Yossi Beilin on Carter

Yossi Beilin on Carter

This is a very understated and gentle piece by our colleague, Yossi Beilin, the head of Israel’s Meretz-Yahad (social democratic) party. It’s not really a review – it doesn’t deal with much detail – but it’s very generous in its tone.

And it’s not really a “case for Carter” because Beilin isn’t arguing with anybody. The review to appear in the coming issue of ISRAEL HORIZONS is quite negative on Carter’s account of the facts. But it also refrains from attacking Carter as a person.

Beilin agrees with Carter on the big picture (as does the IH reviewer, by the way) and Beilin considers Carter to be a friend. As progressive Zionists, we are caught between emphasizing Carter’s one-sided depiction of many facts and our overall agreement with how awful things are in the Palestinian territories and Israel’s need to make every effort to negotiate a two-state solution in order to save both its Jewish raison d’etre and its fundamentally democratic character.

The Case for Carter by Yossi Beilin / The Forward / Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Looking at the controversy that has erupted over former President Jimmy Carter’s book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” I have to say I am a little envious — envious of a national culture in which a book, or just a book title, can stir such a debate.

I cannot recall when the publication of a book has generated such a debate in Israel. And even though we are talking here about a book that was published in the United States and has yet to be translated into Hebrew, the quiet way in which “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” has been received in Israel is nevertheless noteworthy, not least because it is Israel itself that is the object of Carter’s opprobrium.

Part of the explanation for why Carter’s book did not set off any public outcry in Israel lies in the difference in literary culture. For better or worse — and I, for one, certainly think that it is for worse — books just don’t matter here in the way they still do elsewhere. Yet perhaps a larger part of the explanation lies with the difference in political culture, and with local sensitivities (or perhaps insensitivities) to language and moral tone.

It is not that Israelis are indifferent to what is said about them, but the threshold of what passes as acceptable here is apparently much higher than it is with Israel’s friends in the United States. In the case of this particular book, the harsh words that Carter reserves for Israel are simply not as jarring to Israeli ears, which have grown used to such language, especially with respect to the occupation.

Link here for the rest of this article in The Forward.
Link here with yesterday’s op-ed by Jimmy Carter in the Washington Post. (It has a somewhat softer tone than some other of his recent writings and interviews.)

By | 2007-01-19T06:08:00-05:00 January 19th, 2007|Blog|3 Comments


  1. Robert C. van Waning January 19, 2007 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Dear Ralph, you wrote about Carter’s one-sided depiction of many facts. I think that Carter just tries to depict the OTHER side of many facts that are generally presented in a biased way that is acceptable to the taste of most Israelis and their supporters worldwide who are not concerned at all about the fate and the future of the Palestinian people??

    Things are indeed quite awful in the Palestinian territories, and somethings needs to be done quickly, convincingly and definitely, in order to maintain Israel’s credibility as a humane democratic society.

    Talking about ‘progressive Zionism’ I must say that reading Yakov M. Rabkin’s book ‘In name of the Thora’ certainly opened my eyes to the other side of Israels ‘raison d’etre’.

    In an other blog on Carter’s article I just read the words of George Orwell: “In our time political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. [..] Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception. We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”

  2. Anonymous January 19, 2007 at 10:08 am - Reply

    It’s time we stopped calling anybody who disagrees with us an anti-semite. Under any measure, Carter is one of the finest men in U.S. and in the world. His agenda is not to besmear us but to open our eyes. He has my full support (and I’m not alone among Israelis). I’m sad for Israel and I’m angry at the incompetence (politically and militarily) demonstrated in the past few years. We can do better than that.

    We once had hope. We rose from the ashes and came out stronger. But we’ve also become fascist, clearly not the Jewish values on which my generation was raised.

    Give the Palestinians their indepenedent state, and help it build its infrastructure, industry, health care and education. Happy Palestinians spell willing peace partners. It won’t be a bad idea to help rebuild Lebanon as well.

    What we need now a no-confidence vote in the Knesset to get rid of the deadbeats. An election is in order. While we’re at it, the parties should re-think their system of ranking members according to back-room politicking. Only qualified candidates should be members of Knesset. And only a government that doesn’t kowtow to the religious right has a chance in hell to save Israel.

    Yael Li-Ron

  3. Ralph Seliger January 19, 2007 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    It’s important to be able to state where Carter (or anybody else) may be one-sided, incomplete or inaccurate factually, yet also to appreciate the good intentions of such an observer.

    I don’t think that American media has been so one-sided in public discourse on this issue. The problem is that (along with most other issues) much of the media has been superficial, under-informed and has tended to encourage argument rather than fair-minded discussion.

    Carter’s book would have been much better if it had been less one-sided. But as I’ve said, he’s correct on the big picture.

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