Carter condemns Israeli/U.S. policy toward Palestine

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

By Jimmy Carter

Simon & Schuster, 2006

Hardcover, 288 pp., $27

Book review

Books by former presidents are usually the material for historians and history buffs. Readers look for revelations explaining decisions made years ago, and then debate whether these are truly new historical facts or a case of just another politician trying to cover his butt.

Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” is no such book.

I’d like to say that Carter has weighed into the debate on U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine, but there has been no such debate in the U.S. corporate-owned media. This book, therefore, might be the opening of a public questioning of U.S. Mideast policy, and it’s about time.

Carter devotes about three-fourths of the book explaining some of the history and geography of the conflict, interspersed with anecdotes about his many visits to Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries.

The history, unfortunately, is the standard official Western version of the conflict, although he does not claim that all 1948 Palestinian refugees left on their own volition.

The 1978 Camp David Accords, which resulted in the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt while Carter was in office, are covered at some length. Here Carter is trying to cover his butt, claiming that he had expected Israel to abide by the terms of the treaty, which called for peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO leading to an independent Palestine in compliance with UN resolutions, etc.

No way. I’m old enough to remember that the whole world knew Camp David was a sellout of the Palestinian people. Egypt’s President Sadat abandoned the Palestinian people’s struggle in return for Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai and Egypt, and Egypt then became the recipient of one-third of total U.S. foreign military aid.

Carter’s contribution is not in detailing the past, but in his willingness to take on Israeli policy and its U.S backers.

In the last few chapters he argues that peace is possible and achievable. He points out that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis support a settlement along the lines of UN resolutions 242 and 338, a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

Carter sees the main obstacle to peace in the Israeli government’s policy of settlement and colonization and its refusal to abide by the UN resolutions and the Camp David Accords. He condemns Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians, the building of the apartheid wall, and the Israeli government’s refusal to negotiate with the elected Palestinian representatives.

More importantly, he is critical of U.S. policy for “condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization of Palestinian territories.” He calls for the U.S. to return to a policy of being an impartial peacemaker.

While the U.S. has never been impartial and has always supported the Israeli ruling-class position, it’s still significant that a respected former president would take on the Israeli occupation as an evil that is the root cause for instability in the entire Middle East. No wonder the book has caused such a stir.

The title alone has brought down a furor of savage condemnation from Zionist, right-wing and mainstream sources.

Israeli intransigence is no longer supported in Western Europe and support for Israel has eroded here in America. Last year’s Israeli aggression against Lebanon was condemned by the overwhelming majority of world’s people.

As Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people is shifting further towards barbarism, a growing number of Americans are breaking with pro-Israel orthodoxy.

Carter’s book is a symptom of that shift as it is a symptom of the bankruptcy of U.S Middle East policy.

pwwinaz @