Wikipedia has been maintaining an excellent page that covers the controversy over Jimmy Carter’s latest book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but plan to soon. I’ll opine further at that point.
What I have noticed, however, at this early stage before I have digested the book, is the incredible tone of the criticism against Carter. I mean, this is Jimmy Carter, architect of the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, the Prince of Peace himself, and Alan Dershowitz and the ADL is calling him anti-Semitic? Wow. That’s just… I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around the concept.
Carter’s measured replies to his critics show that he has lost none of his intelligence or class with age; my gut instinct, based on the war of words in the press and a bit of surfing, is that the book is nothing but what he says it is – a frank criticism of Israel’s policies, which are leaning toward apartheid, toward the Palestinians.
There are still quite a few supposedly educated people, apparently, that think any criticism of Israel’s policies is anti-Semitic. It must be terribly confusing to them to find Carter, long a bastion of virtue, engaging in such frank criticism in book form. Not unsurprisingly, the counterattacks seem to be focusing on factual errors in the text and labeling Carter anti-Semitic and simple-minded (a disguised and rather offensive bit of ageism against a brilliant, idealistic guy who, if there is anyone on this earth that doesn’t work for the money, is that person); they’re not challenging his thesis – to do so would acknowledge, of course, that criticizing Israel is ok.
I’m glad Carter is spending his political capital on the notion that you can point out Israel’s every policy isn’t perfect without being a neo-Nazi skinhead – more people need to. And the arguments that apartheid is an inappropriate word to use in the context of this conflict are just as convincing as the ones that the wall in the West Bank promotes peace, alas.