A new book by former President Jimmy Carter on the Israeli-Palestinian standoff has prompted charges and countercharges among several prominent U.S. Jewish leaders about its bias.
Carter defended the book, titled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in an interview with the Emory Wheel, a university newspaper, saying he believes the book is not biased but is a reflection “about what’s happening in Palestine.”
The book raised the ire of some prominent U.S. Jewish leaders, including Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz. “The suggestion that without peace Israel is an apartheid state analogous to South Africa is simply wrong,” Dershowitz wrote Nov. 22.
“The basic evil of South African apartheid, against which I and so many other Jews fought, was the absolute control over a majority of blacks by a small minority of whites. It was the opposite of democracy. In Israel majority rules; it is a vibrant secular democracy.”
However, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, called Carter “the best friend the Jews ever had as president of the United States” for delivering on a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt “that has stood the test of time.” He said Carter does not claim in his book that Israel is an apartheid state.
“What he does claim is that the West Bank will be a de facto apartheid situation” if current policies in Israel continue, Lerner stated on TomPaine.com, adding, “The only way to avoid Israel turning into an apartheid state is a genuine peace accord.”
Asked by the Emory reporter about the term apartheid in the title, Carter said the reference is not to racism but to what he called the confiscation of Palestinian land.
“I want Israel to have peace,” he said. “Every public opinion poll conducted in the last 40 years has shown that a clear majority of Israeli citizens are in favor of withdrawing from occupied territories in exchange for peace. But there has always been a fervent minority who said the entire West Bank is Israel’s. That’s the root of the problem.” (RNS)