Jimmy Carter, by publishing his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, walked straight into the buzz saw that is the Israel lobby. Among the vitriolic attacks on the former President was the claim by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, that Carter is “outrageous” and “bigoted” and that his book raises “the old canard and conspiracy theory of Jewish control of the media, Congress, and the U.S. government.” Many Democratic Party leaders, anxious to keep the Israel lobby’s money and support, have hotfooted it out the door, with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing that Carter “does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel.”
Carter’s book exposes little about Israel. The enforced segregation, abject humiliation and spiraling Israeli violence against Palestinians have been detailed in the Israeli and European press and, with remarkable consistency, by all the major human rights organizations. The assault against Carter, rather, says more about the failings of the American media–which have largely let Israel hawks heap calumny on Carter’s book. It exposes the indifference of the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership to the rule of law and basic human rights, the timidity of our intellectual class and the moral bankruptcy of institutions that claim to speak for American Jews and the Jewish state.
The bleakness of life for Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, is a mystery only to us. In the current Israeli campaign in Gaza, now sealed off from the outside world, almost 500 Palestinians, most unarmed, have been killed. Sanctions, demanded by Israel and imposed by the international community after the Hamas victory last January in what were universally acknowledged to be free and fair elections, have led to the collapse of civil society in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as widespread malnutrition. And Palestinians in the West Bank are being encased, in open violation of international law, in a series of podlike militarized ghettos with Israel’s massive $2 billion project to build a “security barrier.” This barrier will gobble up at least 10 percent of the West Bank, including most of the precious aquifers and at least 40,000 acres of Palestinian farmland. The project is being financed in large part through $9 billion in American loan guarantees, although when Congress approved the legislation in April 2003, Israel was told that the loans could be used “only to support activities in the geographic areas which were subject to the administration of the Government of Israel prior to June 5, 1967.”
But it is in Gaza that conditions are currently reaching a full-blown humanitarian crisis. “Gaza is in its worst condition ever,” Gideon Levy wrote recently in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz. “The Israel Defense Forces have been rampaging through Gaza–there’s no other word to describe it–killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately…. How contemptible all the sublime and nonsensical talk about ‘the end of the occupation’ and ‘partitioning the land’ now appears. Gaza is occupied, and with greater brutality than before…. This is disgraceful and shocking collective punishment.”