To date, Jimmy Carter is the most high-profile American to publicly denounce the horrors of the Israeli occupation. Not in a sound byte or a simple aside. But in a full length book, provocatively titled, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."
In his book, President Carter provides a detailed analysis of Israel's confiscation of Palestinian land and ongoing demoralization of the Palestinian people within their own homeland. President Carter bravely defies the American taboo of never criticizing Israel, recognizing that humanitarianism dwarfs political correctness.
The intentions of the book are as honorable as the man who wrote it. To provide a clear understanding that there are two sides to the Israeli/Palestinian story. To show how Palestinians are suffering under the Israeli occupation. And to prove that there is a legitimate, humane two state solution.
For America's elected officials, denouncing Israel is unthinkable, although denouncing her detractors is common. As one would expect, members of Congress attacked the book immediately, prior to ever reading it. According to incoming Democratic Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, "It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously."
Speaker Pelosi's statement is indicative of the dismissive sentiments of most members of Congress. Unlike Israelis themselves, who acknowledge that Palestinian mistreatment is real, America's elected officials deny it's very existence.
A question for Speaker Pelosi: if these atrocities aren't happening, why do Israelis protest them so much? Why do Israeli soldier "refuseniks" decline actions against Palestinians and opt to spend time in jail?
It took Pennsylvania Representative Jack Murtha to speak out against America's occupation of Iraq before others had the courage to oppose it. Perhaps Jimmy Carter can have a similar effect on Israel's occupation of Palestine. Maybe after acknowledgment by a man of President Carter's stature, America's leaders will adopt a humanitarian approach toward the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and develop the courage to oppose it.
Unfortunately, this is more of an optimist's dream than a scenario about to happen. Even President Carter doubts the new Democratic-lead Congress will change its purely pro-Israel tone. In a November 27th interview with CNN's Larry King, President Carter admitted, "It's almost inconceivable for any members of the House and Senate to take any position that would be critical of Israel. That's one reason I wrote my book. It's just to precipitate some controversy, to use your word, provocation, that is to provoke debate on the issue and to let the people of America know that there are two sides to many issues in the Middle East, and that in order to have peace for Israel, Israel will have to comply with international law. But I don't think it's likely at all that Democrats will be any more critical of the policies of Israel than were the Republicans."
Nor will Carter's fellow ex-Presidents, George H.W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton be critical of Israel's actions, although they know that these horrors occur. They lack Carter's moral fiber. They're politicians acting as statesmen. Carter is a statesman with a political past.
The differences are clear. Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush are political emissaries of the current President Bush. A tour de force fundraising duo, deployed to disasters with a political purse.
Carter, on the other hand, is a respected humanitarian. He's a welcome ambassador for America's humanity. In a world where America is increasingly hated, Jimmy Carter does America proud. Particularly when compared to George Bush, Sr., who isn't a statesman at all. Or a patriot either, if one accepts his claim that he never assisted his son. If this is true. If he never tried to reverse the dereliction of George W. Bush, then George Bush Sr. is guilty of irreparable harm.
Americans sacrificed their sons for this nation. He sacrificed this nation for his son. A shameful indictment at best.
The fact is, there is no possibility of Middle East peace without resolving the Palestinian conflict. America's bias toward Israel must be replaced with equality and balance. Carter summarized it this way in his appearance on Larry King:
"You never hear anything about what is happening to the Palestinians by the Israelis. As a matter of fact, it's one of the worst cases of oppression that I know of now in the world. The Palestinians' land has been taken away from them. They now have an encapsulating or an imprisonment wall being built around what's left of the little tiny part of the holy land that is in the West Bank.
In the Gaza, from which Israel is not withdrawing, Gaza is surrounded by a high wall. There's only two openings in it. One into Israel which is mostly closed, the other one into Egypt. The people there are encapsulated. And the deprivation of basic human rights among the Palestinians is really horrendous and this is a fact that's known throughout the world. It's debated heavily and constantly in Israel. Every time I'm there the debate is going on. It is not debated at all in this country. And I believe that the purpose of this book, as I know, is to bring permanent peace to Israel living within its recognized borders, modified with good faith negotiations between the Palestinians for land swaps. That's the only avenue that will bring Israel peace."
America needs to adopt an honest policy toward Palestine. Jimmy Carter shouldn't be criticized for taking so courageous a stand. He should be applauded. America can't help Israel, or itself, by supporting actions that inflame hatred and provoke harm.
Why not listen to President Carter. His Middle East experience is unparalleled. He is still the only President to have negotiated a successful Middle East Treaty. Thanks to his 1978 Camp David Accords, Israel has had peace with Egypt for nearly thirty years!