of Jimmy Carter
The debacle in Iraq has
brought in sharp focus the festering Israeli-Arab
issue that has been, thanks to George W. Bush,
totally neglected for the past six years.
A recent book by former president Jimmy Carter-
Palestine: Peace not Apartheid - is an attempt
to bring the issue back into public consciousness.
Mr. Carter has known the Middle East conflict
first hand and was the first US president
to have successfully brokered a peace agreement
between Israel and Egypt. The book reveals
for the first time the horrible oppression
and persecution of Palestinian people.
The response of the Jewish lobby and its friends
in this country has been predictable. He has
been called anti-Semitic and an enemy of Israel.
He has also been labeled a bigot, a liar and
a plagiarist. Jimmy Carter has the honesty,
integrity and compassion (both for Jews and
Palestinians) to be anything but all that.
This says a lot about the intellectual bankruptcy
of his detractors than the honesty and integrity
of the former president.
Mr. Carter used the word apartheid in describing
Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands.
Naturally the word invokes the image of the
white supremacist regime in South Africa.
But there are parallels. It is apartheid when
an occupying power deliberately isolates the
native population by fencing them in, passes
discriminatory legislation against them, controls
their movement in and out of their homes,
institutes a dual education system, uses disproportionately
different scales to fund Jewish settlers and
Palestinians, controls water and food distribution
and empowers Jewish settlers to deal with
Palestinians any way they wish.
This view was further strengthened when Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert brought the Yisrael
Beitenu Party into his coalition government
and appointed Avigdor Lieberman as deputy
prime minister and minister for strategic
threats. Mr. Lieberman’s advocates forceful
expulsion of all Palestinians from occupied
territories and Israel.
Mr. Lieberman is not alone in his views. Gamla,
an Israeli organization founded by Jewish
settlers and former Israeli military officers,
has published detailed plans for the ‘complete
elimination of Arab demographic threat to
Israel’. This, according to the plan,
would translate into forcibly expelling all
Palestinians irrespective of whether they
are living in occupied territories or in the
state of Israel within a period of 3-5 years.
For this plan to succeed it needs ‘only
a modicum of support from its closest ally,
the United States’. Considering that
the Bush Administration has always capitulated
to the dictates of Jewish organizations including
the powerful American Israel Public Affairs
Committee, this scenario is not far fetched.
Unlike Israel where a healthy and robust public
debate on the Palestinian issue has been the
norm, no such public discourse has been possible
here in the US. In a knee jerk response the
Jewish leaders in this country are always
ready and willing to curb and suppress any
dissenting voices by using the all too convenient
label of anti-Semitism. The treatment meted
out to the former president has been dished
out to all others who like Carter have advocated
an even-handed policy in resolving the Palestinian
issue. Last year two Harvard academics, John
Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, made the same
argument in their now celebrated essay The
Israel Lobby published in London Review of
Books in March 2006. The response of the Israeli
Lobby and its supporters was vociferous but
In an interview on National Public Radio recently
Mr. Carter claimed considerable Jewish support
for his views on Palestine. Unfortunately
that support has not been out in public domain.
That the policies of Israel in occupied territories
are discriminatory and inhuman are known to
Jewish communities. There have been very few
voices from these communities that have been
raised in public against these policies? Except
for discussion and deliberation in some moderate-to-liberal
Jewish publications there is hardly any discussion
or debate at the community level. So it is
left to the likes of Mr. Abe Foxman of the
Anti Discrimination League and Mr. Alan Dershowitz
of Harvard Law School to set the tenor and
tone of this one sided debate and to decide
what is kosher and what is not.
The resolution of Palestinian issue is sine
qua non for a peaceful Iraq. A just resolution
will plicate Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia
and in turn their warring proxies in Iraq.
Efforts to de-link Palestinian issue from
Iraq is bound to fail. The road to peace in
Iraq, as indicated by Jim Baker’s Iraq
Study Group, would have to pass through Jerusalem.
Israel has a choice, albeit a difficult one.
It could continue the apartheid in occupied
lands and in return accept an ongoing low-level
violence by Palestinians against its citizens.
Or it could start treating Palestinians as
human and give them their land back.