Former President Jimmy Carter has written an egregiously biased book called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid and is currently doing numerous interviews to sell the book and its ideas. Carter is attempting to rewrite history, and in his alternate universe, Arabs parties are blameless and Israel is at fault for almost all the conflicts in the world. One gets the feeling after reading just a few pages that if he could have blamed Hurricane Katrina on Israel, he would have. His main messages are that Israel is badly mistreating the Palestinians and that the cause of the conflict is Israel's refusal to return to what he calls its "legal borders" (sic), the pre-67 armistice lines.
Because the Palestinian Arabs have been offered a viable state of their own numerous times, including with the same borders that Carter desires, but turned it down since it meant recognizing Israel's legitimacy and permanence and ending the conflict, Carter either ignores or mischaracterizes the offers. He never lets the facts get in the way of his "must blame Israel" theories. In Carter's twisted universe, it is the Arabs who have always been eager for peace, with Israel opposing it at every turn.
Almost every page of Carter's book contains errors, distortions or glaring omissions. The following list is just a small portion of the many problems in the book:
• Carter claims Israel has been the primary obstacle to peace, that Arab leaders have long sought peace while Israel preferred holding on to "Palestinian land" over peace, and that if only Israel would "[withdraw] to the 1967 border as specified in the U.N. Resolution 242...", there would be peace.
Aside from his obviously questionable opinions, Carter is factually wrong when he asserts that U.N. Resolution 242 requires Israel to withdraw to the 1949 armistice line that was in place until 1967. He has repeated this serious falsehood in many interviews, such as on the November 28 PBS NewsHour:
"The demand is for them to give back all the land. The United Nations resolutions that apply, the agreements that have been made at Camp David under me and later at Oslo for which the Israeli leaders received the Nobel Peace Prizes, was [sic] based on Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories."
He mischaracterizes UN resolutions and apparently has forgotten what he himself signed as a witness to the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, which states in Section A1c: "The negotiations [concerning the West Bank and Gaza] shall be based on all the provisions and principles of UN Security Council Resolution 242. The negotiations will resolve, among other matters, the location of the boundaries and the nature of the security arrangements."
To claim now that the very agreement he witnessed and signed specifies withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines is outrageous. [While the 1979 Camp David document again mentions UN Resolution 242, it makes no further mention of the West Bank or Gaza Strip. It instead deals with Israeli-Egyptian relations, and includes a map of the Israel-Egypt International Boundary (Annex II). Tellingly, no maps demarcating any boundary between Israel and the Palestinians are appended to the Camp David documents, Resolution 242, the Oslo Accords, or the "road map".]
UN Resolution 242 does not require Israel to withdraw from all the land to the "1967 border", since there is no such border. The "green line" is merely the 1949 armistice line and the drafters of 242 explicitly stated that this line was not a "secure border" -- which 242 calls for.
The British UN Ambassador at the time, Lord Caradon, who introduced the resolution to the Council, has stated that, "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial."
The American UN Ambassador at the time, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, has stated that, "The notable omissions - which were not accidental - in regard to withdrawal are the words 'the' or 'all' and the 'June 5, 1967 lines' ... the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal." This would encompass "less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel's prior frontiers had proved to be notably insecure."
The reasoning of the United States and its allies at the time was clear: Any resolution which, in the face of the aggressive war launched in 1967 against Israel, required complete Israeli withdrawal, would have been seen as a reward for aggression and an invitation to future aggression. This is assuredly not what the UN voted for, or had in mind, when it passed Resolution 242.
For more details on the meaning of 242, click here.
- Many media outlets have corrected erroneous characterizations of 242 (prompted by CAMERA), including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The corrections clarify that 242 does not require Israel to give all the land acquired in the 67 War to the Palestinians. For example:
Correction (New York Times, 9/8/00): An article on Wednesday about the Middle East peace talks referred incorrectly to United Nations resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Middle East War, calls for Israel's armed forces to withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict," no resolution calls for Israeli withdrawal from all territory, including East Jerusalem, occupied in the war.
Correction (Wall Street Journal, 5/11/04): United Nations Security Council resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw "from territories occupied" in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but doesn't specify that the withdrawal should be from all such territories. An International page article Friday incorrectly stated that Security Council resolutions call for Israel to withdraw from all land captured in the 1967 war.
• Similarly, Carter repeatedly errs when he asserts that the West Bank is "Palestinian land," rather than disputed land whose (likely) division and designation will be decided through negotiations (as per Resolution 242).
For example, Carter said on the Nov 28 Newshour:
"And I chose this title very carefully. It's Palestine, first of all. This is the Palestinians' territory, not Israel."
• In his book, Carter almost always presents Israeli leaders in a negative light, and they are frequently described as trying to impede the peace process. In contrast, Carter describes despotic Arab leaders in glowing terms, quotes them at length, without any comments about the accuracy of their statements. He writes, for instance,
"When I met with Yasir Arafat in 1990, he stated 'The PLO has never advocated the annihilation of Israel.' "
Carter fails to note that Arafat and the PLO have frequently called for the destruction of Israel and that the destruction of Israel is a key part of the PLO Charter (most explicitly in Articles 15 and 22):
"Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence..." (from Article 22).
Arafat regularly called for violence against Israel. In a speech to Palestinian Arab leaders from Hebron, broadcast on official PA Television on January 26, 2002, Arafat urged:
"Jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad!"
Carter follows up the absurd quotation from Arafat by describing the PLO in admiring language, without mentioning the terror so central to their agenda.
• Carter spends much of the book conveying Arab grievances against Israel, while rarely providing any context from the Israeli perspective. When he does, it is perfunctory and brief. While terror against Israel is mentioned, it is rare and sharply minimized.
• The vicious incitement against Israel and Jews by the Arabs is treated as a trivial complaint rather than as the fuel that keeps the flame of bigotry and violence alive. The only time Carter mentions incitement is to complain that the Israelis insisted on cessation of incitement against Israel, "but the Roadmap cannot state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians."
Since there is no state-sponsored anti-Arab incitement in Israel, and incitement against Arabs is actually a crime in Israel, it would have been misleading to include a proscription against it in the Roadmap. That would have made it seem that incitement in Israel was comparable to the massive, systemic incitement in Palestinian society.
As for his reference to "Israel must cease violence...against the Palestinians," he appears to morally equate Israeli counter-terror measures with Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians.
• In describing what led to the conflicts this year between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and Hezbollah, Carter continues his pattern of minimizing Arab violence, thereby placing Israel's military responses into question due to the lack of context. Carter mentions the abduction of the Israeli soldiers, but fails to inform his readers about the rockets from Gaza that were being fired daily at Israeli civilians in southwest Israel and omits that Hezbollah did much more than abduct 2 soldiers; before the abduction, they fired missiles at Israeli communities in northern Israel.
• Carter obfuscates important aspects of history. Here's how he describes the British giving almost all of Mandate Palestine—78 percent—to Emir Abdullah after World War I to create Transjordan (later renamed Jordan): "Another throne was needed, so an emirate called Transjordan was created out of some remote desert regions of the Palestine Mandate ..." [emphasis added]
• He writes of various Arab leaders accepting the two-state solution, and sometimes mentions that they also require the so-called right of return (of the millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to Israel, as opposed to the future state of Palestine). But Carter doesn't explain that due to the high Arab birthrate, the so-called right of return would quickly turn Israel into another Arab state, transforming the two-state (Arab and Jewish) solution into a two-Arab states solution. While he writes of the many items he feels are unreasonable deal-breakers demanded by Israel, he never addresses the Arab demands that are deal-breakers for Israel.
• In his conclusion, Carter accuses the American government of being "submissive," claiming that due to "powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Israel dominate in our media ..."
Carter's claim that "voices from Israel dominate in our media" is especially ironic at a time when Carter himself is all over the media spreading his anti-Israel message. And since Carter is prone to demonizing Israel, it likely never occurred to him that perhaps our politicians don't frequently criticize Israeli government decisions because Israel shares our values of democracy, pluralism and the sanctity of life, and its decisions are, on the whole, fair and just.
• Apparently admiringly, Carter writes: "At the same time, political leaders and news media in Europe are highly critical of Israeli policies, affecting public attitudes. Americans were surprised and angered by an opinion poll, published by the International Herald Tribune in October 2003, of 7500 citizens in fifteen European nations, indicating that Israel was considered to be the top threat to world peace, ahead of North Korea, Iran, or Afghanistan." That Carter apparently feels this is a more realistic, helpful worldview is revealing.
In general, Carter holds Israel to an unreasonably high standard of almost pacifist behavior, while holding the Arabs to no standard at all. In his world, the terror against Israel has been minimal, hardly worth mentioning and certainly not important enough for Israelis to respond to or for the world community to condemn. The Arabs should suffer no consequences for continuing to attack and terrorize Israel, for continuing to indoctrinate their population to see Jews as sub-humans who deserve to be murdered. Carter advocates having the Arabs' maximalist demands rewarded. It is Israel who must make all the concessions and sacrifices. The Arabs' bigotry and supremacist attitudes regarding non-Muslims and the west - attitudes central to the conflict -- are entirely ignored by Carter.
Since Carter is a former president, and because he is well known for his work on Habitat for Humanity, interviewers are for the most part being entirely deferential to him, while rarely pointing out that his book and statements are filled with inaccuracies and distortions. But Carter should not be allowed to rewrite history and erase decades of Arab bigotry, rejectionism and terror, while inventing Israeli intransigence and opposition to peace.