Praise for Carter Ignores Ex-President’s Anti-Israel Obsession

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.

The former president argued that Begin promised to engage in a settlement freeze of Jewish communities in the disputed territories after the final negotiations at Camp David, only to later violate this purported “verbal promise.” Yet, this line of argument—meant to prop up Carter’s assertion that the onus for a lack of general Arab-Israeli peace lay with Israel for breaking promises and international laws to seize land—was contradicted by testimony from those present.
As CAMERA noted (Bearing False Witness), Aharon Barak, shortly to be named to the Israeli Supreme Court, had attended the meetings in which the settlement freeze was discussed as a temporary measure. Barak’s notes show that Begin agreed to a three-month halt—which he honored. Barak mentioned this at a Sept. 17, 2003 Woodrow Wilson Center forum in Washington, D.C. attended by Carter, who stated “I don’t dispute that.”
Falsifying Jewish history and Israeli rights
In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the one-time Georgia governor went so far as to omit the historic existence of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. As noted civil rights attorney and Harvard University Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz pointed out, Carter wrote that Christian and Muslim Arabs have lived in what became modern-day Israel, yet he “leaves out the fact that Jews have lived in Jerusalem (where they were a majority since the first modern census), Hebron, Tzfat, and other cities far longer—continuously, in many cases.” (The Case Against Israel’s Enemies)
The ex-president also omitted key facts regarding the Jewish state’s right to self-defense. Dershowitz noted: “Carter states that Israel carried out a preemptive strike against Jordan in the 1967 conflict. But historians agree that Jordan struck first, after Israel pleaded with King Hussein [then ruler of Jordan] not to join the war. …
“He criticizes Israel’s attack of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 without mentioning that it was the site of [Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, that Iran had already attacked the site the year before, and that the UN had failed to take any action to prevent Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons. Carter also fails to mention that Iraqi leader had said that the nuclear bombs Iraq planned to build were specifically intended for use against Israel alone.”

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.

Carter also took at face value claims made by PLO leader Arafat. The former president repeated Arafat’s lie that “the PLO has never advocated the annihilation of Israel. The Zionists started the ‘drive the Jews into the sea’ slogan and attributed it to the PLO.”
Arafat’s claim was absurd. The 1968 PLO charter calls for “armed struggle” as an “overall strategy” to eliminate Israel, which Arafat personally called for. He did so, among other instances, in a March 29, 1970 Washington Post interview, as CAMERA has noted (Bearing False Witness). But Carter found it useful to pretend otherwise.

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].

This falsely blames Israel for the lack of peace. It also clearly implies terrorism and murdering innocent Israeli civilians are justified until Israel—the sole responsible party in Carter’s eyes—acts in ways acceptable to the ex-president, if not to either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. (The former did not keep “roadmap” commitments, the latter rejected them.) And Carter, whose Baptist Sunday school preaching often has been noted in news coverage, writes as if “suicide bombings” and other acts of terrorism were not “crimes against humanity” regardless of Israeli diplomatic stands (Bearing False Witness).
Contradicting U.S. policy

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).

After claiming Washington never told him not to visit Meshal, Carter—who had made previous freelance diplomatic trips to North Korean and Cuban dictators without informing his successors in the White House—proceeded to call for the United States and European Union to recognize Hamas. Carter claimed doing so would be a constructive move toward Israeli-Palestinian peace despite the group’s repeated terrorist attacks against Israel and its refusal to recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist. (“Jimmy Carter calls for recognizing terror group Hamas,” Aug. 5, 2014, USA Today).
Carter shilled for Hamas compulsively, and outlets including The Washington Post, USA Today, and Foreign Policy magazine, among others, collaborated with him by offering him their opinion pages. His “No Gaza, No Peace: A lasting settlement in the Holy Land is still possible. But Israel must end the siege of Gaza first,” Foreign Policy, May 14, 2015) is one example among many.

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).

When he wasn’t popping up, whack-a-mole like on Hamas’ behalf and smearing Israel in The Post or Foreign Policy, Carter made the same cause-and-effect inversions and moral revisionisms in USA Today and devoted another of one of his many books (We Can have Peace in the Holy Land; A Plan That Will Work, Simon and Schuster, 2009) to those themes.
More moderate in tone than Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid, it still portrayed Israel as the heavy, Hamas as a reliable peace partner, and the Jewish state as in control of the regional hatred directed against it. To accomplish such analytical acrobatics, the 2009 work continued Carter’s practice of distorting Middle East history and current events. (See CAMERA’s “Carter’s Second Draft,” March 9, 2009). Like Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid, the front dust jacket for We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land features a large color portrait of their real subject, a thoughtful-looking Jimmy Carter.
Lobbying for Hamas
“The Elders” referred to in the headline of Carter’s 2009 Washington Post Op-Ed are a rather pompously self-named group of former senior officials who’ve periodically attempted to tell small nations how to behave. Membership has included Carter, South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, South African President Nelson Mandela, Irish Prime Minister Mary Robinson and Algerian Ambassador and U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi. Only Annan might be said not to be reflexively dismissive of Israeli positions.

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).

Discrepancies over the notes and Carter’s revisionist memory led Stein to resign from his post at the Carter Center. More than 20 other Carter associates also would resign or refuse to engage in future dealings with the Center as a result of the ex-president’s indefensible falsehoods in his best-seller Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid. The book was praised by factually-challenged opponents of close U.S.-Israeli ties, however, such as the anti-Israel, pro-Saudi Council for the National Interest.
Carter’s “Dear Friends”
While he rarely avoids criticizing the world’s sole Jewish state—engaging in distortions and falsifications to do so—the former president has been tepid in his critiques of Arab countries. As Dershowitz has noted, Carter’s written recollections of Arab dictators are often filled with warmth, in contrast with his memories of Israeli leaders.
The ex-president spoke approvingly of the personal characteristics of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad, whose regime murdered tens of thousands of Syrians, and of PLO head Yasser Arafat. Carter defended Arafat’s decision to walk away from the 2000 U.S.-Israeli Camp David offer of Palestinian statehood in all of the Gaza Strip and 95 percent of the West Bank with eastern Jerusalem, in return for peace with Israel (The Case Against Israel’s Enemies). On a 2008 trip to the Middle East, Carter visited Arafat’s grave, calling the man with more non-combatant Jewish blood on his hands than anyone else since 1945, and that of thousands of Arabs in Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza as well—“a dear friend.” Carter did not visit with any Israeli victims of Palestinian terror while making this pilgrimage.

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).

Carter’s apologetics and actions on behalf of dictators and those who served their interests has not been limited to the Arab world. As The New York Sun noted, the former president sought to intercede on behalf of a former Nazi guard in 1987. Carter wrote a letter to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI)—the U.S. agency tasked with bringing Nazi war criminals to justice—on behalf of Martin Bartesch, a Nazi guard then being deported by OSI. (“President Carter Interceded on Behalf of Former Nazi Guard,” Jan. 19, 2007).
Arab donors

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.

BCCI—shut down in 1991 after being indicted and convicted for laundering illegal drug money—was founded by Abedi to be “the best bridge to help the world of Islam, and the best way to fight the evil influence of the Zionists” (Bearing False Witness). As terrorism expert Rachel Ehrenfeld noted, BCCI founders “enabled Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, and helped the Palestinian leadership to amass a $10 billion-plus fortune, used to further terrorist activities.” (“Carter’s Arab financiers,” Dec. 21, 2006, The Free Republic).
Ehrenfeld asserts, “BCCI founders also supported the Islamic fundamentalist opposition to the Shah of Iran.” They also provided an initial $500,000 to help establish the Carter Center and provided at least $10
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.

Carter rejected or ignored other challenges to defend his anti-Israel screed. He even denied that he had received them—after admitting to The Boston Globe that he was in possession of such invitations (“Carter agrees to speak at Brandeis,” Jan. 11 2007, Boston Globe).
While running for president in 1976 in the wake of the 1972-1974 Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, Carter famously declared, “I’ll never tell a lie. I’ll never make a misleading statement. I’ll never betray the confidence that any of you had in me. And I’ll never avoid a controversial issue.” Nearly 40 years later, those who value accurate commentary and honest news coverage on the Arab-Israeli conflict may find themselves wishing Jimmy Carter, and those who report on him, had kept that pledge in his post-presidential years.
(Note: This post was updated on Jan. 10, 2019 to include information from Stuart Eizenstat’s 2018 book)

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