Saturday, December 23, 2006
In Defence of Jimmy Carter
Robert Fisk does not duck controversy. That's why it was not terribly surprising to read his defence of Jimmy Carter and his book "Palestine, Peace not Apartheid" which has received heaping scorn from just about every paper in North America. It has earned the former president a cornucopia of epithets including the inevitable "anti-semite."
Writing in The Independent, Fisk dissects the controversy:
"I picked up Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid at San Francisco airport, and zipped through it in a day. It's a good, strong read by the only American president approaching sainthood. Carter lists the outrageous treatment meted out to the Palestinians, the Israeli occupation, the dispossession of Palestinian land by Israel, the brutality visited upon this denuded, subject population, and what he calls 'a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights'.
"Carter quotes an Israeli as saying he is 'afraid that we are moving towards a government like that of South Africa, with a dual society of Jewish rulers and Arabs subjects with few rights of citizenship...'. A proposed but unacceptable modification of this choice, Carter adds, 'is the taking of substantial portions of the occupied territory, with the remaining Palestinians completely surrounded by walls, fences, and Israeli checkpoints, living as prisoners within the small portion of land left to them'.
Critics of Carter and his book like to spout furious indignation at his supposed link between Israel and the apartheid government of South Africa. Once again, Fisk brings up some inconvenient facts:
"But in this context, why, I wonder, didn't The New York Times and the other gutless mainstream newspapers in the United States mention Israel's cosy relationship with that very racist apartheid regime in South Africa which Carter is not supposed to mention in his book? Didn't Israel have a wealthy diamond trade with sanctioned, racist South Africa? Didn't Israel have a fruitful and deep military relationship with that racist regime? Am I dreaming, looking-glass-like, when I recall that in April of 1976, Prime Minister John Vorster of South Africa - one of the architects of this vile Nazi-like system of apartheid - paid a state visit to Israel and was honoured with an official reception from Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, war hero Moshe Dayan and future Nobel prize-winner Yitzhak Rabin? This of course, certainly did not become part of the great American debate on Carter's book."
I don't believe there is any shortage of anti-semitism in the United States or Canada but I also don't believe for one minute that the ranks of anti-semites include Jimmy Carter. This is just another "anti-semite" smear job used to silence legitimate and constructive criticism of Israel. For the sake of our society we have to stand up to this venomous nonsense.
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The apartheid system that Israel employs is in effect being used, albeit inversely, in most western nations.
Whole sections of society are beyond criticism, on pain of criminal prosecution; whole sections of society can legally be favoured over the other;
I like Jimmy Carter a lot, and have a lot of respect for his opinions. But by using the title he did, he is feeding in to anti-semitism. For example, the recent attacks on Bob Rae claimed that Rae is pro-apartheid, and Carter's book seems to make that a legitimate criticism, which it simply is not. (In the Bob Rae case, of course, the name was unfair on more than one count. He has a very balanced attitude towards the Isarel-Palestine conflict.)
As for the situation in South Africa, Fisk's comments are deceptive. There was a period when South Africa was strategically necessary for Israel. That doesn't mean that Israel supported South Africa's domestic policies.
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