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Middle East Issues





Jimmy Carterís Second Draft


Former President Jimmy Carter has clearly been chastened by the criticism of his last error-laden text, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (Simon & Schuster, 2006). His follow up book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work (Simon & Schuster, 2009), is much more moderate in tone. Nevertheless, the text is still, in essence, an extended attempt to deceive its audience about issues of central importance to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The main thrust of Carter’s book is that Hamas – a group dedicated to Israel’s destruction – can be trusted to agree to a peace deal negotiated by Fatah (an allegedly more moderate organization) if this deal is subsequently affirmed by the Palestinian people in a referendum or by an elected Palestinian government. In addition to portraying Hamas (which controls the Gaza Strip) and Fatah (which controls the West Bank) as trustworthy peace partners, Carter also portrays Israeli policies as the primary cause for the continuation of the Arab-Israeli war. He also depicts Israel as if it is in control of the violence and enmity directed at it by political and religious leaders in the Middle East.

In order to make this story credible, Carter engages in a number of distortions. In addition to downplaying Palestinian violence against Israel and portraying Israeli efforts to defend itself as unreasonable acts of aggression, the former president labors to sanitize Hamas’ history and agenda by giving more credence to the statements made to him during private meetings by the organization’s leaders than he does to its public statements and actions. He also works to rehabilitate the reputation of Marwan Bhargouti, a Fatah leader responsible for the deaths of numerous Israelis.

The overall effect of Carter’s book is to exaggerate the willingness of Israel’s neighbors to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and to portray delays in peace as Israel’s fault.

Sanitizing Hamas

As stated above, the main thrust of Carter's book is to portray Hamas – an organization committed to Israel’s destruction – as a potential peace partner that can be trusted to accept a peace deal. Carter’s portrayal of Hamas, however, is marred with numerous factual errors and omissions that all serve to downplay its hostility and violence toward Israel and Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip – problems that would cause most observers to question Carter’s assessment of the organization as a potential peace partner.

Yes, Carter does acknowledge that Hamas does not accept Israel’s existence, but at other points in his text, he downplays this fact and suggests the organization will evolve into a more pragmatic organization in a process similar to what allegedly happened with the Fatah dominated PLO.  He does this by mischaracterizing Hamas’ positions and by cherry-picking its statements.

On page 46, Carter writes that Hamas was founded, “with its charter, like that of the PLO, pledging to remove Israel from the Holy Land using violence if necessary.” (Emphasis added.)

Hamas’ charter is quite clear it views violence not as a tool to be used when “necessary” but rather as the only solution to the Palestinian problem. It reads in part:

There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad [Holy War]. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce.

Given the text of its charter, how can former President Carter suggest with a straight face that Hamas ever intended to eliminate Israel with anything other than violence? Clearly, attacking Israel, and the Jews who live there, is a central – not provisional – aspect of Hamas’ agenda.

Carter’s description of the January 2006 election which brought Hamas to power is also distorted. On page 86, Carter, who monitored the election as part of a delegation from the Carter Center, reports that “Hamas assumed a moderate position during the campaign, omitting any mention of violent action and calling only for ‘the establishment of an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem.’”

In reality, Hamas’ statements during the run-up to the election were a mixture of pragmatism and extremism, and certainly did include explicit “mention of violent” action. Sometimes Hamas candidates spoke in moderate terms about a willingness to negotiate and other times they spoke of a refusal to negotiate and of a long term goal of Israel’s destruction. Despite the ambiguity, the overall message was clear: Israel’s destruction remained Hamas’ long-term goal and any moderation was a short-term tactic.

According to a report published by the Middle East Media Research Institute on Jan. 27, 2006, Hamas spokesperson Samu Abu Zuhri acknowledged before the election that there was a difference in language between Hamas’ charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction, and the platform it issued before the election, which did not mention Israel’s destruction. His interpretation was that “The platform refers to details and implementation methods for the next four years, while the charter lays out our permanent strategic views.” The MEMRI report continues:

Salah Al-Bardawil, another candidate on the Hamas list, stated that “Hamas has never proposed to change or amend its charter. The platform presents a realistic view that reflects Hamas’s goals for the next four years. Had we spoken of eliminating and eradicating Israel within this period, we would have been deceiving our people and repeating false slogans. But this does not stand in contradiction [to the fact that] we place emphasis on the elimination and non-recognition of Israel.” (Emphasis added throughout)

Ultimately, there is no confusion over Hamas’ long term goals, despite Carter’s efforts to sanitize its agenda. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (who according to the book had assured the former president in private discussions that it will abide by peace deals approved by the Palestinian people or by a democratically elected government) stated at an assembly in Damascaus, held approximately one month before the elections, that the long term goal of his organization is the violent “liberation” of Israeli territory. Mashaal said:

This assembly holds special significance, since it takes place after Gaza was liberated against the will of the Zionist aggressors. Who knows when we will celebrate the liberation of Gaza, Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, and all the rest of Palestine. Hamas, together with the Palestinian people, will implement its policy using a new language, without feeling any urge to meet with the enemy or negotiate with it. Was Gaza liberated through negotiations?! Hamas will continue to wield its weapons and to [claim] its right to resist. Resistance will [continue to] be a strategic option until the last piece of Palestinian land is liberated, and until the last refugee returns.

MEMRI is not the only source of information about Hamas’ ambiguous pre-election statements. On Jan. 24, 2006, the Boston Globe provided extensive detail about the organization’s rhetoric on the last day of the campaign. Globe reporter Anne Barnard wrote:

Hamas leaders yesterday concluded their maiden political campaign with a defiant embrace of the militant group's core tenets, vowing to continue their armed struggle until Palestinians rule what is now Israel, denouncing all economic ties with the Jewish state, and declaring peace negotiations ''a failed process." ...
 
Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas leader, struck back in the campaign's final days, playing to Hamas's political base in the destitute Gaza neighborhoods and refugee camps that have supplied many Hamas suicide attackers and that revere them as martyrs. Before crowds of thousands, he and other candidates went out of their way to deny they would ever give up their insistence on the destruction of Israel and the right to armed struggle.
 
''We are entering the legislative council to make it a project of resistance," he told a cheering crowd last night in the Zeitoun neighborhood, adding, in a jab at Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, ''Do you want to abandon the program of sacrifice and jihad for the program of fancy cars and big salaries?"

Carter’s efforts to sanitize Hamas become most explicit in Chapter 10, titled “Can Hamas Play a Positive Role?” For example, on page 132 Carter reports that “Hamas leaders claim that the conflict with Israel is political and not religious.” This is clearly a deception on the part of the (unnamed) Hamas leaders.

Although Hamas leaders have told Western audiences that their hostility toward Israel is political and not religious, they have made clear in Arabic that religious hostility toward Jews is a central aspect of their agenda. For example, in March 2007, senior Hamas leader Mahoud Al-Zahar, who was then serving as the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, told a crowd gathered at a mass rally that the Koran promises “the liberation of all Palestine” which in Hamas agenda means the destruction of Israel. No one can deny it, he said. “One who denies it must check his faith and his Islam. (Palestinian Media Watch, March 26, 2007)”

Hamas’ religiously motivated hostility toward Jews and Israel is also documented in its charter, which invokes Muslim notions of holy war (“jihad”) to justify its war against the Jewish state. This document begins with a lamentation that Jews and Christians have not accepted Islam: “If only the people of the Book [Jews and Christians] had believed, it would have been well for them.” The second paragraph of the charter includes the following: “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it, as it abolished that which was before it.” Later the charter states:

… our fight with the Jews is very extensive and very grave, and it requires all the sincere efforts. It is a step that must be followed by further steps; it is a brigade that must be reinforced by brigades upon brigades from this vast Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory is revealed.

Hamas’ charter also includes the following passage:

The Prophet, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him, says: "The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,' except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews." (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim).

The contempt with which Hamas holds Israel and Jews should be readily apparent in a statement issued by the organization on the 60th anniversary of the UN vote to partition the British Mandate into a Jewish and Arab state. According to Haaretz, a Hamas spokesperson called on the UN to rescind the 60-year-old vote:

"It is not shameful to correct a mistake. Palestine is Arab-Islamic land from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem, and Jews have no place there," [Army Radio] quoted a Hamas statement as saying. (Nov. 29, 2007)

Given all this, Carter’s repetition – without reflection or challenge – of assertions from Hamas leaders that their complaints are “political and not religious” is simply dishonest.

Hamas "Ceasefires"

Carter also puts forth Hamas’s offers of ceasefires (or hudnas) as real opportunities for peace despite ample evidence that they are merely an attempt to bring about the creation of a Palestinian state without Hamas having to acknowledge the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.  On page 133, the former president writes:

In August 2004, Hamas changed tactics and announced a unilateral cease-fire and pledged to forgo any attacks against Israeli civilians, but some subsequent violence was attributed to it. As early as January 2004 and again in February 2006, senior Hamas officials made public offers of a long-term truce, or hudna, in return for a complete withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

What Carter omits from this paragraph is that none of these proposals acknowledged Israel’s existence as a permanent state in the Middle East and that Israel’s destruction remained the primary goal of the organization.

Carter also fails to report that the long-term truce offered by senior Hamas officials in January 2004 was repudiated by Hamas leaders soon after its existence was first reported. This truce offer was first reported in Al-Hayat, an Arabic newspaper published in London, on Jan. 25, 2004. A BBC translation of the report in Al-Hayat quotes Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh as saying “Hamas accepts the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the territories that were seized in 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital, as a temporary solution.” (BBC Monitoring, Jan. 26, 2004).

Then, on Jan. 26, 2004, Reuters reported:

A top official of the main Palestinian group, Hamas, has said it could declare a 10-year truce with Israel if it withdrew from territory occupied since 1967.
 
Abdel-Azziz al-Rantisi said late yesterday Hamas has concluded it was “difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation.”
 
We accepted a state in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We propose a 10-year truce in return for (Israeli) withdrawal and the establishment of a state,” he said by telephone from hiding in the Gaza Strip.

This proposal, which offered 10 years of peace (at best) for the recognition of a Palestinian state, was also repudiated on Jan. 26, 2004 by Rantisi in a statement published in Arabic on the pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Center. According to a Jan. 27 translation by the BBC, Rantisi accused Reuters of adding “something to distort the statement and of taking it out of context.” Rantisi also stated unequivocally that he told Reuters “there will be no recognition of the so-called State of Israel and there will be no end to the conflict.” The Palestinian Information Center also reported:

 

Dr Al-Rantisi underlined the following constant principles:

 

1. There will be no relinquishment of a single inch of Palestinian territory, because it is Islamic territory.

 

2. There will be no recognition of the so-called State of "Israel".

 

3. Any solution that provides for a recognition of the so-called State of "Israel", or for relinquishing a single inch of the historic territoryof Palestine is unacceptable and null and void and non-binding to us.

 

4. The resistance option is the only option that can bring about a restoration of the usurped rights.

 

5. The negotiating process has proved futile and incapable of restoring the legitimate national rights.

Given this thorough repudiation of the so-called truce offer of Jan. 2004, how can former President Carter invoke it as a legitimate opportunity for peace?

The February 2006 peace offer cited by Carter is likewise meaningless. Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas’s political bureau in Damascus, made the offer in a opinion piece that appeared in The Guardian on Jan. 31, 2006. In the piece, Meshaal calls for a long-term truce, while at the same time asserting that Hamas will “never recognize the legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil …” Again, given the obvious contradiction – a call for a long term truce coupled with a refusal to accept “a Zionist state on our soil” – how can Carter honestly invoke this truce offer as a legitimate opportunity for peace?

Finally, Carter’s description of “some violence” being “attributed” to Hamas after August 2004 is an example – one of many throughout the book – of the former president downplaying the organization’s violence and Israeli casualties. On Aug. 31, 2004, for example, two buses were bombed in Be’er Sheva, killing 16. This deadly attack was not “attributed to” Hamas. The organization itself proudly claimed responsibility for it.

Approximately a month later, Hamas also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed four-year-old Yuval Abebeh (pictured on the right) and his cousin, two-year old Dorit Benisian (left) as they were playing together outside their grandmother’s home. It was one of many rocket attacks by Hamas since August 2004.

Downplaying Palestinian Violence – Second Intifada

The former president’s efforts to exaggerate the likelyhood of Palestinians making peace are also exhibited in his failure to accurately report the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians since the Second Intifada. On page 62 Carter writes:

During the Second Intifada and before a Gaza truce was accepted in June 2008, reliable human rights organizations reported that 334 Israeli military personnel and 719 Israeli civilians were killed. [The total is 1053 Israelis.] There were 4,745 Palestinian fatalities, of whom 1,671 were assumed to have been militants. It is difficult to ascertain who among the Palestinians were active combatants, but 119 Israeli children and 982 Palestinian children were among the dead.

Then on page 94, Carter writes:

B’tselem reports 1,787 Palestinians killed in the West Bank by the Israel Defense Forces and 41 by Israeli settlers between September 2000 and 2008. Qassam rockets were launched from Gaza into the nearby Israeli villageof Sderot, and retaliatory strokes against Gaza cost 2,974 lives, while 580 Israelis were killed. 

The problem with these numbers is obvious. While the number of Palestinian deaths is about the same (4,745 on page 62 versus 4802 on page 94), there is a significant discrepancy between the Israeli deaths (1053 on page 62 and 580 on page 94). Why the 45 percent drop?

An examination of B’tselem’s Web site reveals the problem. The 580 figure Carter used on page 94 includes only Israelis killed inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders and omits Israeli killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This glaring error removes almost 500 Israeli deaths from Carter’s narrative.

Carter confuses the issue further when he asserts on page 62 that, of the Palestinian fatalities, “1,671 were assumed to have been militants.” In fact, the likely number of “militants” is much higher. According to B’tselem, Israel killed almost 900 Palestinians about whom it is not “known if they were taking part in the hostilities” during the Second Intifada. B’tselem’s report makes clear that this number includes numerous wanted militants and armed Palestinians.

While Carter writes that it “is difficult to ascertain who among the Palestinians were active combatants,” evidence indicates that the majority those killed were, in fact, involved in attacks against Israel. (As previous CAMERA analyses reveal, B’tselem, the organization Carter invokes as a reliable source of information, has failed to report that numerous Palestinians it characterizes as non-combatants have in fact engaged in acts of violence against Israel and have been members of terror groups such as Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.)

The problems with Carter’s statistics do not end here. On page 132, he reports that “from November 2000 to mid-2004 nearly four hundred Israeli soldiers and citizens were killed.” In fact, more than twice this number of Israelis was killed over the time frame Carter enunciates. According to a report published by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centerat the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC), 879 Israelis were killed in the years 2001, 2002, and 2003. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 Israelis were killed in the last two months of 2000, and 63 were killed in the first six months of 2004, yielding a total number of 970 Israeli deaths – far exceeding Carter’s estimate of 400 killed.

Downplaying Palestinian Violence – First Intifada

Former President Carter’s depiction of the First Intifada is also disingenuous. On page 45 he writes:

A movement known as the Intifada (“shaking,” or “waking up”) began in 1987 and continued for several years. Although PLO leaders had access to many firearms, they restrained their use except against Palestinians believed to be colluding with Israelis.
 
Seventy thousand Israeli troops were deployed to confront mostly young people throwing stones. The human rights organization Al Haq reported that not a single Israeli soldier was killed during the first year of the Intifada, and a total of only twelve during the first four years of the uprising 

In this passage, Carter embraces the mythology that the First Intifada was a non-violent protest on the part of the Palestinians. One obvious problem with this narrative is Carter's reliance on an unnamed document from Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, to buttress his claim that “not a single soldier” was killed during the first year of the Intifada. According to B’tselem – an organization which Carter routinely cites as a source – a total of four Israeli soldiers were killed during 1988.

Why did Carter use Al Haq and not B’tselem for this statistic? Was it because it provided him with a much more dramatic assertion – that “not a single Israeli soldier was killed” – as opposed to the information B’tselem provided?

Even if the former president had cited the correct number of Israeli soldiers during the first year of the Intifada, this would still be disingenuous, because he omits entirely the number of civilian deaths that resulted from Palestinian violence during the time period. This concealed information clearly demonstrates that the First Intifada was marked by serious violence targeting Israeli men, women and children. More than 100 Israeli civilians were killed during the years 1987 through 1990.

This contradicts Carter’s characterization of the First Intifada as merely an outbreak of rock throwing. In truth, firearms, hand grenades and firebombs were used to terrorize Israeli civilians, with lethal results. In October 1998, for example, Rachel Weiss, a twenty-six year old Israeli woman, was burned to death along with her three sons – the oldest only 3 years old – when Palestinians firebombed a passenger bus she was riding through Jericho in the West Bank.

Carter downplays another important aspect of the First Intifada – namely, that a large number of the Palestinians killed during the “uprising” were in fact killed by their fellow Palestinians. Although he does briefly allude to this violence when asserting that the PLO used firearms against suspected collaborators, he provides no information about the disturbing scope of these summary executions. In March 1990, The Los Angeles Times reported that “At least 170 Palestinians are believed to have been killed by other Palestinians since the uprising began 27 months ago, all but about 30 of them since last June.”

Another issue Carter fails to acknowledge during his discussion of this period is that violence against Israeli civilian inside the Green Line increased after the signing of the interim agreement (or “Oslo Accords”) on Sept. 13, 1993. According to B’tselem, a total of 70 Israeli civilians and military personnel were killed inside Israel between Dec. 9, 1987 and Sept. 13, 1993. By way of comparison, between the beginning of 1994 and the end of 1997, a total of 161 Israelis were killed inside Israel. The upshot is this: The Oslo Accords did not make life any safer for Israelis inside Israel.

By omitting information about Palestinian violence during the First Intifada and about the increase of Israeli deaths that took place after the Oslo Accords, Carter deprives his readers of information they need to assess the prospects for peace between Israel and its adversaries.

Sanitizing Marwan Barghouti

Another important aspect of Carter’s narrative is his depiction of Marwan Bin Khatib Barghouti as a potential successor to Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the more pragmatic Fatah party. He is intent on portraying Barghouti as someone who can broker a deal that will be accepted by Hamas. To this end, Carter describes Barghouti as able to play a “key future role in promoting harmony in the Middle East” because of his “impeccable revolutionary credentials and respect from many Israelis and from Palestinians of both major factions” (page 82). On page 80 Carter describes Barghouti as “an activist serving a life sentence in Israeli prisons” and writes that after he was arrested in April 2002,

Barghouti refused to present a defense and asserted that his trial was illegitimate because he was a legislator, arrested over an area over which Israel had no authority, and his transfer from the occupied territory to Israel for trial violated the Fourth Geneva Convesion. He was accused of thirty-three counts of murder during the first and second intifadas and found guilty on five hazy charges involving Israeli Druze soldiers.

Carter’s one-sided depiction of the Barghouti’s arrest, defense and conviction leaves out many important details and mischaracterizes the charges against him. The charges are not hazy, but laid out in specific detail in a court ruling issued by Judge Svi Gurfinkel at the District Court of Tel Aviv and Jaffa on Dec. 12, 2002. Gurfinkel wrote that Barghouti and his subordinates “carried out a series of actions that caused, promoted and enabled the implementation of … Acts of Terror.” The ruling also states:

The Defendant was involved in the training of terrorists by funding and organizing training facilities for activists who were longstanding members of the terrorist organizations and also activists recruited at the time, all for the purpose of carrying out Acts of Terror. . . . The Defendant was active in obtaining arms and other weapons, including assault rifles, explosive belts, a mortar, hand grenades and so forth, for the purposes of carrying out Acts of Terror.

The acts of terror that Barghouti organized did result in the deaths of five individuals, but only one of them – not five as Carter reports – was an Israeli Druze soldier. The others were civilians. David Bedein provides some detail in an op-ed he wrote for the Forward in December 2005. Bedein writes that Barghouti is

responsible for the murders of: Salim Barakat, 33, from the Druze village of Yarka in the Galilee, who survived by his wife, daughter, parents and seven brothers and sisters; Eli Dahan, 53, of Lod, who is survived by his mother Sarah, wife, Ilana, two daughters, two sons and three grandchildren; Yosef Habi, 52, of Herzliya, who is survived by his wife, son and daughter; Father Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34, a Greek Orthodox monk from St. George’s Monastery in Wadi Kelt near Jericho, and Yoela Chen, 45, of Givat Ze’ev, who is survived by her husband and two children.
 
Nor are they Barghouti’s only victims. At his trial, people who were maimed as a result of Barghouti-sponsored attacks appeared as witnesses to the pain he caused them — pain they will experience for the rest of their lives.
 
Chicago-born Alan Bauer and his 7-year-old son Jonathan were among those witnesses. They were five minutes from their home in Jerusalem when a Barghouti-funded suicide bomber blew himself up three feet away from them on March 21, 2002. Two arteries in Bauer’s arm were severed. A screw went all the way through little Jonathan’s head. To this day, Jonathan walks with a limp.
 
According to the court protocols, Barghouti proudly admitted that he directed terrorist attacks in which scores of Israelis were killed and revealed how he directly allocated funds needed by terrorist cells to operate and purchase necessary weapons, and stated that Yasser Arafat personally authorized this funding for Tanzim activities, knowing that this money would be used to finance murderous attacks. Furthermore, protocols of interrogations of P.A. officials before the trial showed how the process worked: Names of Tanzim killers were submitted to Barghouti, who would routinely take them to Arafat for approval.

In addition to casting doubt on Barghouti’s responsibility for the murders by writing the charges are “hazy,” Carter also fails to acknowledge that every one of Barghouti’s assertions regarding Israel lacking the legal authority to arrest, charge, convict and sentence him are dealt with decisively in the judge’s ruling.

First off, the Oslo Accords stipulated that Israel “will continue to carry responsibility for defending against external threats, as well as the responsibility for overall security of Israelis for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order. (Article VIII of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangments [“Oslo Agreement”], Sept. 13, 1993. Annex II of this document also stipulates that “Israel will continue to be responsible for external security, and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israelis.”

Carter also fails to note that Barghouti did not meet the requirements of being a prisoner of war under the Fourth Geneva Convention which he invoked in an attempt to stymie the case against him. In particular, Barghouti lacked a fixed distinguishing sign while engaged in acts of violence against Israel and did not carry his weapons openly.

In reference to Barghouti’s claim that as a legislator he is not subject to prosecution, Judge Gurfinkel ruled that Barghouti failed to provide any legal foundation for his argument. Yes, diplomats and heads of state are granted immunity, Gurfinkel acknowledged. Nevertheless, Barghouti “is neither covered by diplomatic immunity nor by the immunity granted to the heads of state.”

In other words, every one of Barghouti’s claims about his trial were false, and yet Carter passes them onto the reader without challenge.

Arab Riots Omitted

On pages seven through nine, former President Carter details the events during the 20th century related to the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. While Carter acknowledges the Holocaust and its impact on the Jewish people in Europe – something he did not do in the “Historical Chronology” section of his last book – he omits other crucial events that took place in the Middle East during that time.

For example, despite mentioning the violent acts of “Jewish militants” in the 1930s, Carter provides no reference to the bloody anti-Jewish riots that took place in Palestine during the 1920s and 30s.

Forty-three Jews were killed in riots that took place in 1921 and in 1929, 133 Jews were killed in pogroms, 67 of them in Hebron. Eighty were killed by Arab rioters in 1936. These riots, incited by religious and political leaders in Palestine, most notably the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, also resulted in the deaths of many Arabs who clashed with British police. By omitting this information while mentioning Jewish acts of violence, Carter apparently hopes to portray the Arab-Israeli conflict as the result of Jewish and not Arab misdeeds. 

Saudi Peace Plan

Carter also seems intent on exaggerating the willingness of Israel’s neighbors to make peace. On page XVI of his introduction, he asserts that the Saudi peace plan of 2002 has “been accepted by all Islamic nations” (a grouping that includes Iran).

While the Organization of Islamic Countries has approved the Saudi plan, the leaders of Iran have in fact strongly condemned it. According to a Tehran-based PressTV, Iranian officials condemned the publication of advertisements that suggested that the Iranian government supported the Saudi Proposal. The article states:

The Iranian Embassy in London on Thursday responded to the distortions in separate letters of protest to the newspapers and demanded that they publish articles in their next editions to remove any doubt that may have been caused on the issue, IRNA reported.
 
Iran condemns "any move taken by some Arab countries to push the recognition of the occupying Zionist regime in any manner, including in Islamic conferences," Guardian quoted the Embassy as saying in its letter. (Press TV, Nov. 27, 2008)

Iran’s opposition to the Saudi plan was confirmed by the Associated Press, which on Dec. 23, 2008 stated that “Iranian officials and state-run media have stepped up their criticism of a Saudi-backed Arab peace initiative with Israel. Iran rejects any peace with the Jewish state.”

Kahan Report Ignored

On page 44, Carter invokes the massacre by Christian Falangists at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon, stating that “later investigations revealed that the Israel Defense Forces had allowed Lebanese Christian militiamen to enter the camps and perpetrate the crime.”

Carter’s deceptive wording casts the IDF as having permitted the militiamen “to perpetrate the crime,” as if the army let them into the camps for the purpose of committing a massacre. In fact, the detailed report issued by Kahan Commission (which led to Ariel Sharon’s resignation as defense minister) makes clear that the IDF had no intention of allowing a massacre and had no knowledge that one was taking place:

Contentions and accusations were advanced that even if I.D.F. personnel had not shed the blood of the massacred, the entry of the Phalangists into the camps had been carried out with the prior knowledge that a massacre would be perpetrated there and with the intention that this should indeed take place; and therefore all those who had enabled the entry of the Phalangists into the camps should be regarded as accomplices to the acts of slaughter and sharing in direct responsibility. These accusations too are unfounded. We have no doubt that no conspiracy or plot was entered into between anyone from the Israeli political echelon or from the military echelon in the I.D.F. and the Phalangists, with the aim of perpetrating atrocities in the camps. …
 
We assert that in having the Phalangists enter the camps, no intention existed on the part of anyone who acted on behalf of Israel to harm the non-combatant population, and that the events that followed did not have the concurrence or assent of anyone from the political or civilian echelon who was active regarding the Phalangists' entry into the camps.

Likud Victory

Carter insinuates on pages 53-54 that Israeli voters wanted to derail a healthy peace process supported by Hamas. He does this by juxtaposing Hamas’s pledge not to interfere with efforts to form a Palestinian government in 1996 with the decision of Israeli voters to return the Likud Party to power in Israeli elections that year. Carter writes that Benjamin Netanyahu’s election as Israeli Prime Minister “spelled the end of the Oslo Peace process.” In other words, Hamas is cast as being supportive of the peace process while the Israelis are depicted as obstructing peace by voting for Likud and bringing Netanyahu to power.
 
This description of Netanyahu's election causing the end of the Oslo peace process is absurd. In fact, the central reason Israeli voters shifted rightward was the brutal attacks by Palestnians on Israelis – and the peace process itself – in the months leading up to the vote. Four suicide attacks killed 59 Israelis during the election campaign. These attacks turned Shimon Perez from a 20-point favorite into a losing candidate and catapulted Netanyahu to power. Only an author who consistantly ignores Palestinian violence could see Netanyahu’s election as causing, rather than being an effect of, a breakdown in the peace process. (It's worth noting, since Carter does not, that the peace process – including a redeployment of Israeli troops from the Jewish holy city of Hebron – did in fact continue under Netanyahu's watch.)
 
Gaza Withdrawal

Carter’s efforts to portray Israel as responsible for Palestinian violence are also evident on page 64 when he blames Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005 for the violence that ensued. Carter writes:

It was good that Sharon finally recognized the futility of occupying Gaza, but this unilateral withdrawal rather than one negotiated with the Palestinian Authority proved to be a serious strategic miscalculation. It weakened the Palestinian moderates who wanted to negotiate peace with Israel and strengthened the militants, who claimed that Israel withdrew only because of their violent resistance. It also led many Israelis to conclude that Palestinians would not accept Israel even if it withdrew, thus leading Israelis to believe they should remain in the West Bank. A negotiated withdrawal would have strengthened the peace process.
This portrayal of Israel’s withdrawal as causing violence is an ironic assertion from a man who has continually called for Israel to withdraw from territory as a way to end the conflict.
 
What Carter does not acknowledge is that Israel’s best efforts to achieve a “negotiate withdrawal” failed miserably at Camp David in 2000 as a result of Palestinian intransigence.
 
Carter does not hold the Palestinians responsible for their failings, but instead blames all their misdeeds on Israeli behavior and policy – even when Israeli behavior is obviously conciliatory. Essentially, he condemns Israel for its intransigence and then portrays its efforts at reconciliation as misguided.

Security Barrier

Carter’s description of Israel's security barrier portrays the country as indifferent both to the plight of the Palestinians impacted by its construction and to the rule of law. In particular, Carter asserts that the Israeli government ignored “legal rulings” from the International Court of Justice. The ICJ “ruling” that Carter is referring to is, in fact, a non-binding advisory opinion issued in 2004. Carter also fails to acknowledge that most of the barrier was built on state land and that in those instances when private land was used, owners were offered compensation.

Carter describes the debate surrounding the security barrier as follows:

Public opinion about the barrier is as divided as the land, with a strong majority of Israelis believing that it enhances security and marks the eventual West Bank boundary. Palestinians maintain that other factors have reduced violence, that the same results of the barrier could have been achieved with the wall on the international border, that the barrier cannot stop hand grenades, rockets, or mortar attacks, and that its main purpose is to take land and is therefore a major impediment to peace. (Page 69, emphasis added.)

There is, in fact, no “international border” between Israel and the West Bank. Under UN Resolution 242, the details of any land-for-peace deal – including the location of Israel's border – is to be negotiated between Israel and its adversaries. The armistice agreements that brought an end to the 1948 War make it perfectly clear that the boundaries between Israel and the West Bank (then controlled by Jordan) and Gaza Strip (then controlled by Egypt) were not international borders.

The most significant problem with Carter’s description of the barrier is his failure to describe in any detail the impact of the terror attacks that preceded its construction. In fact, as noted above, the former consistently and significantly downplays the violence perpetrated against Israel during the Second Intifada. Before the barrier was built, Israeli civilians were subjected to the terror of suicide bombings perpetrated by Palestinians who embedded their bombs with bits of metal and glass to make their attacks more lethal. The images of Israeli volunteers cleaning the body parts of young children and infants and wiping blood off the streets convinced Israelis that being protected against suicidal mass murderers was more important than inconvenience to those impacted by the barrier. The emotional and psychological impact of these unpredictagble attacks must be included in any honest discussion of the security barrier, but Carter fails to address the issue in a meaningful manner. The decision to build the security barrier was not made in a vacuum, but after hundreds of Israelis were killed in suicide attacks that killed hundreds of civilians in movie theaters, bus stations and restaurants.

The failure to responsibly address the violence that preceded the construction of the security barrier is emblematic of the failings of Carter's book. In his text, Former President Carter downplays Arab violence and its impact on Israeli society. By failing to take into account that Palestinian violence has increased in the face of Israeli concessions, peace offers and withdrawals, and by passing on, without challenge or reflection, deceptive statements from Palestinian leaders, Carter ill-serves, and once again deceives,  his audience.


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