt bias against Israel, which we should not hear from a Nobel Peace Prize winning former president who claims to be working for peace.