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.)