One would not expect a reputable, mainstream American news organization to commission a segregationist to write the introduction to a special issue about civil rights or an “intelligent design” activist to introduce a special issue on evolution. Nor would one expect to see Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer introducing a special issue on Jewish American heritage or Norman Finkelstein introducing an issue on Holocaust survivors. It would simply be inappropriate to treat a partisan activist—especially one whose views are on the extreme end of the spectrum of a contentious debate—as a credible and objective expert.
Yet, for the introduction to its special issue, The Middle East, Time Books turned to former president and current anti-Israel activist Jimmy Carter. (Time Books is a division of Time Inc., which publishes Time magazine.)
Carter’s enmity toward Israel is certainly no secret—in the words of an Oct. 13, 2002 Jerusalem Post editorial, his “record of bias against Israel is a matter of public record.”
That record includes a number of anti-Israel and error-filled Op-Eds published in the Washington Post, USA Today, the Guardian and other newspapers. Carter’s hostility is once again on display with the publication this month of his new book that accuses Israel of practicing apartheid, a comparison that has been described as “unconscionable” by Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. “To assert that there is a moral equivalency between the racist policy of apartheid and the efforts to protect the citizenry of Israel is unconscionable,” he once wrote. The former Democratic president’s views on the Middle East are so extreme and controversial that fellow Democrats, including the party’s leadership, have publicly and emphatically repudiated his views.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asserted: “With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel.”
Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, wrote of Carter and his book: “I fundamentally disagree and do not support his analysis of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … the opinions in his book are his own, they are not the views or position of the Democratic Party.”
Other prominent Democrats have criticized Carter’s views as well, including even John Conyers Jr., a Michigan congressman who has himself been described as “a vociferous critic of Israeli policy.” (James D. Besser, Jewish Week, Oct. 27, 2006) He declared:
I cannot agree with the book’s title and its implications about apartheid. Use of such terms in this context does not serve the cause of peace and the use of it against the Jewish people in particular, who have been victims of the worst kind of discrimination, discrimination resulting in death, is offensive and wrong.
Time’s decision to enlist a hostile partisan like Carter to write the introduction to The Middle East is outrageous—all the more so considering that the editors allow him to use the space for promoting his new anti-Israel book.
Although Carter has only one page of text to work with in his introduction to the Time piece, he still manages to incorporate a serious distortion of fact, and wastes no time doing so. Only three paragraphs into the piece, he asserts that “in the decades since 1967, when the [United Nations] Security Council enacted Resolution 242, various leaders on both sides of the issue have vowed never to accept these fundamental terms.” While Carter does not specify who these “various leaders” are, the implication is clearly that Israel, just as much as the Arab states, rejected what he calls “the only reasonably prescription for peace.”
Carter’s absurd assertion that both Israeli and Arab leaders “vowed never to accept” the terms of Resolution 242—which introduced the “land for peace” formula—reveals just how far the ex-president is willing wander from the facts in order to downplay historic Arab reluctance to negotiate agreements with Israel and obfuscate Israel’s willingness to make peace with its neighbors.
The only major parties to reject outright Resolution 242 were Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Other less central parties, for example Iraq and Libya, also rejected the resolution.
By contrast, Israel and Egypt, to varying degrees, responded favorably to the resolution. So did Jordan. In effect, Egypt demanded that Israel withdrawal to its insecure pre-war boundaries before any peace could take hold, whereas Israel insisted that the parties begin by negotiating and agreeing on the peace and the extent of the withdrawal.
(Palestinian Professor Rashid Khalidi—a man once described as “a Palestinian who wouldn’t harm the cause”—is more honest than Carter when discussing who accepted and who rejected resolution 242. See his comments here.)
In early 1968, Israel signaled its acceptance of Resolution 242, which calls for a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and for the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
Israel saw the resolution “not as a substitute for specific agreement, but as a list of principles on which the parties could base their agreement.” As such, Israel repeatedly called on its neighbors to negotiate a peace agreement.
In an address before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1968, Israeli Foreign Minister Aba Eban reviewed some of his country’s proposals to its neighbors:
… on 27 December , I conveyed a document to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, through Ambassador Jarring, proposing an agenda for a discussion on the establishment of a just and lasting peace. In this letter, I expressed a willingness to hear the UAR’s [i.e. Egypt’s] views, and suggested that representatives of our two Governments be brou ght together informally in order to explore each other’s intentions and to derive assurance and confidence for future contacts. In our letter, we made it clear that the establishment of the boundary was fully open for negotiation and agreement.
The UAR made no reply, offered no comment, presented no counter-proposals. …
On 7 January, I conveyed to the Jordan Government, through Ambassador Jarring, a letter in which I sought to open a constructive dialogue. This letter reads in part:
“History and geography create an objective affinity of interest between the two countries. More than any other relationship between Middle Eastern States, this one involves human interests in a close degree of interdependence. A close and confident association would seem to be as necessary for Jordanian as for Israeli welfare.
“The major problems at issue between Jordan and Israel are closely inter-connected. Territorial security, economic and humanitarian problems impinge directly on each other. Moreover, the political and juridical basis of this relationship is of overriding importance. If there is a prior agreement to establish relations of permanent peace, the specific problems at issue between the two countries can be effectively and honourably solved.”
I went on to list the five major subjects on which we shall seek agreement. These included the establishment of the boundary and security arrangements. No reply was made to this approach.
On 12 February, I requested Ambassador Jarring to convey the following to the Governments of Egypt and Jordan:
“Israel has cooperated and will cooperate with you in your mission. We accept the Security Council’s call, in its Resolution of 22 November 1967, for the promotion of agreement on the establishment of peace with secure and recognized boundaries. “Once agreement is reached on a peace settlement, it will be faithfully implemented by Israel.
“As I indicated to you on 1 February 1968, Israel is prepared to negotiate on all matters included in the Security Council Resolution which either side wishes to raise. Our views on the problems of peace and our interpretation of the Resolution were stated by me in the Security Council on 2 November 1967.
“The next step should be to bring the parties together. I refer to the agreement which I expressed to you on 1 February for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to convene the two Governments.”
This message elicited no response.
Moreover, in early 1968, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and American President Lyndon B. Johnson agreed on President Johnson’s Five Principles for Peace in the Middle East as a basis for the settlement of the Middle East conflict.
The Arab World
• The Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization, convened in July 1968 for its first meeting after the United Nations passed Resolution 242. At that gathering, according to the Journal of Palestine Studies, “the PNC called for the total liberation of Palestine. It condemned the idea of a Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip” (Vol. 16, No. 4, Summer 1987).
Indeed, the Palestinian National Charter drawn up during that meeting left unchanged the uncompromising anti-Israel positions of the Palestinian’s earlier (1964) charter, and represents an unambiguous rejection of 242’s principles:
Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.
Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit. …
Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle … .
The PNC reiterated its rejection in June 1974, when it drafted its Political Program (also known as the Phased Plan). The first point of the program resolves
To reaffirm the Palestine Liberation Organization’s previous attitude to Resolution 242, which obliterates the national right of our people and deals with the cause of our people as a problem of refugees. The Council therefore refuses to have anything to do with this resolution at any level, Arab or international, including the Geneva Conference.
The program also called for continued “armed struggle” to destroy Israel.
It was not until late 1988 that the Palestinian National Council and PLO head Yasir Arafat called for an international conference “held on the basis of Security Council [Resolution] 242 … .” Yet long after 1988, the Palestinian charter continued to call for Israel’s destruction, and Arafat continued his calls for violence against the Jewish state.
Still today, the Hamas leaders governing the Palestinian Authority repeatedly assert that their goal is to destroy Israel, a clear repudiation of Resolution 242.
• Syria, too, had flatly rejected Resolution 242.
According to The Syrian Arab Republic: A Handbook:
Syria did not accept the resolution and continued its adamant opposition to it throughout the period. It gave its negative reaction to the five-point general plan for peace advanced by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 19, 1967 and also refused to accept the reactivation of the negotiations as provided for in Resolution 242 through the offices of U.N. representative Dr. Gunnar Jarring. It also refused to consider the Rogers peace proposals of June 25, 1970.
President [Hafez] Assad declared that Syria would reject Resolution 242 and all other proposals for securing an Arab-Israeli settlement through the U.N. or great power guarantees, which were all only “another form of occupation.” The government continued to obstruct the work of UNRWA, as it had done in the past … on the ground that any attempt to resettle or rehabilitate the refugees would prejudice their right to repatriation and would be an acknowledgment of Israel’s existence. (Anne Sinai and Allen Po llack, eds.)
The book also notes examples of the belligerent anti-Israel statements that emanated from Syria after it rejected the Security Council’s call for peace. One such statement highlighted not only Syria’s rejectionist position immediately after the Six Day War, but also the cause of continued anti-Israel antagonism in future generations. A letter sent by the Syrian minister of education to the director-general of the UNESCO stated that “The hatred which we indoctrinate into the minds of our children from their birth is sacred” (Reprinted in Al-Thawra, May 3, 1968).
In October 1973, Syria conditionally accepted United Nations Security Council resolution 338, which along with calling for an end to the Yom Kippur War and “negotiations between the parties concerned” also called on the parties to implement Security Council Resolution 242. When accepting Resolution 338, Syria insisted that the resolution requires a “complete withdrawal of the Israeli forces from all the Arab territories which were occupied in June 1967 and subsequently.” As noted above, the resolution makes no so such demand.
Despite its conditional acceptance of Resolution 338, though, Syria continued to make clear it did not accept the terms of Resolution 242.
For example, the country refused to attend the Geneva Peace Conference of December 1973, where Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the United States, and the Soviet Union met for talks on implementing 338 and 242.
It also engaged in a war of attrition against Israel during the spring of 1974, initiating skirmishes with Israel in violation of the cease-fire.
In several interviews after Assad signed on to Resolution 228, the Syrian leader made clear that he continued to reject Israel’s right to exist.
Asked by writer Thomas Kiernan about his ultimate goals vis-Ã -vis Israel, Assad stated:
If Israel withdraws to its original borders, we will not wage a war against it. We will accept the United Nations resolutions of 1947 [the partition resolution] in the interest of getting on with other important business and simply let nature take its course. … we will work behind the scenes to overthrow the Zionist system in Israel and bring about a just return of Arab presence there so as to make this land an integral part of the Arab world. … The ultimate goal of all Arabs is an all-Arab world here … . We do not know exactly how it will come about. But we know it will come about … once this problem is solved, then I can say that the Jews will be able to live here with no fears for themselves. [‘As Jews but not as Israelis?’ Assad was asked.] That is correct. … I do not have any personal animosity against the Jewish religion or the Jew as a religious person. But the Jews in Israel, this is different. (qtd in Moshe Ma’oz, Assad; the Sphinx of Damascus)
In a September 1975 interview published in the New York Times, Assad said: “We are ready to live in peace with Israel in exchange for total withdrawal from all Arab lands but we will not recognize her. Never” (Sept. 28, 1975).
Assad’s declarations that Syria would “never” recognize and in fact “work behind the scenes to overthrow” the Jewish state undeniably contravene Resolution 242, which requires “respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area … .”
Also telling was Assad’s assertion in the Times interview that that “anything we do will only be in agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization”—not a positive indicator considering the PLO’s rejection of Resolution 242 and of Israel’s right to exist, and the organization’s brutal terrorism against Israeli and Jewish targets.
It was not until the 1990s, during which Syria participated in the Madrid conference and in contacts with Israeli Prime Ministers Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, that Assad appeared somewhat more willing to sign a peace agreement with Israel. But still today, Syria harbors the most belligerent segment of Hamas under the leadership of Khaled Mashaal, who continues to direct attacks against Israel, and supports Hezbollah. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are openly committed to Israel’s destruction.
• After the Six Day War, Egypt, under President Gamal Nasser, did at various times note his acceptance of Resolution 242—or more precisely, his own interpretation of the Resolution, which he claimed required Israel to withdraw from all of the territories occupied in the Six Day War. In fact, the resolution does not call for a full Israeli withdrawal since, according to the drafters of the resolution, Israel should not be expected to return to the precarious pre-war boundaries. Furthermore, Egypt stubbornly refused to negotiate with Israel the terms of any peace agreement. (In response, Abba Eban protested that “peace cannot be advanced by recitations [by Egypt that they accept Resolution 242] accompanied by refusal to negotiate viable agreements.”)
Egypt’s quick and equivocal acceptance of its definition of 242 nonetheless was a noteworthy contrast to the more rejectionist positions of Syria and the Palestinians.
At the same time, Nasser made clear that he believed Resolution 242 did not contradict his hardline position, communicated most famously in the Khartoum Declaration of 1967, that there will be no peace with, negotiations with, or recognition of Israel. According to Middle East scholar Yoram Meital:
[Resolution 242’s] principal aim, in Cairo’s view, was to bring about an Israeli withdrawal; there was nothing in it intended to lead to a peace agreement. Cairo rejected altogether Israel’s claim that the resolution necessitated direct negotiations between it and each Arab State. This argument enabled Cairo to assert that acceptance of the resolution did not imply any deviation from the limits of political action as Egypt understood them and as the Khartoum Summit had fixed them.
In the Egyptian view, therefore, implementing Resolution 242 would lead neither to direct negotiations nor to a peace treaty that would put an end to the conflict between the parties. (Meital, Egypt’s Struggle for Peace: Continuity and Change, 1967-1977)
Nasser’s own words on the subject are more succinct. Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban quoted a formal utterance made in June 1968 by the Egyptian president:
The following principles of Egyptian policy are immutable:
1) No negotiation with Israel
2) No pe ace with Israel
3) No recognition of Israel
4) No transactions will be made at the expense of Palestinian territories or the Palestinian people.
This statement was made after Egypt had signed on to Resolution 242.
Adding to the confusion, Egypt made repeated statements to United Nations representative Gunnar Jarring that an Israeli withdrawal from “all Arab territories” occupied in 1967 would result in peace, but refused to negotiate either withdrawals or peace with Israel.
The launching by Egypt of a War of Attrition, in which that country bombarded Israeli positions on the Israeli side of the cease-fire line, was a more obvious and active violation of Resolution 242’s principles.
Eventually, Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement in line with Resolution 242.
Jimmy Carter’s assertion that “leaders on both sides of the issue have vowed never to accept” Resolution 242 is but one example of his repeated attempts at distorting and rewriting the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. His new book, and his media appearances to promote the book, provide more examples of his dishonesty.