In the controversy over Jimmy Carter's error-ridden new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the role of publisher Simon and Schuster has been largely ignored. The assumption, evidently, is that the company producing, promoting and profiting from a supposedly non-fiction history on a contentious topic, bears no responsibility for the book's accuracy - or falsity. Indeed, Simon and Schuster makes no pretense of assuring the factual merit of its product or of planning to redress errors.
Vice President of Corporate Communications Adam Rothberg told Publishers Weekly when asked whether S&S will change the book: "We're going to stick with the president's version."
That "version" includes myriad untrue statements of a kind newspapers routinely correct. Among them is Carter's falsifying of the central international declaration underpinning all negotiations since 1967 - UN Security Council Resolution 242. On page 215 of his book, for instance, Carter writes that
[An option for Israel is] withdrawal to the 1967 border specified in UN Resolution 242 and as promised in the Camp David Accords and the Oslo Agreement...
Similarly, he writes on p. 57:
The 1949 armistice demarcation lines became the borders of the new nation of Israel and were accepted by Israel and the United States, and recognized officially by the United Nations.
These statements are false.
The "1949 armistice" lines did not become the "accepted" borders of Israel. Nor did Camp David and Oslo specify a withdrawal to these alleged borders. Moreover, both the language of 242 and its intent, as described by the resolution's drafters, are clear. Britain's Lord Caradon, who introduced the resolution on November 22, 1967, after months of discussion in the wake of the Six Day War, has explicitly emphasized the very opposite of Carter's claims.
In an interview in February 1973 on Israel Radio he said:
We knew that the boundaries of '67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers; they were a cease-fire line of a couple decades earlier. We did not say the '67 boundaries must be forever.
In the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974, Caradon reiterated:
It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers of each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That's why we didn't demand that the Israelis return to them.
It's noteworthy that other publications have made the same error, suggesting 242 calls for Israel's return to the pre-1967 armistice lines, and corrected it. The New York Times, during the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations at Camp David in the summer of 2000, did so three times, published three corrections, and has not repeated the error. Likewise other wire services and newspapers have corrected this serious inaccuracy.
Carter's falsifications are not limited to mangling 242. He charges with regard to the barrier built by Israel in the wake of unprecedented terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank:
The governments of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have built the fence and wall entirely within Palestinian territory, intruding deeply into the West Bank to encompass Israeli settlement blocs and large areas of other Palestinian land.
The statement falsely depicts the course of the barrier. According to UN numbers, the path of the barrier under construction adheres to 45% of the "armistice line" and even in some places veers inside pre-1967 Israel. Not surprisingly, Carter neglects to mention the dramatic life-saving effect of the barrier - which has mostly done what was intended in thwarting easy entry by killers into Israel.
There are many other serious errors. The former president writes preposterously on page 52:
The Israelis have never granted any appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians...
Obviously, after 1993 and the Oslo agreements, Palestinians achieved "appreciable autonomy," attaining control of political, civic, security, medical and media institutions and gaining 40% of the West Bank and all of Gaza. Carter also repeatedly misrepresents facts about Palestinian autonomy efforts in relation to the 1978/79 Camp David agreements he oversaw, blaming Israel for their failure and omitting that such plans were bitterly and publicly denounced by Yasser Arafat and the PLO. Nor does he mention that Palestinians who supported autonomy were killed.
So pervasive is Carter's antipathy toward Israel that any expectation of redress of the factual errors by the author himself is clearly futile. The question is why a publisher such as Simon and Schuster should be exempt from fact-checking a book billed and sold as non-fiction history - and from issuing forthright corrections when such serious errors have been printed.
The article originally ran in the Jerusalem Post on January 16, 2006.