Palestinian Peace, Not Apartheid
Carter, Jimmy, 2006, Simon & Schuster, New York
Reviewed by M. Eliany
Before reading Carter’s book, ‘Palestinian Peace, Not Apartheid,’ I found the title offensive to Israelis, because it insinuates that Israelis are racists, at least of the South African kind. I lived in Israel on and off and I remain critical of Israel on multiple grounds, including inter-ethnic discrimination, but I am convinced Israel is no apartheid country. Had Palestinians and Arabs accepted Israel in their midst, they would have gained many benefits, including most cordial relations. But, I have a desire to understand other people’s point of view, and I remained curious as to Carter’s point of view. But it took him 189 pages to admit that ‘the driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa- not racism…’(p.189)
Carter seems to be a man of strong beliefs, a devout Christian, eager to do the best he can to promote peace in the Middle East. And indeed, his efforts and dedication led to peace treaty between Egypt and Israel (1979), based on principles agreed upon in the Camp David Accords of 1978, ‘confirming Israel’s compliance with U.N. Resolution 242, withdrawal of political and military forces from the West Bank and Gaza, and full autonomy for the Palestinians (p. 6-7)‘
Carter states that Israel has not complied with the terms of the Camp David Accords of 1978 (p. 106-109). As a result of continued military rule and related abuses (p.113-127), hatred and alienation made reconciliation difficult (p.110-112). One of the most disturbing deviations from the Accord is continued construction of settlements (p.131-132). And yet, Israelis and Palestinians demonstrated good will, reaching an agreement in Oslo, allowing for the establishment of the Palestinian Authority to administer Gaza and Jericho, as well as, other towns and villages (p.133-138).
Elections were held were subsequently held for the president of the Palestinian Authority and its legislative council (1996), but Arafat had not fulfilled his commitment to renounce violence or recognize Israel. He also arrested Palestinian members of the news media as well as human rights activists (p. 143). Further, leaders of Hamas opposed the recognition of Israel and continued to perpetrate acts of violence (p.144). Negotiation continued in Camp David (2000) where an offer of a Palestinian State was made, but rejected by Arafat as insufficient, leading to renewed violence (the second intifada)(p.147-154).
Efforts to bring the feuding parties together by the International Quartet, in what is labeled as the Roadmap, acknowledged ‘that Israel must have a lasting and comprehensive peace. This will not be possible unless Israel accepts the terms of the Roadmap and reverses its colonizing the internationally recognized Palestinian territory, and unless the Palestinians respond by accepting Israel’s right to exist, free of violence’ (p.162).
The failure to bridge between Israelis and Palestinians did not deter some political leaders to continue negotiations leading to the Geneva Initiative, which gained widespread support, but not at the political leadership level. ‘The initiative provides for secure borders and overwhelming recognition by the Arab World for Israel and a sovereign, contiguous, viable state for Palestinians recognized by the international community. More specifically, the dividing border would be based on the 1967 lines but with a mutual exchange of land, giving Israel some of its largest settlements, Jewish neighborhoods in Eastern Jerusalem, and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. An international religious authority would control central holy sites, with the Temple Mount officially under Palestinian sovereignty and the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City under Israeli sovereignty. Israel would decide unilaterally how many Palestinian refugees would be admitted to Israel, and other refugees could return to Palestine or receive appropriate compensation…’ (p. 166).
Carter reports on the election of Abu Mazen as president in chapter 14, as well as, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and the subsequent hardship Palestinians suffered there. What is surprising is his concluding sentence: ‘This was the impact of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal, even before Israel’s massive bombardment and reinvasion in July 2006 after being provoked by Hamas militants (p.176).’ Reading this, I wondered why Israel is to blame for its unilateral withdrawal and why systematic shelling of Israeli civilians by Hamas is mentioned as if an afterthought, and merely as a provocation. Isn’t it a double standard?
Then comes chapter 16, describing the barriers Israelis built to defend themselves from violent neighbors, as a prison wall. Israelis may not be angels, but are Palestinians saints in Carter’s mind? Didn’t America build a fence to prevent peaceful Mexican laborers from crossing the border? Don’t most countries guard their borders and often shoot to kill infiltrators? If so, why Israel should not have the right to protect its citizens from repeated attacks by suicide bombers and thousands of rockets and missiles? Hezbollah fired 4000 rockets [many of them missiles] into northern Israel, paralyzing everyday life. And that after Israel destroyed long range missiles, perhaps in the thousands, which had a longer reach, targeting population centers as far as Tel Aviv. Would Carter allow any of this type of aggression in his own backyard?
Ethical talk is cheap for devout Carter. It seems that he is bored with the fact that Palestinians and Arabs repeatedly abuse of Israelis and don’t even want to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Boredom with Israel’s abuse is easy. The world had gotten used to it over too many centuries. Carter seems to have forgotten counting the number of countries Arabs got by the League of Nations in the internationally sanctioned New World Order. He also did not consider counting the number of countries persecuted Jews got as a refuge of last resort? He can hardly grasp that repeated Palestinian and Arab aggression against Israelis is just another form of persecution, and the real threat to world peace. But Carter can hardly understand that Israelis have no choice but defend themselves with separation walls and fences and arms too. It seems he will realize what Moslem fundamentalism means only when it knocks on his door.
I count myself in ‘the strong majority that craves for peace’ (p.202). I am convinced that when Palestinians and Arabs choose peace, as Egypt and Jordan did, Israelis would prove to reciprocate with generosity. Until then, Carter should go and preach Palestinians and Arabs the meaning of ‘what is hated upon you, you shall not do onto others.’ He should also teach them, the meaning of self-rehabilitation, and point to Israelis as a good example. Perhaps then Israelis would finally get the peace they crave for. Perhaps then Carter would realize that Israelis reject oppression, won’t support any form of apartheid and will gladly dismantle the separation wall, as soon as, their neighbors show a friendlier demeanor.