There is an ugly cynicism to the attack on Jimmy Carter that has been launched by Americans who well recognize that the former president’s new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, says nothing that has not already been said about the Middle East conflict by Israeli politicians and commentators.
So why is Carter, a longtime friend of Israel and the Jewish people, being smeared as an anti-Semite for suggesting that the occupation by Israeli forces of Palestinian territory inspires troubling comparisons with the apartheid system that white South Africans once imposed on their country’s black majority?
One of Israel’s most prominent political figures suggests that it has a lot to do with the determination of Carter’s critics to allow their emotions to trump the facts.
“The trouble is that their love of Israel distorts their judgment and blinds them from seeing what’s in front of them,” argues Shulamit Aloni, a veteran of Israel’s war of independence who went on to serve in the Knesset and as a minister in several Israeli cabinets. “Israel is an occupying power that for 40 years has been oppressing an indigenous people, which is entitled to a sovereign and independent existence while living in peace with us.”
In a defense of Carter penned for the mass-circulation Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot, the woman who served as former Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin’s education minister wrote that, “Indeed apartheid does exist here.”
“The U.S. Jewish establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies,” explains Aloni. “Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp. All this is done in order to keep an eye on the population’s movements and to make its life difficult. Israel even imposes a total curfew whenever the settlers, who have illegally usurped the Palestinians’ land, celebrate their holidays or conduct their parades.”
Aloni should be reminded that the battering of Carter has as frequently come from non-Jews as Jews in the U.S. But, with that clarification, her message is one that merits serious attention from Americans who are frustrated by this country’s inability to engage in a serious discussion about Middle East policy.