Monday, December 11, 2006

Jimmy Controversial

Predictably, Jimmy Carter's new book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" has whipped up a storm of criticism. I haven't read the book and don't plan to read it anytime soon, due to an already overcrowded reading agenda.

Carter's charge of Israel's apartheid vis-à-vis the Palestinians is a point that can be argued for and against until the cows come home. Some of the arguments against the charge are fairly easy to dismiss. For instance it is said that the choice of that word is driven by its 'shock-value' and not by a desire for nuanced critiquing. But that's only true if Carter's arguments fail in themselves; if not then the 'emotional' connotation of the a-word is a mere side-effect.

Another attempt at dismissing this charge is that it implies racism, for that's what these detractors claim caused South Africa's rule by apartheid. The fact of the matter is though that SA's apartheid was driven by white desire for the best land and the creation of a White South Africa and an appendix of black reservations (the Townships). Even now, with apartheid in the past and black majority rule, SA's land redistribution intentions are far below targets and the best land remains mainly in white hands. And Israel's reluctance to give up the Occupied Territories is also all about land...

There are nonetheless more powerful arguments to be made against the apartheid charge.
Here's an article that deconstructs the "Israeli apartheid" issue convincingly.

Merits/weaknesses of Carter's book aside, I believe he's right in trying to get some debate going amongst members of the US general public, which post-9/11 has become increasingly myopic regarding the issue of Israel/Palestine.

Jimmy Carter: Israel's 'apartheid' policies worse than South Africa's

By Haaretz Service

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said in remarks broadcast Monday that Israeli policy in the West Bank represented instances of apartheid worse even that those that once held sway in South Africa.

Carter's comments were broadcast on Israel Radio, which played a tape of an interview with the ex-president, but did not specify to whom Carter was speaking. But has made similar remarks in recent interviews, such as one to CBC television.

"When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa."

Carter said his new book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" was meant to spark U.S. discussion of Israeli policies. "The hope is that my book will at least stimulate a debate, which has not existed in this country. There's never been any debate on this issue, of any significance."

The book has sparked strong criticism from Jewish figures in the United States. Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has said that some comments from the former president border on anti-Semitism.

"When you think about the charge that he has made that the Jewish people control the means of communication, it is odious," Foxman was quoted as saying last week. "If the Jews controlled the media, how come he is traveling around the country speaking about this book on talk shows?"

Carter has rejected the criticism of the book and its use of the word apartheid.

"I feel completely at ease," said Carter, about his commitment to the book, which accuses Israel of oppressing Palestinians. "I am not running for office. And I have Secret Service protection."

"The greatest commitment in my life has been trying to bring peace to Israel," Carter told the Atlanta Press Club last week.

"Israel will never have peace until they agree to withdraw [from the territories].


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