As everybody and his brother knows by now, former President Jimmy Carter has written a new book called Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. He is currently on a promotional tour and is, of course, receiving a great deal of press. Some people are noting that there are errors of fact in the book while others are noting that he has been an opponent of Israel and Israeli policies for many years. Carter counters that the facts are correct because his fact-checker says so and that he is a great friend to Israel not only because he helped broker the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, but also because by making Israel realize its current mistakes, he is saving the Jewish state from itself.
I am not as interested in whether he’s right or wrong. He’s wrong about many things including his interpretation of UNSCR 242, his dismissal of the relevance of Israel’s security needs in the face of Palestinian violence against Israel’s civilians, and the intransingence of the Arab and Palestinian worlds with respect to Israel. He is right about the suffering of the Palestinians and that some of the steps Israel has taken in the name of security and settlement policy that have harmed Palestinians.
He is entirely wrong about the premise that Israel practices apartheid, however, and that is the great shame of his book. It seems as if he put the word on the cover in order to…sell more books. He seeks the attention, the notoriety and to have his ideas heard, so why not throw a bomb into the coffee shop and see what happens?
The Lede is where the NY Times website explores some of its news stories from different perspectives. It is also a section of their online site open to comments. So far, over 600 comments have been made in this discussion and if you can stomach it and spare a little time, I suggest you read a whole bunch. What will you see? You will learn that we Jews control the press, control the government, control the world, manipulate the US, turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians, treat Palestinians unfairly, support apartheid and racism, and so on and so forth. The number of voices speaking against this tide is relatively small.
While this isn’t meaningful in itself, the fact that hundreds of people who read the NY Times are writing these comments is instructive in figuring out that there is a simmering tension underlying our society right now. The anger and frustration at the war with Iraq seems to have brought out a deep-rooted anger with the Jewish people of the United States, not to mention Israelis. We have seen it on places like Daily Kos, certain pockets of the Democratic Party, in the rantings of people like Juan Cole and the ill-considered paper (soon to be the next Protocols of the Elders of Zion in book form) by Walt & Mearsheimer.
These aren’t conspiracy theory nuts, so one can only conclude that the conspiracy theories are hitting the mainstream. We see it in biased reporting in many news outlets and we see it across numerous campuses across North America. Take a look at the comments in the NY Times, and then watch this interview of a hostile David Duke by Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Do you see a significant difference?
Then watch this.
Watch the second half in particular. You’ll note that he keeps saying, “I don’t think anyone can disagree with that…” as if what he writes and says cannot be challenged. You’ll also note his cagey answer with regard to Jewish influence and intimidation. In other interviews, he’s been a little less circumspect but this was a day when he was “on.”
While it’s clear that there is a vast gulf between Carter and Duke, it seems that many people out there don’t view it as such a significant gulf. Does Mr. Carter recognize that in making his case, he is taking an active role in promoting some of the hatred that is clearly on simmer here?