J. Zel Lurie on Carter’s book

J. Zel Lurie on Carter’s book

This is one of several views we’ve published on this subject, and still more may come. What follows is an edited version of Zel Lurie’s new column, prepared for publication in the Jan. 2, 2007 edition of the South Florida Jewish Journal. Zel’s candid evaluation, not included in his article, is that: “On the whole it’s not a very good book. But his discussion of the apartheid occupation is on the mark.”

Similarly, my feeling is that while Carter’s book is factually flawed, his ultimate conclusion is sound. As always, Zel is relentless in presenting his point of view (see below).

Why some Jews are angry with President Carter

I am vexed by the vilification of former President Jimmy Carter by Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz over his book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” They concentrate on his use of the word, Apartheid, which , they say, verges on anti-Semitism and they forget the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate’s formula for Arab-Israel peace.

Apartheid is actually a weak term for the way in which over two million Palestinians in the West Bank are treated. Apartheid in South Africa was based on race. It was defeated by universal sanctions against the government. Apartheid in the West Bank are regulations, roads, walls, fences and checkpoints, which, under the guise of security, are designed to take over land for the expansion of Jewish settlements.

The critics of Jimmy Carter should read the 96-page brochure published last June by B’tselem, a Jewish organization in Jerusalem which monitors human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. The title is “UNDER THE GUISE OF SECURITY: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank.” It’s an easy read that tells a despicable story.

Of course, three years before, the Israel government agreed to freeze all settlement activity as written in the Road Map presented in 2003 by the Quartet – the United States, Russia, the UN and the EU. Carter publishes the 14 caveats which the government attached to its agreement, which made a mockery of the Road Map. Settlements have increased like rabbits ever since, while all eyes were on Iraq.

B’Tselem can’t think of a better word than “apartheid” for what it describes in its 46-page pamphlet on “FORBIDDEN ROADS: Israel’s Discriminatory Road Regime in the West Bank.” It also has plenty of colored maps. Hundreds of miles of roads have been built on expropriated Palestinian farmland, which the Palestinian farmers are forbidden to use.

Another B’tselem booklet is entitled “MEANS OF EXPULSION,” which deals with lawlessness and violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers aimed at expelling the Palestinians from their land.

A fourth deals with “FORBIDDEN FAMILIES” which tells the sad story of the forced breakup of intermarried families. It is ongoing. Last week Mahsom Watch reported on a Palestinian who had gone to the Soviet Union many years ago to study. He married a Russian woman and brought her back home where she gave birth to three children. The family visited Russia recently which was a big mistake. Upon their return home the Russian mother was returned to Russia with her youngest child.

Let me talk for a moment on Carter’s formula for peace. It has three basic premises:
1. Israel’s right to exist and to live at peace within secure borders must be recognized by everyone.
2. The killing of non-combatants cannot be condoned.
3. Palestinians must live in peace and dignity on their own land as specified by international laws unless modified by good faith negotiations with Israel.

Good faith negotiations will never occur without forceful intervention by the president of the United States. Carter should know. When he was president he brought Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin together at Camp David. He did not allow the two to face each other. For thirteen days he shuttled between their cabins. Several times Sadat packed his bags ready to leave. Finally an agreement was fashioned which was supposed to be followed by a peace treaty in three months. But it took almost two years with several trips to the Mideast by Carter.

“To get that agreement ,” comments Rabbi Michael Lerner, “Carter had to twist the arms of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. Sometimes that is what real friends do. They push you on to a path that is really in your best interest.”

Carter is a real friend of Israel. But Israel has taken a terribly wrong path in the West Bank and Carter is crying out against it.

A word about Dershowitz’s criticism. He makes ten points [which] deal with Israel’s history and American lobbying. None deal with the central theme of the book, the treatment of the Palestinians. He makes a big tzimmes over half of a sentence on the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967: “Israel launched preemptive attacks first against Egypt and Syria, then against Jordan.”

Carter knows that the attack on Jordan was not preemptive. [Jordan shelled Jerusalem and suburbs of Tel Aviv– Ed.] In at least two of his 21 books he has correctly described how Jordan foolishly attacked and in three days Israel had overrun the entire West Bank. This may have been an error by an editor who was trying to shorten the history and get to the core of the book.

Meanwhile Jews and others are buying the book in droves. The truth will out. It reached number seven on the best-seller list on December 17 and was up to number five on December 24. If Abe Foxman continues his ad campaign against the book it may reach number one.

The Jews who are buying the book are not the ones who listen to AIPAC. They are [among] the majority of the over 80 percent of American Jews who voted against Bush last November despite his friendship with Sharon and Olmert.

As Tom Segev wrote in Ha’aretz, under the heading, “MEMOIR TO A GREAT FRIEND”:
“One reason the book is outraging ‘friends of Israel’ in America is that it requires them to reformulate their friendship. If they truly want what’s good for Israel they must call on it to rid itself of the territories. People don’t like to admit they erred, therefore they’re angry at Carter.”

By | 2006-12-27T05:07:00-05:00 December 27th, 2006|Blog|2 Comments


  1. Thomas G. Mitchell, PhD January 1, 2007 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    The word apartheid is a Dutch/Afrikaans word meaning “apartness” or “separateness.” Heid is an abstract suffix in the two languages. Literally this is an accurate description of the situation on the West Bank where Jews live separately from Arabs and, as in apartheid South Africa, benefit from Arab labor. There is much in common between the apartheid migrant labor system and Israel’s use of migrant laborers from the territories. The settlements on the West Bank have also been responsible for Likud partition plans that carved the West Bank into cantons resembling the independent homelands of Bophutatswana or Ciskei and Transkei.

    I haven’t read Carter’s book. A few years ago I wrote my own book comparing the conflicts in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland and South Africa. I believe that in general terms the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is much closer to the Northern Ireland conflict than to South Africa. But if you want to be provocative, like Carter, than apartheid is a term that resonates much more than “unionist discrimination.” If Americans and Israelis want lessons from a peace process, they should turn to Northern Ireland and not South Africa.

  2. Ralph Seliger January 2, 2007 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks Tom. One difference with South African apartheid is that Israel sharply curtailed its use of Arab labor from the West Bank and Gaza in the mid 1990s, due to terrorist attacks, and began to heavily import “guest workers” from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

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