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Archive for the ‘U.S. Foreign Policy’ Category

May God watch over Eli Israel; and if we cannot summon God, then let us watch over him ourselves.

The US.-led invasion into Iraq and the occupation that continues to ensue in its wake constitute international crimes of war. This truth is widely known and accepted, supporting evidence abounds, and counterarguments have steadily diminished in strength; there is nothing left of meaningful, emotion-neutral dialogue

…and still the cannons blaze.

It is for want of willful action on the part of the people, not for insufficient knowledge or awareness, that the prominent decision makers responsible for this horrible conflict are still able to enjoy their privileges and prestige without fear of reprisal for the evil they have committed and the suffering they have caused. Innocent blood saturates the sands of the Middle East, replenished daily as every yesterdays’ victims fade into the searing heat, and survivors of the lost can be confident they’ll be soon to follow. This uninterrupted cycle of violence and injustice is enabled by the masses who suppress their sympathy and refuse their intervention, those who instead mouth empty platitudes of patriotism and allegiance to a war-loving god. There may be no hope in these masses.

The hope for justice, for the return to peace, rests solely in the potential and the willingness of men and women to act, to resist the repugnant but seductive leadership practices, and the cultural norms they seed, of a government that openly detests and deters foreign states’ right to self-determination and self-governance on their own terms.

We are fortunate, as citizens of a free democracy, to have such an opportunity for action; I am fortunate to write the things I write without fear for my own personal safety. I need fear nothing but the frustration that accompanies the exercise of free speech unmet by a forum of concerned citizens.

But not all are so lucky. Eli Israel, a soldier currently deployed in Iraq with the Kentucky National Guard, has discontinued his involvement in a conflict he believes is illegal and unjustified. This is the sort of precedent that can reestablish a global order of peace, recover global norms of nonintervention upon which stability is based, and at long last restore honor to the American identity. But without support, it cannot do any of these things. The precedent will wither and die if not taken up collectively and sustained by the people, by us.

People of comfort, such as ourselves, can do much to protect those brave few who have the strength and courage to boldly act on the front lines. Opportunities to act on the popular but abstract adage “Support our Troops” have never been clearer.

“Please rally whoever you can, call whoever you can, bring as much attention to this as you can. I have no doubt that the military will bury me and hide the whole situation if they can. I’m in big trouble. I’m in the middle of Iraq, surrounded by people who are not on my side. Please help me. Please contact whoever you can, and tell them who I am, so I don’t ‘disappear’”– Eli Israel

Post written by Daniel Black

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Protestors gathered on Capitol Hill this past Sunday to express their disapproval of U.S.-supported Israeli occupation of Palestine, an occupation that now exceeds 40 years. A small but diverse and lively crowd, the protestors collectively argued for adherence to applicable U.N. resolutions and international law, protection of Palestinians’ individual human rights and cultural right to self-determination, and the restoration of justice as a practical means of achieving peace.

On the other side of 3rd Street, a counterdemonstration of about 50 “pro-Israel” protestors gathered to express their disagreement. Oddly, these protestors argued for the same abstract principles as their counterparts up on the hill. They claimed to be on the side of peace, supporting democratic values and human rights, and their chief argument centered on denouncing violence and terrorism.

Both groups of protestors allege that truth and moral high-ground was on their side, exclusively. If two groups of people, so diametrically divided over something, forthrightly espouse the same interests, then how can there be conflict?

The conflict, as I understand it, is preordained simply because only one truthful and accurate historical record exists. Each argument, however, employs its own version of history, allowing each to claim fundamental superiority over the other, and on the same ostensible pretenses of justice. Either selective ignorance of historical events or outright dishonesty is at work in one (or both?) of these arguments. An open-minded and independent review of history is necessary in order to responsibly choose a side.

Respecting that the stance of the American Government has been continuously and unconditionally supportive of Israel for nearly 60 years, it is wise to look outside our own mainstream sources so as to eliminate bias. The results of such inquiry, I have found, are unpleasant for those sympathetic to the Israeli cause, and the arguments of the counterdemonstrators, I had noticed, bespeak shameful but silenced awareness. Consider the substance of their central arguments (and logical rebuttals):

1. Israel has the right to exist (this perspective is undisputed by the other side; it succeeds only in distracting people from the pertinent issues)

2. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East (ignoring this argument’s irrelevancy, for democracies are as capable of human rights abuses as any other government, it is a distortion of the truth. Many pro-Palestinian parties in the Middle East -alleged terrorist organizations by the U.S. and Israel- are characteristically democratic and have acquired legislative representation in Middle Eastern governments peacefully through free elections; it is typically the governments of the United States and Israel that behave undemocratically)

3. Israel departed the Gaza Strip but has sustained over 1000 rocket attacks since. (Israel also built a wall around Gaza, isolating its inhabitants from participation in social, cultural, and political life outside. In omitting Israeli violence, which claims the lives of nearly nine times as many children as Palestinian violence, this argument does not present any new information fairly or constructively. It also fails to address the issue of occupation in the West Bank and Golan Heights, far more strategic land areas than Gaza)

4. Israel is the only country that outlawed the use of torture (also irrelevant, also a distortion, it might be worth considering that confessions obtained through torture are admissible in Israeli courts -a different discussion point for a different debate)

5. The Israeli occupation of these territories constitutes “prophecy-fulfillment” (this is an ideological perspective, effortlessly refuted by presenting an opposite ideology that is also conveniently exempt from factual or logical support)

While my personal bias is unabashedly on the side of the Palestinians, I feel these talking points are worthy of examination from any angle. Recognize that as Americans, our culture is not neutral on this issue, that outside the United States and Israel, there is widespread disapproval of Israel’s human rights record, and that this is not a politically contentious issue in the international arena, where violations of international law affect political causes negatively.

-Daniel Black

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This spring break (in the snow), I discovered Mosaic. This Peabody Award winnig show is only available on LinkTV or via a free video podcast; its relative anonymity, however, should not detract astute news consumers. Mosaic presents a collage of video clips from various Middle Eastern news sources and offers a Middle Eastern viewpoint on world events. Mosaic also publishes a weekly intelligence report. The document, itself a collection of opinion pieces and news stories relating to the Middle East, is available free of charge and by email subscription on the show’s website.

Since American media systematically excludes the opinions of Middle Easterners, Mosaic offers Americans a rare glimpse into regional Middle Eastern politics and an opportunity to witness the effects of American foreign policy on Middle Easterners. Relying on alternative news sources, the intelligence report and the TV show broaden the spectrum of news sources and opinion. This week’s edition of the intelligence report, for instance, included a story about a new University of Maryland/Zogby International 2006 Annual Arab Public Opinion Survey which found that most Middle Easterners “do not see Iran as a major threat to the region.”

When asked to identify two countries that pose the biggest threat to them, 85 percent of respondents said Israel and 72 percent said the United States. In contrast, only 11 percent identified Iran. Furthermore, a majority of respondents were supportive of Iran’s nuclear program, even though more than half also believe that Iran has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons. According to the survey, 61 percent believe that Iran has a right to a nuclear program, with only 24 percent agreeing that Tehran should be pressured to stop it.

Interestingly, two-thirds of those surveyed in the UAE and just over half in Saudi Arabia agree that Iran has a right to a nuclear program, despite the issue’s sensitivity among Gulf Arab monarchies. While broadly approving of Iran’s nuclear program, just over half — 51 percent — of those surveyed believe Iran has ambitions to achieve weapons capability, with only 27 percent believing that Iran is intent on using its program for civilian purposes.Of the world leaders admired most by respondents, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was first, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came in third, despite the fact both are Shia Muslims and the latter is not Arab. French President Jacques Chirac and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came in second and fourth respectively.

Conversely, U.S. President George W. Bush, former and current Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair were identified as the four most disliked world leaders. Respondents also view Hezbollah more favorably since the July-August 2006 war against Israel. More than two-thirds — or 68 percent — of those surveyed said they had a more positive attitude toward Hezbollah after last year’s war; including 58 percent and 50 percent respectively in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

As much as the dire situation in Iraq, and to a lesser extent the political standoff in Lebanon, have opened up fissures between Arab Sunnis and Shias across the region, the University of Maryland/Zogby International poll shows that fundamental attitudes towards the role of the United States in the region are overwhelmingly negative. Furthermore, Sunni Arab regimes’ fears of an Iranian ascendancy are not shared by those they rule.

“The public of the Arab world is not looking at the important issues through the Sunni-Shiite divide,” Shibley Telhami, a scholar at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy who conducted the poll, told Inter Press Service. “They see them rather through the lens of Israeli-Palestinian issues and anger with U.S. policy. Most Sunni Arabs take the side of the Shiites on the important issues.”Indeed the Bush administration has a job ahead of it to win over hearts and minds in the region. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed stated they had unfavorable attitudes — 57 very unfavorable and 21 percent unfavorable — towards the United States. More than two-thirds of those surveyed, or 70 percent, said their attitudes towards America were based on U.S. policy, while only 11 percent said they was based on American values.

Despite the fact that Middle East democracy promotion forms the core of the Bush administration’s rhetoric, 65 percent of those surveyed said they did not believe democracy is a real U.S. objective in the region. In fact when asked what they considered to be motivating U.S. policy in the Middle East, “controlling oil” (83 percent), “protecting Israel” (75 percent), “weakening the Muslim world” (69 percent), and “desire to dominate the region” (68 percent) were identified as extremely important factors.

When asked what steps the United States could take to improve its regional standing, 62 percent identified brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on 1967 borders. A significant minority of respondents identified withdrawal from Iraq (33 percent), and withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Arabian Peninsula (22 percent) as well. More than half (52 percent) ranked U.S. policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict as “extremely important.” When asked to identify their biggest concern about the consequences of the Iraq War, just under half (49 percent) feared that Iraq may be divided, 42 percent feared Iraq remaining a destabilizing factor for the region, while 42 percent cited a continued U.S. dominance of the country as their biggest concern. Only 15 percent highlighted Iran becoming a more powerful state as a major concern. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration expected that cultivating a Shiite-led pro-Western democracy in Baghdad would weaken Iran’s theocratic republic and erode Hezbollah’s influence. A new and powerful Iraqi ally would also enable the United States to ease its strategic dependence on Saudi Arabia, an ally which became less trusted after 9/11, the administration’s thinking went.

But Iran has been able to exercise influence in Iraq and Iraq’s Shiites have cooperated with the United States on their own terms, dashing hopes of politically overhauling the Middle East through empowering Shiites. Last year’s Israel-Hezbollah war compelled the Bush administration to reverse this position and return to seeking an alliance with pro-Western Sunni regimes in an effort to contain Iran. While this latest strategy brings the Bush administration closer to the political leadership of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, the Sunni Arab populace in these countries does not see things the same way as their leaders.

In fact the Maryland/Zogby poll reveals that skepticism of the United States’ role in the region, resentment at lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front, and affinity for regional figures who are seen to be standing up to America and/or Israel are still widespread. And despite the sectarian conflict in Iraq and simmering tensions in Lebanon, Iran is not seen as the bogeyman of the region. Perhaps the Islamic Republic is more popular in the broader Middle East than it is within its own borders.

America’s policy in the Middle East cannot ignore Arab history, perception and opinion. If we wish to reduce the threat of ‘terrorism’ or Islamic religious extremism, we must pursue a symbtiotic relationship; American policy cannot undermine the needs and desires of Middle Easterners—such an approach generates resistance and terrorism. If we want to reduce so-called anti-Americanism then we must secede, in some respects, to the demands of the region. We must pull out of Iraq, abandon our blind support for Israeli policy towards the Palestinians (not the state of Israel), allow Iraqis to control their own natural resources, and negotiate with the regional powers.

Our current policy (to extend American hegemony and influence across the Middle East and allow American corporations to control the region’s natural resources) undermines Middle Eastern sovereignty and democracy. In crafting a new approach, we must consider the needs and viewpoints of Middle Easterners– and that’s what Mosaic is all about.

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Since the invasion of Iraq, I’ve argued that the Bush doctrine, specifically the invasion of Iraq, has radicalized Muslim extremists and increased America’s vulnerability to terrorism. What’s even more damning, still, is this administration’s willingness to risk the lives of millions of Americans to gain strategic influence in the Middle East and control over Iraq’s vast oil reserves. Prior to the invasion, the Bush administration knew that a military action against Iraq would spark a Jihadist Renaissance; they ignored this threat.

Moreover, bellicose rhetoric or action against Iran will have the same effect there, as the 9/11 attacks had here. After the attack on America, Americans united around Bush. If half of us didn’t support Bush before 9/11, the attacks forced us to rally around our President; after all, he was all we had. We trusted President Bush to protect us from the threat of terror. Who else could we have turned to? Many Americans enlisted in the army and our government promised to avenge the deaths of 3,000 innocent Americans.

The invasion of Iraq, like the conflict in Afghanistan before it, has had the same effect on extremist Muslims around the world. Thus it comes as no surprise when Mother Jones Magazine reports that “the Iraq War has generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third…the Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of the Al Qaeda ideological virus, as shown by a rising number of terrorist attacks in the past three years from London to Kabul, and from Madrid to the Red Sea.”

If we ever hope to reduce or even eliminate terror we must, as Noam Chomsky has argued, stop participating in it. We have to pull out of Iraq. We have to negotiate with Iran and Syria. We have to reassess our blind support for Israel. We have to place the security of our people ahead of economic or strategic ambition.

— Igor Volsky

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George Will’s latest column, A Lack of Courage in Their Convictions, argues that Democratic criticism of the war in Iraq is disingenuous and politically opportunist. “Indiscriminate criticism of President George W. Bush is an infectious disease that may prove crippling to congressional Democrats.” The Democrats refuse to cut off funding for the Iraq war; instead, they condemn the surge rhetorically in a non-binding resolution. “They lack the will to exercise their clearly constitutional power to defund the war. And they lack the power to achieve that end by usurping the commander in chief’s powers to conduct a war.”

I agree with George. Democrats should defund the war and bring home the troops. It’s what the Iraqis want and it’s what we want. But then, Will’s logic takes a turn for the absurd. While urging the Democrats to act on their convictions, Will writes “They can spend this year fecklessly and cynically enacting restrictions that do not restrict. Or they can legislate decisive failure of the Iraq operation — withdrawal — thereby acquiring conspicuous complicity in a defeat that might be inevitable anyway.”

If Democratic support for withdrawal demonstrates “conspicuous complicity in a defeat” George Bush’s policy has made such defeat “inevitable.” But I disagree with the premise. A resolute push for withdrawal (enforced by restricting funding) is the only strategy for saving American lives and resources; to refute American Iraqi policy is to save America from a deeper commitment.

To compare criticism to an “infectious disease” is not just demonstrative of Will’s contempt for democracy but it’s also an indication of his stark partisanship: the Democrats should cut off funding to a policy which will inevitably fail, but if they do, they will take part in a “conspicuous complicity” for failure. Will is urging the Democrats to legislate their convictions; should they do so, however, George Will will criticize them for taking his advise.

— Igor Volsky

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You can flush that New York Times apology for publishing White House propaganda in the lead up to war with Iraq “without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence” right down the toilet. Tomorrow’s Times will feature an article by Michael R. Gordon, the reporter who together with Judith Miller is responsible for authoring the must dubious reports on Iraq. This piece, available online tonight, is titled Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Made by Iran, U.S. Says. In the words of the NYT apology, Gordon’s article, which claims that “the most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran,” is “insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.”

Since its release the piece has been scrutinized by liberal bloggers Juan Cole, ThinkProgress and others. Cole disputes Gordon’s central allegation (attributed to an unnamed military source) that close to 25 percent of American deaths in the last three months were caused by explosives being smuggled in from Shiite Iran to Shiites in Iraq.

This claim is one hundred percent wrong. Because 25 percent of US troops were not killed fighting Shiites in those three months. Day after day, the casualty reports specify al-Anbar Province or Diyala or Salahuddin or Babil, or Baghdad districts such as al-Dura, Ghaziliyah, Amiriyah, etc.–and the enemy fighting is clearly Sunni Arab guerrillas. And, Iran is not giving high tech weapons to Baathists and Salafi Shiite-killers.

[…]

The attempt to blame these US deaths on Iran is in my view a black psy-ops operation. The claim is framed as though this was a matter of direct Iranian government transfer to the deadliest guerrillas. In fact, the most fractious Shiites are the ones who hate Iran the most. If 25 percent of US troops are being killed and wounded by explosively formed projectiles, then someone should look into who is giving those EFPs to Sunni Arab guerrillas. It isn’t Iran.

Finally, it is obvious that if Iran did not exist, US troops would still be being blown up in large numbers. Sunni guerrillas in al-Anbar and West Baghdad are responsible for most of the deaths. The Bush administration’s talent for blaming everyone but itself for its own screw-ups is on clear display here.

Do newspaper sales increase in times of war? Do some of the Times’ corporate sponsors benefit? Is the corporate media filled with lazy reporters unaccustomed to the shoe-leather of investigative reporting? Is the corporate media structure an echo chamber of government propaganda? The questions mount as frustration builds.

— Igor Volsky

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A quick note on this Iraq resolution business. First, I think that the entire effort is pointless. The Democrats are demanding debate on a non-binding resolution noting their displeasure with the President’s unpopular escalation strategy. All the while, they are denying the Republicans the right to inroduce their own amendments, the very same right the Democrats themselves demanded while in the minority.

The Democrats should grow a backbone, cut off funding for the escalation, and begin the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The Democrats should also live up to their campaign promise (to lead the most ethical, democratic congress in history, blah, blah, blah) and allow for open debate on Iraq.

In the lead up to war, most of these lawmakers ignored dissent to support the 2002 resolution for war. Our country has been stifled by ‘group think.’ The Democrats should bring our troops home and restore democracy to Congress; they owe us that much.

— Igor Volsky

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Absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the wake of COINTELPRO, the surveillance of peace activists and other government dissidents has become part of a long tradition of eliminating, by whip if necessary, those elements of the population which cannot be controlled or subdued though more typical channels. America’s history of “communist” suppression should give pause to any such efforts. Yet the Patriot Act and other similar efforts have reinvigorated programs of domestic thought control.

A majority of Americans now support ending the war in Iraq. Our government has spearheaded a program designed to infiltrate the very groups that advocate on our behalf; because we don’t agree with this administration’s conquer and destroy foreign-policy, we’re being watched.

SAN FRANCISCO – At least 186 antiwar protests in the United States have been monitored by the Pentagon’s domestic surveillance program, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which also found that the Defense Department collected more than 2,800 reports involving Americans in a single anti-terrorism database.

The documents were obtained by the ACLU through a Freedom of Information Act request filed last February.

“It cannot be an accident or coincidence that nearly 200 antiwar protests ended up in a Pentagon threat database,” Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU, said in a statement. “This unchecked surveillance is part of a broad pattern of the Bush administration using ‘national security’ as an excuse to run roughshod over the privacy and free speech rights of Americans.”

The internal Defense Department documents show it is monitoring the activities of a wide swath of peace groups, including Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Code Pink, the American Friends Service Committee, the War Resisters League, and the umbrella group United for Peace and Justice, which is spearheading what organizers hope will be a massive march on Washington this Saturday.

“This might have a chilling effect on some groups,” United for Peace and Justice’s Leslie Cagan told OneWorld, “particularly among high-risk communities like immigrants who don’t have their papers yet and U.S. citizens or people with green cards who are of Muslim or South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. They’ve already been targeted by the government and they might feel like, with this, it’s just too dangerous to come out and protest.”

— Igor Volsky

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President Bush’s references to Iran and Hezbollah in Tuesday’s State of the Union address could be harbingers of an impending military invasion or attack. To readers familiar with the President’s drumbeat to war with Iraq, these pronouncements are even more worrisome. While most lawmakers insist that the President must ask for Congressional authorization before taking military action, this administration’s ability to manipulate intelligence and events, and ideological commitment to extending American influence throughout the region suggest that an attack may be imminent. (Recent military deployments have also raised red flags).

In announcing the escalation of troops in Iraq, the President promised to “seek out and destroy” Iranian networks that he said were providing “advanced weaponry and training to our enemies.” Yesterday, the President suggested that Iran is behind much of the violence in Iraq.

“In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia — and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day. “

Such rhetoric certainly radicalizes Muslims in Iran and the greater Muslim world and shores up support for the current Iranian regime. But, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that evidence of a connection between Iran and the Iraqi violence is flimsy at best.

For all the aggressive rhetoric, however, the Bush administration has provided scant evidence to support these claims. Nor have reporters traveling with U.S. troops seen extensive signs of Iranian involvement. During a recent sweep through a stronghold of Sunni insurgents here, a single Iranian machine gun turned up among dozens of arms caches U.S. troops uncovered. British officials have similarly accused Iran of meddling in Iraqi affairs, but say they have not found Iranian-made weapons in areas they patrol.

The lack of publicly disclosed evidence has led to questions about whether the administration is overstating its case. Some suggest Bush and his aides are pointing to Iran to deflect blame for U.S. setbacks in Iraq. Others suggest they are laying the foundation for a military strike against Iran.

Before invading Iraq, the administration warned repeatedly that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Those statements proved wrong. The administration’s charges about Iran sound uncomfortably familiar to some. “To be quite honest, I’m a little concerned that it’s Iraq again,” Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week, referring to the administration’s comments on Iran.

Now, ThinkProgress is reporting that the “Bush administration tried to get Congress to approve military action anywhere in the Middle East — not just in Iraq — in the fall of 2002.” Their commitment to global hegemony is certainly impressive, but extending America’s influence over the Middle East subjugates Muslims, radicalizes religious extremists and increases America’s vulnerability.

Two things are certain (1) this President is intent on using military force to extend America’s influence over a commercially profitable and resource-rich region (2) he will ignore the moral, democratic, and homeland security implications of doing so.

Are these not high crimes or misdemeanors?

— Igor Volsky

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Last November, former president Jimmy Carter published a book appealing for a peaceful resolution to the violent conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors entitled: Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Unique and unprecedented, this book offers its reader a perspective that seldom receives public attention.

Jimmy Carter accounts his personal experiences and involvement with influential leaders of several Middle Eastern countries. Numerous historical events that oftentimes are foggy or shrouded in the American Public’s general understanding are discussed openly. Carter draws from his first hand knowledge, and, to an extent rarely seen in mainstream literature, implicitly acknowledges the humanity of all peoples affected by this conflict.

On the whole, I found the book very easy to read, thorough and intensely candid, and apparently written with the understanding that it broaches a subject frequently abused on those rare occasions it is actually discussed. It was, unfortunately, encumbered with a religious facet that I felt diminished its scholarly value.

Stemming from Carter’s forthright and non-biased disclosures is the unsurprising consequence of passion-driven personal assaults against the president’s character. Carter’s work has, unfortunately, been interpreted by many as nothing more than an unfounded attack against Israel, sympathetic to the cause of violent fanatics who are intolerant of a Jewish state, and unruly diplomatic behavior unbecoming of a former U.S. president.

The most heated criticism against Carter’s book is his describing Israel’s treatment of non-Jewish inhabitants in the occupied territories as apartheid. Responses in defense of Israel’s treatment have been swift and strong; critics denounced the comparison of Israel to South Africa as absurd, claiming that Carter’s doing so compromises his credibility. If the comparison is inappropriate, then Carter should be commended for clearly agreeing. The final chapter of the book, the one most bitterly unwelcome for its apartheid analogy, says in its second paragraph that “the driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa,” (pg. 189) then acknowledging the difference between Israel’s and South Africa’s respective motives. The analogy, it is important to understand, is based not upon motive, but upon method; to the extent that the analogy is informative and accurate, Carter beseeches the reader to consider critically the reality of Israeli/Palestinian apartheid and its caustic social effects on the marginalized people so affected.

Another recurring claim from Carter’s critics is that he attributes blame for the region’s instability exclusively to the Israelis, a critique that is simply untrue. As a matter of convention, President Carter links the diminishing prospects for peace with those individuals who, through the employment of sectarian violence, routinely derail collective efforts to establish such a peace, and he notes that these activities are not specific to any religion or ethnicity but are observable in a small, fanatical portion of each.

Carter never espouses the use of violence taken by some Palestinians as a means of conflict resolution. Early in the book, in fact, Carter expresses in plain English that some Palestinians respond to Israeli occupation by attacking Israeli civilians, describing such behavior as “morally reprehensible and politically counterproductive” (pg. 15). He revisits, as necessary, this sort of criticality of the Palestinians throughout his book while apportioning similar criticism to Israeli politics and behavior with greater frequency, a style I did not find inappropriate considering how underrepresented the latter is in the literature that our culture is accustomed to seeing.

Implicit but clear, Carter’s overarching conclusion from reviewing the historical record and assessing the present state of affairs is that baseless aggression, originating from sentiments reducible to mere hate, fear, intolerance, and ignorance, will deter efforts toward peace, independent of which side that aggression comes from, and it certainly comes from both. Carter deplores the inclusion of violence in any stratagem that aims for stability and identifies the process as inherently counterproductive, a standard that some Israeli sympathizers, it appears, find unpalatable when applied not strictly to the oppressed, but when applied to themselves, as well.

The final oft-heard shot against President Carter I will address is his highly publicized refusal to debate the Israel/Palestinian conflict with Alan Dershowitz. Considered by many to be a leading scholar and an authority on Israel’s history and politics, Alan Dershowitz, a law professor of Harvard University, was Brandeis University’s choice to debate Jimmy Carter after the president accepted an invitation to lecture there. Carter declined the offer to debate Dershowitz, expressing that he had no inclination to converse with a man who “knows nothing about the situation in Palestine”. Although this chain of events has evoked varied analyses of Carter’s motives and merits, I find it unfair to discount him solely because of whom he will and will not talk to. A man who insults the memory of a deceased holocaust survivor, accusing her of Nazi collaboration, simply because her son writes books exposing his plagiarism and scholarly misconduct is not a man I’d like to debate with either.

These and many other criticisms of the book and its author fail to acknowledge the simple problem called to attention by President Carter. His nerve to bluntly express the plain and obvious has made him a target. The sharpest criticisms that his work has drawn are concerned not with the social issues of its focus, they are concerned with savagely bludgeoning his credibility, a dialogical vector that, I believe, has as much productive potential as the six years of dialogical silence that the author scrutinizes.

Understanding the chronic tension between the Israelis and the Palestinians requires a clear-eyed assessment of affairs in which one’s predispositions and biases are suspended. It is a remarkable failure of precisely this sort of suspension that characterizes this new book’s media-hype comet-trail. Although Carter offers as factual an account of his own involvement as he is realistically able to narrate in a single volume, attempting to cover broad topics extensively but concisely, the over-emphasized response it has generated, which comes mostly from Israel-sympathizers, condemn Carter for his audacity to express things in conflict with their ideology.

–Daniel Black

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