NPR’s Fresh Air Allows Carter to Revise History While Smearing Israel

National Public Radio, notorious for its pattern of defaming Israel with factual errors and one-sided segments, and President Jimmy Carter, whose recent writings on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are replete with inaccuracies, make for a “perfect storm” of bias and falsehoods. The damaging results of this combination were on display Monday (Nov. 26) when Terry Gross, host of “Fresh Air,” interviewed Carter and allowed all his falsehoods to pass unchallenged, one-by-one. The broadcast was also filled with incendiary language and misleading charges. To listen to the segment and its full bounty of malice and error, click here. Given the magnitude of misrepresentations, this analysis is confined to factual errors.

Factual Errors

1) Carter falsely asserts that the Palestinian “right of return” is “guaranteed under United Nations Resolution 194.” In actuality, all of the Arab states voted against Resolution 194, precisely because it did not “guarantee” a “right of return.” The resolution, which never mentions specifically Palestinian refugees nor the term “right,” merely suggests:

refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practical date … . [R]epatriation, resettlement, and economic and social rehabilitation of refugees and payment of compensation [should be facilitated].

Thus the resolution required any returning Palestinian refugee to first accept living at peace with their neighbors in Israel, therefore accepting Israel’s right to exist. Very few of those refugees, even today, seem truly willing to accept this. It should also be noted that (a) the resolution applies equally to Palestinian refugees from Israel, and to the similar number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries who came to Israel after 1948, and (b) that it placed repatriation, resettlement, and payment of compensation on equal footing.

2) Completely erasing years of diplomacy and a series of face-to-face meetings between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, Carter fabricates:

So far neither Olmert nor his predecessor Sharon has been willing to negotiate at all with the Palestinians even though their choice and the choice of the United States, that is Mahmoud Abbas, was the prime minister under of Arafat and later elected to be president. …  

“Even when he was ordained as the one to represent the Palestinians, still not a single day of negotiations has been committed by Israel or the United States.

Similarly, earlier in the broadcast, the former president asserts, “We haven’t had even one day of substantive peace talks between Israel and any of her neighbors in the last six years.”

While Sharon and Abbas never discussed final status issues, they repeatedly did meet and negotiate on a number of matters, including the Quartet’s so-called “road map,” sometimes under the auspices of the United States. Reports culled from the New York Times lay out this history of negotiations between the two leaders:

Greg Myre, “Sharon and Abbas Unable to Agree on Measures to Bolster Truce,” June 22, 2005: Against the backdrop of persistent violence, Prime Minister Ariel  Sharon  of Israel and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud  Abbas,  met Tuesday, but were unable to agree on concrete steps for strengthening a truce that is at risk of unraveling.

The talks were the first between the two since they announced a truce in February, and it was the first time the top Israeli and Palestinian leaders havemet in Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.[Sic — Sharon and Abbas previously met, twice, in Jerusalem in May 2003).

Steven Erlanger, “Urging New Path, Sharon and Abbas Declare Truce,” Feb. 9, 2005: Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel, held summit talks at this Egyptian resort on Tuesday — the highest-level meeting between the sides in four years — and declared a truce in hostilities.

Mr. Abbas said he and Mr. Sharon “have jointly agreed to cease all acts of violence against Israelis and Palestinians everywhere,” while Mr. Sharon said they “agreed that all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere, and in parallel, Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians everywhere.”

Officials said Israel would also pull back its troops from five West Bank cities — Jericho, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tulkarm and Qalqilya — in the next three weeks and stop the arrests and assassinations of top militants if they agree to put down their weapons.

The next article indicates that contrary to Carter’s claim, Sharon committed to negotiate also in August, 2003, but that Abbas canceled the meeting:

James Bennet, “Abbas Cancels Meeting With Sharon Over Prisoner Issue,” Aug. 6, 2003: The Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, today canceled talks scheduled for Wednesday with his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon, to protest a planned release of Palestinian prisoners as a damaging diplomatic stunt, Palestinian officials said.

James Bennet, “Tense Meeting of Sharon and Abbas Ends in Stalemate,” July 21, 2003: The Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers emerged from a tense two-hour meeting here today at loggerheads. Rebuffing Palestinian demands for immediate troop withdrawals and the release of prisoners, Ariel Sharon of Israel said Mahmoud  Abbas,  his Palestinian counterpart, must first dismantle militant groups.

Both sides indicated some flexibility and a willingness to keep talking. But the essential stalemate in their positions shifted the focus of diplomacy toWashington and to meetings each prime minister plans in the coming days with President Bush, again drawing Mr. Bush into coaxing and judging progress under a new peace plan.

Abbas canceled another planned meeting with Sharon in July 2003 due to internal Palestinian politics:

James Bennet, “Abbas in Clash Over His Stance In Peace Talks,” July 9, 2003: Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, battled rival Palestinian leaders today to retain control of negotiations with Israel over a new American-backed peace plan, threatening to quit to face down a storm of criticism that he gained little for renouncing violence.

Mr. Abbas abruptly canceled a meeting planned for Wednesday with Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and some Palestinian officials said he might now harden his negotiating stance toward Israel.

Elisabeth Bumiller, “The President’s Trip: Mideast Quest: Israel and Palestinians Say They Will Take First Steps in Quest for Mideast Peace,” June 5, 2003: Under the firm hand of President Bush, Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, pledged today to begin dismantling some “unauthorized outposts” of settlements in the West Bank, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, declared for the first time that “the armed intifada must end.”

The Palestinian commitment to terminating the 32-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israel and the Israeli decision to dismantle immediately some settlement outposts on West Bank hilltops appeared to constitute the first fruit of the Bush administration’s decision to become centrally involved in the quest for a Middle East peace.

James Bennet, “Sharon and Abbas Weigh Concessions for Mideast Peace,” May 30, 2003: The Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers met here for a second time Thursday night to explore their disagreements over how to pursue a new international peace plan, inching toward concessions and polishing their images as peacemakers before a summit meeting next week in Jordan with President Bush.

James Bennet, “No Breakthrough at Sharon-Abbas Meeting,” May 21, 2003: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently offered to withdraw the Israeli Army from the centers of most Palestinian cities in the West Bank, as well as from the northern Gaza Strip, in exchange for a Palestinian commitment to crack down on terrorism in those areas, officials familiar with the proposal said today.

But the offer, made in a meeting on Saturday night with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, was rejected as insufficient by Mr. Abbas …

3) Carter repeatedly misrepresents UN Resolution 242, the Camp David accords, and the Oslo Accords, falsely claiming that they require Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 lines. For example, Terry Gross reiterates Carter’s misinformation as described in his new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid:

It’s the third option that you think is the best and the right option, and that is, as you describe it, withdrawal to the 1967 border as specified in the UN Resolution 242 and as promised in Camp David and Oslo, and prescribed in the “road map” for peace.

Neither UN Resolution 242 nor the Camp David accords, nor the Oslo accords, nor the “road map” require Israel to return to the 1949 armistice lines. (To call these lines a border is another factual error. Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries were not permanent borders but temporary armistice lines. They were temporary in part because the Arabs in 1949 refused an Israeli offer to make them international borders in exchange for recognition and peace.)

The UN Security Council carefully worded Resolution 242 to require that Israel withdraw from “territories” rather than “the territories.” This construction, leaving out “the,” was intentional, because it was not envisioned that Israel would withdraw from all the territories, thereby returning to the vulnerable pre-war borders. And any withdrawal would be such as to create “secure and recognized boundaries.”

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.”

Our 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.

As for the Camp David accords, they repeatedly state that the basis for a settlement between Israel and its neighbors is UN Resolution 242, which, as established above, does not require Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 boundaries. Moreover, Carter signed as witness to the 1978 document, which states, “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 almost 30 years later that the agreement specifies withdrawal to 1967 lines is completely unconscionable. [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”.]

The Oslo Accords also repeatedly mention a “permanent settlement based on UN Resolution 242.” Moreover, Chapter 3, Article XVII(a) deferred “borders” as “one of the issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations” (Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement, Sept. 28, 1995). In July 2000 at Camp David, those final status issues were negotiated — but not resolved or agreed upon then or any other time.

Likewise, the 2003 “road map” invokes UN Resolution 242, and states that a “process” would begin in 2004 “leading to a final, permanent status resolution in 2005, including on borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements.” Nowhere in this document are pre-1967 so-called “borders,” or more accurately “lines” or “boundaries,” are mentioned.

4) Carter errs again when he states:

At the same time, Gaza, which is about 30 miles separated from the West Bank by Israel, is completely enclosed in a high wall and there are only two doors in that wall that are open. One is open into Israel, which is mostly closed, and the other is into Egypt Sinai, only people can go who have a special pass.

Later in the interview, he alleges:

It’s been particularly onerous and abusive in Gaza, which is a tiny territory surrounded by a high wall, because Israel has also cut off food and supplies going into Gaza and has not permitted the Gaza people to sell the produce that they produce in hothouses and so forth outside.

There are multiple falsehoods in these statement. First, while the Gaza-Egypt border (the “Philadelphi Route”) is separated by a steel and concrete wall, the Gaza-Israel border is demarcated by fence — not a wall. Even NPR has reported in the past that the Gaza-Israel barrier is a fence. Gross’ colleague Robert Siegel acknowledged on March 1, 2005: “Around Gaza, there’s a fence and there has been for several years . . . “

Second, there are more than two crossings out of the Gaza Strip. Crossings into Israel include Erez, Sufa, Karni, Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom. Some of these crossings are closed at various points due to specific security threats. It is clear, however, that they have all been open for at least part of this month. For instance, a Nov. 2 release from the IDF spokesman’s office states that “210 truckloads of food, medical supplies and other basic commodities were transferred to the Gaza Strip through the Karni crossing throughout the course of the day. In addition, 250 calves, 39 truckloads of medical equipment and 42,000 kg of flour went through the Sufa crossing.” Also, a Nov. 10 IDF release notes that despite a general West Bank and Gaza Strip closure: “As part of the easing of restrictions the following crossings will remain open today: Karni, Erez, Sufa, Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom.”

Also, it is false that Israel “has not permitted the Gaza people to sell produce . . . outside.” According to Ibrahim Gambari, under-secretary-general for political affairs, “Palestinians had been allowed to export an average of 18 truckloads of produce per day, a small fraction of the targets set by the Agreement on Movement and Access of 400 trucks per day by the end of 2006” (US Fed News, Nov. 21, 2006).

5) Echoing the discredited Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” paper, Gross reads from Carter’s book:

There are constant and vehement political and media debates in Israel concerning its policies in the West Bank, but because of powerful political, economic and religious forces in the US, the Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned. Voices for Jerusalem dominate in our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories.

NPR is a wonderful case in point disproving Carter’s claim that Israeli voices dominate the American media at the expense of Palestinian voices. A 2003 CAMERA study , for example, found that in the first quarter of that year, NPR aired 96 segments in which the Arab-Israeli issue was raised. Seventy Israeli or pro-Israeli voices were heard, while there were 101 Arab or pro-Arab speakers. Thus, Arab or pro-Arab speakers were heard over 40 percent more often than Israeli or pro-Israeli speakers.

Carter urges people to read Palestine Peace Not Apartheid and “to find out the facts, none of which have been disputed, about what is going on in Palestine in the Palestinian territory.” And with that, ironically, Carter once again utters a falsehood.

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