James Earl Carter Jr., U.S. president from 1977 through 1981, has carried on an active post-presidency. Carter is now 90 and reports of his August 20, 2015 announcement that he would be treated for brain cancer noted his efforts as author, founder of the Atlanta-based Carter Center and high-profile humanitarianism. His equanimity in revealing his diagnosis won praise for poise under pressure. His hostility toward Israel and its supporters, his dismissal of basic facts about the Arab-Israel conflict and long-standing support from Arab donors, however, were downplayed or ignored.
For example, The Washington Post editorial “The courage of Jimmy Carter; the former president once again serves as a model of grace,” (August 23) refers to what it calls Carter’s advocacy of democracy abroad and help in stamping out diseases in foreign countries. But The Post allows that “Mr. Carter at times has stirred controversy with his deeply held views on the Middle East and other global challenges.”
What it avoids saying is how deeply wrong those Middle East views are. Carter’s compulsion to insert himself into the Arab-Israeli conflict, often mentioned by news media, usually passes with little analysis. This amounts to a missed opportunity to correct the record, because Jimmy Carter repeatedly has dealt in anti-Israel, even anti-Jewish omissions, distortions and falsehoods.
Falsifying the Camp David record
In 2006, Carter published Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. It was laden with at least 38 errors, as CAMERA documented in our monograph Bearing False Witness: Jimmy Carter’s Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid (2007). The work was widely debunked by Middle East experts, various news outlets, former President Bill Clinton and even some of Carter’s long-time associates at the Carter Center.
The former president falsely asserted that the primary cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict lay with Israel, for allegedly flouting international law by violating what Carter claimed were agreed-upon borders. Contrary to Carter, the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian and 1950 Israeli-Egyptian cease-fire lines—established after Arab states rejected the 1947 U.N. partition plan for British Mandatory Palestine and lost their 1948-1949 war of aggression—do not constitute internationally recognized borders between Israel and the West Bank, or between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Nor does United Nations Security Council Resolution 242—passed after the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel successfully pre-empted renewed Arab aggression—require a return to the 1949 and ’50 lines, as Carter claims. It does, however, call for negotiation of “secure and recognized boundaries”—which the ’49 and ’50 armistice lines were not. Israel pursued such talks only to be spurred by Arab and Palestinian rejectionism on multiple occasions.
By the time Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid appeared, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had rejected Israeli-U.S. offers of a “two-state solution” in exchange for peace with Israel in 2000 and 2001. His successor as head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization; its major component, Fatah; and the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, walked away from a similar Israeli offer in 2008 and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “framework” for such a deal in 2014. So, despite Carter’s claims, no such borders have been finalized—due to intransigence on the part of Palestinian leadership.
Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid—the title itself falsely indicts the Jewish state—also distorted events at the Camp David talks in 1978. Then-President Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin engaged in negotiations that led to the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Egyptian recognition of Israel and an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. Israel had gained the Sinai in successful self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War and held it similarly in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Dershowitz—who advised Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign—concludes “truth was obviously not Carter’s goal, since all of his errors paint Israel in a false, negative light” (The Case Against Israel’s Enemies).
Carter’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state is a demonstrable slander. Israeli Arabs enjoy greater political, social and economic rights, not to mention personal safety, than their brethren in virtually all Arab countries.
Echoing Terrorist Claims
In keeping with his habit of both trying to cast Israel as an expansionist nation and simultaneously acting as an interlocutor for the Jewish state’s opponents, Carter claimed that Israel did not withdraw completely from Lebanon in the spring of 2000. In fact, Israel’s withdra
wal was certified by the United Nations, which noted on June 16, 2000 that “Israeli forces have withdrawn from Lebanon.” Carter—echoing the Iranian-backed, Lebanese Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization—misrepresented Israeli counter-terrorism action on the border with Lebanon as proof the Jewish state had not withdrawn completely.
A seeming willfulness to ignore antisemitic calls for violence was exhibited in an interview Carter did with KHOW-AM radio show host Craig Silverman on Dec. 12, 2006. When confronted with statements by Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, another U.S.-designated terrorist organization) officials saying they would never recognize Israel and would work to destroy it, Carter denied representatives of the terrorist group had made such assertions (Bearing False Witness).
The former president covered for Hamas again in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, claiming that “three Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli police at a checkpoint in Jenin” during Palestinian elections in 1996. Manipulatively, he failed to mention that all three were Hamas members who “tried to shoot their way past an Israeli roadblock”—wounding an Israeli soldier in the process (Bearing False Witness).
Carter went so far as to excuse terrorism. In Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid he wrote: “It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel” [emphasis added].
The former president didn’t just excuse terrorism—he also booked meetings with noted terrorist leaders. In April 2008, it was announced that Carter planned to meet with Khaled Meshal—the head of Hamas. The Washington Post noted that up until that point, “no senior American representative, in or out of the government, has met with Hamas’ leadership since it was named a terrorist group in the mid-1990’s.” This did not stop Carter—who despite objections from the U.S. government—met with the terrorist leader (“Former President Carter to Meet with Hamas Chief,” April 10, 2008).
Other examples of the one-term president’s lobbying for Hamas and simultaneous impugning of Israel include “United Palestinian government may provide new opportunity for peace” (Washington Post, May 12, 2014), “A Partnership that could bring Mideast peace,” (Post, May 14, 2011), “The Elders’ View of the Middle East” (Post, Sept. 6, 2009), “A new chance for Peace?” (Post, Jan. 18, 2007) and “Stop the Band-Aid Treatment; We Need Policies for a Real, Lasting Middle East Peace” (Post, Aug. 1, 2006).
As CAMERA said last year in response to Carter’s May 16 Washington Post Op-Ed “A n
ew chance for optimism?” about yet another Hamas-Fatah unity government attempt, “he’s a needle stuck in a groove, scratching away at a warped record. In reviewing We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, former U.S. Treasury intelligence analyst Jonathan Schanzer wrote that Carter’s peace plan turns out to be ‘vapid. It demonstrates no evidence of original thought. He merely apes what others have (unsuccessfully) proffered in the past. … [I]t parrots the worst of the intransigent Palestinian positions, and offers nothing to forge common ground.’ ” But being an ex-president, one granted a Nobel Peace Prize, apparently means never having to be fact-checked by opinion page editors or closely questioned by reporters.
The one-time Georgia governor has a tendency to make antisemitic insinuations. Kenneth Stein, the former Middle East director at the Carter Center and long-time Middle East affairs adviser to Carter, noted an interview with the ex-president in 1991 in which he said, of the 1976 Democratic presidential primary: “They [American Jews] didn’t support me during the presidential campaign [that] had been predicated greatly upon Jewish money” (Bearing False Witness). Stein said that Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski commented that Carter felt a lack of Jewish support cost him “critical primary victories [against 1980 challenger Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)] and to have weakened his re-election bid” (Bearing False Witness).
Journalists sympathetic to Carter’s views on Israel have remarked the former president threatened that if he was re-elected in 1980, “If I get back in…I’m going to [screw] the Jews” (The Case against Israel’s Enemies). When faced with criticism over Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter played to antisemitic stereotypes by suggesting that Jews control the media and exert undue influence over governments.
Indeed, Carter’s own former domestic policy adviser, Stuart Eizenstat, documented several disturbing incidents in his 2018 book President Carter: The White House Years. Eizenstat noted that while Carter was president, he gave a Sunday school lecture on “Christ driving the moneylenders from the Temple, leading to his crucifixion.” That lecture, later detailed by AP reporter Casper Nannes (“Learning the Bible with the President”) included Carter’s claim that the confrontation at the Temple was “a turning point in Christ’s life. He had directly challenged in a fatal way the existing church, and there was no possible way for the Jewish leaders to avoid the challenge. So they decided to kill Jesus.” Carter’s employment of an antisemitic falsehood, and one that is closely linked to Christian persecution of Jews, resulted in an outcry, Eizenstat notes. Nonetheless, in a subsequent sermon at a pre-Christmas Bible class at the First Baptist Church, Carter again said that Jesus Christ, knowing he was risking death “as quickly as [it] could be arranged by the Jewish leaders, who were very powerful.”
Eizenstat also pointed out: “I began to observe a pattern developing in which the president seemed to overlook negative positions of the Arab autocrats in order to accentuate what he saw as their positive side.” Indeed, always willing to make Arab dictators appear more malleable than history shows many of them to have been, Carter claimed in 2006 that former Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad had suggested to him in 1990 that he would be flexible regarding a demilitarized zone on the country’s Golan Heights border with Israel just as long as the Israelis were too. Yet, as Stein recalls, his notes from the time—provided to Carter in 2006—clearly show that Assad exhibited no such flexibility, saying any concessions in this regard would be a violation of Syrian “sovereignty.”
In the view of Stein—who worked for Carter for over two decades—the fact that the president had access to these notes prior to publishing Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid but did not make use of them illustrates that Carter’s claims are “intentional changes…made for the apparent purpose of misrepresenting Israeli intransigence and Arab state flexibility” (Bearing False Witness).
As president, Carter’s policies were frequently dictator friendly: giving military assistance to the Indonesian regime of General Suharto, whose largely Muslim military had invaded East Timor two years prior, killing 200,000 people, most of them Christians; providing arms sales to the Moroccan government in 1979 that illegally annexed the Western Sahara; and officially recognizing the Communist Khmer Rouge as the legitimate rulers of Cambodia. The latter act occurred after exposure of the Cambodian auto-genocide (1975-1979), in which the Khmer Rouge murdered more than 1.5 million (roughly 20 percent) of their own people (The Case Against Israel’s Enemies).
One reason, too-little reported, for the Georgian’s reluctance to criticize Arab rulers and his apologia for Arab terrorists may be that doing so would be tantamount to “biting the hand that feeds.” The Carter Center received its initial funding from Agha Hasan Abedi, the Pakistani founder of the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Abedi and Saudi billionaire Gaith Pharaon were introduced to Carter’s one-time director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Bert Lance. Pharaon and Abedi worked to secure a bailout for the Bank of Georgia, once run by Lance and in which the Carter family had considerable investments.
million more for other Carter endeavors, according to Ehrenfeld.
Dershowitz pointed out that Carter accepted $500,000 from Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nuhayyan. Zayed—the ruler for nearly three decades of the United Arab Emirates—propounded anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, including of Jewish involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terror attacks. As Dershowitz observes, “the Zayed Center [established by the UAE ruler], claims that it was Zionists, rather than Nazis, who ‘were the people who killed the Jews in Europe’ during the Holocaust.” The former UAE president’s rabid antisemitism was unavoidable enough that Harvard Divinity School returned a donation from him.
Carter, on the other hand, not only accepted Zayed’s money but also called him a “personal friend” (Bearing False Witness). The Saudi Binladin Group—a large construction company ran by the family of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden—also has been a major contributor to the Carter Center. The Center describes itself as “guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering.” But not, perhaps in Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by the intolerant, supremacist Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam and, among other practices including public beheadings for a range of crimes and in the recent past amputation of hands of thieves, imposes inferior status on women, believers in religions other than Islam and foreigners in the country.
Unwilling to Debate Critics
Questions raised by the numerous errors in Carter’s Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid—and canards and distortions he engaged in during its promotion—led to calls for Carter to defend his allegations publicly. This he refused to do. For example, the former president refused to debate Alan Dershowitz at Brandeis University on the grounds that “there is no need for me to debate somebody who in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine [Sic.].” However, as the attorney noted, Carter “well knew” this was untrue; the two had discussed Dershowitz’s “several visits to the Palestinian Authority” during a conversation “only months earlier in Herzliya,” Israel—where both were on trips as election observers for the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections.