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Book Corner Dec 2006
Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
By Jimmy Carter
Simon and Schuster, 2006 PP. 264
This is the book, the work everyone is professing real or pretend surprise over regarding the issues facing Palestine. One approach to reviewing this volume is a possible shortcut, which would succinctly state the following: I was in Palestine a year ago. I saw what the author is describing. It is all true.
Such an approach, however, must move on a much more extended plane, from the reviewer's eye-witness to a look at a work by another eye-witness to the tragedy which is Palestine/Israel today. This work by former President Jimmy Carter is extra-ordinary in that it draws on historical events from the Carter presidency as well as the wider history of Palestine/Israel. Maps, a historical chronology, government and United Nation documents - by way of incorporation into the text and as appendices- describe in clear detail the different political struggles. This array of documents also lends complete credibility to what the former President is saying: he is not merely whistling Dixie.
In the book's introduction, Carter states that "One of the major goals of my life, while in political office and since I was retired from the White House by the 1980 election, has been to help ensure a lasting peace for Israelis and others in the Middle East." (11) For those who have not paid close attention to Carter's works post-1980, he has, indeed, been writing books, establishing a foundation called The Carter Center and to date travels and speaks with world leaders about Middle East realities.
One intriguing thread that appears in various ways in this work is Carter's deep knowledge of the Bible. In 1973 when Carter and his spouse visited Israel and met with Golda Meir, then Prime Minister, he said to her: "...that I had long taught lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures and that a common historical pattern was that Israel was punished whenever the leaders turned away from devout worship of God. I asked if she was concerned about the secular nature of her Labor government. She seemed surprised at my temerity and dismissed my comments with a shrug and a laugh. She lit one cigarette from another and then said that "orthodox" Jews still existed and could assume that portion of the nation's responsibility." (32)
By way of a sample of the statements Carter makes which have caused an uproar, he says: "Leaders on both sides ignore strong majorities that crave peace, allowing extremist -led violence to preempt all opportunities for building a political consensus. A major impediment to progress is Washington's strange policy that dialogue on controversial issues is a privilege to be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and withheld from those who reject U. S. demands." (202--203)
It is hard to select quotes from this work. The entire book is written in lucid, sequential fashion. The thorough documentation and frank personal comments offer the reader a world leader's honest and balanced appraisal of life in the Middle East. When I first saw the title of this book, I immediately recalled some of the words I'd seen painted on to the massive security wall, which Israel is building around the Palestinians. These words were listed:
Berlin Wall - gone; South Africa's Apartheid 'Wall' - gone; Palestine's Wall - when??