Get Carter: Brandeis blog, the A-word, fighting back, and self-censorship

It’s always amusing to hear people cite Jimmy Carter to prove that it is just some crazy urban myth that people who criticize Israeli policy get muzzled. After all, he’s been on all the major news networks and in many papers and even at Brandeis. Heck, this guy can speak anywhere he wants to. Well, there’s a reason for that. He’s a Nobel prize winning former US president, for crying out loud!

One need not be over-sensitive to conclude that if our favorite former president can be so ruthlessly dragged through the mud and vitriol, then there is little hope for the rest of us lesser mortals who don’t have the benefit of press agents and personal security details. At least one Israeli professor admitted freely that he had drawn just that conclusion. (Read end of post.)

Brandeis graduate, nonprofit Internet strategist and blogger par excellence Michael Stein sent us this item, showing that Brandeis continues to be a role model for open dialogue (which hasn’t always been the case). They just made public this Carter discussion blog which offers the chance to discuss Carter’s talk “as well as consideration of how the Palestine question [can] be discussed at our University.”

Meanwhile, the widespread denuciation of Carter’s book grows increasingly empty, given the fact that you can read much harsher condemnations of Israel’s human rights record on almost any given day in the pages of Haaretz (think of them as the New York Times of Israel).

You know the tectonic plates are shifting when a former Hadassah Magazine editor, J. Zel Lurie, writes in his column in the South Florida Jewish Journal

I am vexed by the vilification of former President Jimmy Carter by Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz over his book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” They concentrate on his use of the word, Apartheid, which , they say, verges on anti-Semitism and they forget the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate’s formula for Arab-Israel peace.

Apartheid is actually a weak term for the way in which over two million Palestinians in the West Bank are treated. Apartheid in South Africa was based on race. It was defeated by universal sanctions against the government. Apartheid in the West Bank are regulations, roads, walls, fences and checkpoints, which, under the guise of security, are designed to take over land for the expansion of Jewish settlements.

The critics of Jimmy Carter should read the 96-page brochure published last June by B’tselem, a Jewish organization in Jerusalem which monitors human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. The title is “UNDER THE GUISE OF SECURITY: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank.” It’s an easy read that tells a despicable story.

Download the B’tselem report here in PDF format.

Former NYT reporter Chris Hedges wrote in Get Carter in The Nation:

Carter’s book exposes little about Israel. The enforced segregation, abject humiliation and spiraling Israeli violence against Palestinians have been detailed in the Israeli and European press and, with remarkable consistency, by all the major human rights organizations. The assault against Carter, rather, says more about the failings of the American media–which have largely let Israel hawks heap calumny on Carter’s book. It exposes the indifference of the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership to the rule of law and basic human rights, the timidity of our intellectual class and the moral bankruptcy of institutions that claim to speak for American Jews and the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center was proudly sending out emails and press releases about their continuing war with Carter. For those of us who have directly encountered the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s magical ability to manufacture numerous “facts,” as I did a few years ago at the World Social Forum, it is no surprise that the Sunday school teaching president known for his calm demeanor finally fought back. (There is too much to say about Hier’s analysis here of the Wall)
carter letter swc

Finally, thanks to a careful reader who saw Roger Cohen’s excellent piece, Time for U.S. Boldness on Israel and Palestine in the International Herald Tribune. Cohen writes:

Israel was a supporter of the Iraq war because it believed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would remove an implacable enemy, an important financial backer of Palestinian terror, and an obstacle to transforming the Middle East in a favorable direction.

All that is understandable, but four years later it looks like time for the United States to call in the chips and say: If you’re serious about a different post-Saddam Middle East, show us that you’re also serious about resolving the nexus of the region’s problems, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Then he reminds us that the US plays a key role in a solution, but that talks

…will have a greater chance of leading somewhere if Rice recalls Israel’s backing of the Iraq war to Olmert in these terms: You wanted a more fluid Middle East, O.K., now let’s make something decent of it.

That means an end to uncritical American support of Israel, a real push to persuade Olmert to engage with Abbas, enough boldness to reach beyond the details to a vision of what is needed to bring a Palestinian state into being.

Not least, it requires the breaking of the post-9/11 American taboos that have lowered debate of Israel to the scurrilous (and paralyzing) if-you- back-Palestinians-you-back-terrorists level.

Just for good measure, he includes this pitch perfect example of self-censorship, thus bringing us back to the treatment of Jimmy Carter and the message it sends to everyone else.

Lazin, the Israeli professor of politics, recently attended a meeting of the American Jewish Committee in New York and said that if he wrote a favorable review of Jimmy Carter‘s recent book equating some Israeli policies with apartheid he’d be “blackballed as a speaker in many American Jewish venues.”

Is he wrong to think that?