Friday, February 16, 2007

Atlanta Journal Constitution on Carter's Emory appearance

The following article appeared this morning in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Emory professors protest Carter visit
Letter asks: 'What's Jimmy afraid of?'

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/15/07

The controversy over Jimmy Carter's "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," will not go away, especially in the halls of academia.

Nine distinguished Emory professors, [NOTE: By the time the oped was published the number was 11] each holding named chairs, wrote a letter titled, "What's Jimmy Afraid Of?" The letter is scheduled to appear in the campus newspaper Friday to protest the fact that Carter is scheduled to speak at the campus, but has refused to debate.

"Despite having written a book whose purpose he claims was to promote dialogue and discussion, he has consistently dodged appearing with anyone who could challenge him on the numerous factual errors which fill the pages of his slim book," the letter states.

"We are happy that Jimmy Carter wants to come to Emory," said Deborah E. Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, and a signer of the letter. "But we think it should be an exchange of ideas, not a one-sided presentation. We felt that this is not up to the standards of Emory in terms of creative inquiry."

Earl Lewis, Emory's provost, said Carter speaks on Emory campus at least once a month in someone's class. Annually, he holds a town hall discussion on campus. Lewis said the Feb. 22 event will follow the town hall format that Emory has done for years.

He objected to claims that allowing Carter to speak and answer submitted questions was not academically challenging.

"I am not sure I agree with that," Lewis said. "It is not unusual, in any context, for someone who may have written a book that is controversial, to come speak on that book. We all would love to engage President Carter. But this is an opportunity for him to talk about his book."

Lewis said that Carter would speak for about 15 minutes, and then answer questions that have been submitted by students. Lewis said the university has not ruled out a possible debate in the future.

When Carter's book was published in November, the former president said he wrote it to spark debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. In the book, Carter paints the Israelis as the aggressors in the conflict, even going so far as to liken their occupation of the West Bank to apartheid.

Although the book remains a best seller, critics have pilloried it.

Former allies have abandoned Carter and the Carter Center and more than a dozen Jewish members of an advisory panel quit the center.

But scholars have been most frustrated with Carter's refusal to debate his own book, although he has talked about the book at length in print and on television.

Last month, Carter spoke at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Carter initially turned down an invitation to speak at the Jewish-sponsored school, when it was suggested he debate Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz.

Carter later appeared without Dershowitz, who was given a chance to rebut the former president after he had left the building.

The Emory faculty members said they approached and got an agreement from Dennis Ross, envoy to the Middle East in the Clinton administration, to debate Carter. Ross has accused Carter of misusing maps that originally appeared in his book, "The Missing Peace."

"I have watched the entire speech Carter delivered at Brandeis. It was disturbing and totally staged," said Melvin Konner, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology at Emory. "I just thought, what can we do to prevent the Emory event from being the same thing."


Robert Hume said...

Here's another recent publication:

Yossi Beilin, a former minister and current member of Israel's parliament, in the Jewish Weekly "The Forward" has reviewed President Carter's book on the Palestinian-Israeli problem. Here is what he has to say:

"In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories — and perhaps no less important, how he says it — is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves."

In the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, moreover, Carter has secured his place in history as the man who brokered the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab nation. The Camp David summit he convened in September 1978, which resulted in the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, was a historical watershed for the entire region. It inaugurated the Arab-Israeli peace process, without which the Oslo peace process would not have been possible, nor the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.

In light of the failure of the second Camp David summit of July 2000, Carter’s successful mediation between such starkly different leaders as Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat is all the more impressive, and his achievement — which was a truly personal achievement — all the more remarkable.

Every Israeli, and every Jew to whom the destiny of Israel is important, is indebted to Carter for breaking the ring of hostility that had choked Israel for more than 30 years. No American president before him had dedicated himself so fully to the cause of Israel’s peace and security, and, with the exception of Bill Clinton, no American president has done so since.

This is why the publication of Carter’s recent book, and perhaps more than anything else, the title it bears, has pained so many people. And I must admit that, on some deeply felt level, the title of the book has strained my heart, too. Harsh and awful as the conditions are in the West Bank, the suggestion that Israel
is conducting a policy of apartheid in the occupied territories is simply unacceptable to me.

But is this what Carter is saying? I have read his book, and I could not help but agree — however agonizingly so — with most if its contents. Where I disagreed was mostly with the choice of language, including his choice of the word “apartheid.”

But if we are to be fair, and as any reading of the book makes clear, Carter’s use of the word “apartheid” is first and foremost metaphorical. Underlying Israel’s policy in the West Bank, he argues, is not a racist ideology but rather a nationalist drive for the acquisition of land. The resulting violence, and the segregationist policies that shape life in the West Bank, are the ill-intended consequences of that drive.

Of course, there is no appropriate term in the political lexicon for what we in Israel are doing in the
occupied territories. “Occupation” is too antiseptic a term, and does not capture the social, cultural and humanitarian dimensions of our actions. Given the Palestinians’ role in the impasse at which we have arrived, to say nothing of Arab states and, historically speaking, of the superpowers themselves, I would describe the reality of occupation as a march of folly — an Israeli one, certainly, but not exclusively so.

But if we are to read Carter’s book for what it is, I think we would find in it an impassioned personal
narrative of an American former president who is reflecting on the direction in which Israel and Palestine may be going if they fail to reach agreement soon. Somewhere down the line — and symbolically speaking, that line may be crossed the day that a minority of Jews will rule a majority of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — the destructive nature of occupation will turn Israel into a pariah state, not unlike South
Africa under apartheid."
Additional reading:

turtlecurls said...

This link to an article in the NY Sun provides a detailed list of factual errors in Carter's book which completely undermine it's validity.

What Westerners often fail to recognize including this poster, Robert Hume, is the meaning of an Israeli commentary. Westerners often take them as full statements of complete truth that are to be treasured and worshipped. Israel which is heavily Jewish reflects Judaism's religous & cultural goal of analysing & reanalysing everything, or looking for even tibits self responsiblity in all situations.

While there may be nothing in the criticism's of Carter that Israeli's haven't said, there is PLENTY in the facts which Israeli's would quickly discredit. Of course these are criticisms Israel has considered because as a Jewish state they have considered the situation from an daunting number of directions. What the author doesn't mention is criticisms of Israeli from a completely different direction such as
her actions as too soft, because the article is for Israeli ears & everything knows those analyses very well.

It is always easy to find an Israeli opinion piece that supports an Arab tilted position, because of the nature of Israelis. There is a joke that if you have two jews you have three opinions, and if you have two Israelis stranded on a desert island, when you pick them up a few years later they will have formed seven political parties between them.

Westerners live in a Christian world where opinion was traditionally given to you & you tried not to rock the boat too much, or at least to voice your opinion quietly. This leads to an entirely different view of opinion pieces as meaningful & to be taken seriously (as a broad generalized). Verse the Israeli view that they are part of a dynamic debate to generate ideas & of which the author may not agree at a later time.

The this poster refers to is notoriously extreme far, far left in Israeli politics. So take this as the view of Cindy Sheeny (spelling? - sat outside Bush's in Texas) after she met with and adopted Arafat's views.