Monday, December 11, 2006

Jimmy Carter and the "Friends of Israel"

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Here is what Jimmy Carter has actually said:
"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."
Here is what Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League has said about Carter quoted in Haaretz:
"When you think about the charge that he has made that the Jewish people control the means of communication, it is odious. If the Jews controlled the media, how come he is traveling around the country speaking about this book on talk shows?
How are we really supposed to read Mr. Foxman's remark? Are we allowed to think that if Mr. Foxman himself actually controlled the media, a former president of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize winner wouldn't be able to travel freely around the United States of America and speak about his book on talk shows? Does Mr. Foxman feel frustrated because he can't manage to actually silence a former US president and Nobel Peace Prize winner?
As Jimmy Carter goes on to say:
"I feel completely at ease, I am not running for office. And I have Secret Service protection."
Can we interpret that to mean that if you don't have to look for work and you don't have 24 hour bodyguard service, you had better keep your mouth shut?

In a situation like this, with the Israeli right wing tied like an albatross around the neck of US policy, where the intimidation is this naked, what is very important is to witness that the Jewish community is not monolithic on this question. Here is what Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine has to say about former President Carter in Tom Paine:
Jimmy Carter was the best friend the Jews ever had as president of the United States. He is the only president to have actually delivered for the Jewish people an agreement (the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt) that has stood the test of time. Since the treaty, there have been bad vibes between Israel and Egypt, but never a return to war, once Israel fully withdrew from the territories it conquered in Egypt during the 1967 war. To get that agreement, Carter had to twist the arms of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. Sometimes that is what real friends do—they push you into a path that is really in your best interest at times when there is an emergency and you are acting self-destructively. When the U.S. government is following a self-destructive policy, even a policy backed by people in both major political parties, its best friends are those who try to change its direction and are not afraid to offer intense critique. That’s why a majority of Americans, and 86 percent of American Jews, voted in the 2006 midterm elections to reject Bush’s war in Iraq and his policies suspending habeas corpus and legitimating wire-tapping and torture. Not because we were disloyal, but precisely because we love America enough to challenge its policies even when Vice President Cheney questions our loyalty. We know that critique is often an essential part of love and caring. That is precisely what Jimmy Carter is trying to do for Israel and the Jewish people in his new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. So it’s astounding to see the assault on Carter that has been launched by the ADL chair Abe Foxman, law professor Alan Dershowitz and a bevy of other representatives of the Jewish community.(...) Jimmy Carter is speaking the truth as he knows it, and doing a great service to the Jews. Unfortunately, this peace is impeded by the powerful voices of AIPAC and the mainstream of the organized Jewish community, who manage to terrify even the most liberal elected officials into blind support of whatever policy the current government of Israel advocates. Ironically, this blind support has had the consequence of pushing many morally sensitive Christians and Jews to distance themselves from the Jewish world, which makes blind support for Israeli policies the litmus test of anti-Semitism. Younger Jews cannot safely express criticisms of Israeli policy without being told that they are disloyal or “self-hating,” and elected officials tell me privately that they agree with Tikkun’s more balanced “progressive Middle Path” which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. But we’ve found that even Jews in the mainstream media have ignored or condemned our new organization, The Network of Spiritual Progressives, which is, among other things, trying to be an interfaith alternative to AIPAC. It’s time to create a new openness to criticism and a new debate. Jimmy Carter has shown courage in trying to open that kind of space with his new book, and he deserves our warm thanks and support.

The United State's position in the Middle East is disintegrating in great part because of supporting the policies of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Binjamin Netanyahu and Nathan Sharansky with arms, money and endless UN Security Council vetos. As the situation in the Middle East continues to disintegrate, America may even find itself defending the policies of a up and up fascist like Avigdor Lieberman in a like manner. Because of this disintegration, in a measurable space of time, we may very well find Americans having to bicycle to work, (if they still have jobs).The very worst thing that could happen to United States of America would be a wave of antisemitism. It could literally tear the country to pieces as it did to Spain and Germany. It may turn out that Jewish people settling in Palestine has been a terrible mistake. That would be a tragedy for the Jewish people and also for the Palestinian Arabs who have had to suffer so much for that dream. What would be the greatest tragedy for the American Jewish people, the rest of the American people and for the entire world who have derived so much benefit from this relationship, would be if the Jewish people's settling in the USA had also turned out to be a mistake. What the American Jewish people need most at this moment are less "Friends of Israel" and more just "simply friends"... and friends talk straight to their friends. DS


kelly said...

Nicely put and succinct quote.

I remember visiting the States shortly after Germany was ordered to pay relatives of those who were used as slave laborers during the Nazi regime. My family was salivating to find out from me if those "German bastards" were finally feeling the pain of retribution. I reminded them that the court case was a precedent soon to be used by African Americans seeking retribution for their slave I've never seen such a hostile response - my aunt didn't talk to me for 5 years over that remark.

Demonize/Sympathize - these seem to be the extremes in which we Americans are trained to categorize our neighbors. But which will it be this time - such a quandry, can we hate the Muslims and Jews at the same time? It all depends on how it is pre-packaged and spoon fed to us.

Poor Jimmy with nothing to lose, - eradicating diseases left and right, monitoring elections - it's as if he's been doing penance for the sin of being President. He's the only one who has the right to say, "I've seen both sides firsthand". Rich, poor, powerful, weak.

Doesn't anyone remember that he is an evangelical? But even this does not persuade him from his fair evaluation. Does no one remember his 1985 book, "The Blood of Abraham"?

He truly has no greater motivation than the betterment of humanity - face it, he can't get the Nobel again.

Made in Ottawa said...

Im reading his book right now, from what I heard I was expecting and anti-Israeli book, but to my surprise it is extremely pro-Israeli and just questions the intention of some Jewish minorities that want more land in occupied territories, It is very surprising to me that such a mild questions about Israelis intentions is being reacted so strongly, I think this more than anything proves Jimmy Carter's remarks on Jewish control of the media.