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February 04, 2009

Some Questions for Former President Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter has enjoyed pretty sympathetic (bordering on fawning) coverage during his book tour in support of We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Would Work (Simon and Schuster, 2009). Journalists who interview Carter allow his factual errors go unchallenged and steer clear of the controversy surrounding his error-laden and factually-challenged text Palestine Peace Not Apartheid published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.

They also sit idly by as the former President, a well-known "human rights advocate," affirms the legitimacy of Hamas – a group that has uses human shields, murders its political opponents and has stolen humanitarian supplies shipped into Gaza. Most people would see a contradiction here, but the journalists who interview him fail to raise this and other issues.

Here are a few questions that journalists interested in fulfilling their role as promoting public discourse in the United States (remember that?) can ask the former President.

Question One: What about the tunnel that Hamas was digging in the Gaza Strip (which was destroyed by Israel on Nov. 4, 2009) makes it a “defensive” tunnel?

Background: In a Jan. 8, 2009 op-ed in The Washington Post, Carter wrote that a “fragile truce” between Israel and Hamas “was partially broken on Nov. 4, when Israel launched an attack in Gaza to destroy a defensive tunnel being dug by Hamas inside the wall that encloses Gaza.” (Emphasis added.)

In his assessment, Carter seems to disagree with Israelis who believed the tunnel was being dug to infiltrate Israel and abduct an Israeli soldier, as it had in June of 2006, when Hamas took Cpl. Gilad Shalit hostage. Does the former President know something the Israelis do not?

Question Two: Why is it that you seem to have such a difficult time getting an accurate number of Israelis killed in the 12 months before the “lull” between Hamas and Israel that began on June 19, 2008?

Background: In his interviews promoting We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, he states that “only one” Israeli was killed by rocket attacks, or that only one Israeli was killed at all during the 12 months prior to the “lull” in fighting that took place. He has also downplays the number of rockets and mortars launched into Israel during the six-month lull.

In fact 10 civilians (nine Israelis and a visitor from Ecuador) were killed by Hamas during the 12 months prior to the "lull" that began on June 19, 2008. Four were killed by rockets, the rest by gunfire and a suicide bomber.

Yet Carter keeps repeating his assertion that only one Israeli was killed. This sounds like a talking point the former President got from meeting with Hamas leaders. Is it?

Question Three: If Hamas threw the wrench into the 2006 Palestinian elections, how can we be sure that it will not throw the wrench in a peace settlement in 2009?

Background: In his recent book, Carter obliquely chides former President George Bush for insisting on Palestinian elections in 2006 despite the possibility of a Hamas victory. These elections, did in fact, result in Hamas gaining control of the Palestinian National Council.

On pages 83-84 of his most recent book the former president writes that Washington “prevailed in demanding that the election be held” and that this decision was the consequence of then President George Bush’s misinterpretation of Natan Sharansky's book, The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (Public Affairs, 2004). He writes: “Although Sharansky had called for a Palestinian society that would be free and without fear, it is unlikely that he was contemplating a free election with unlimited participation by Hamas candidates.”

Here, Carter invokes Sharansky’s book to suggest that Hamas should not have been allowed to participate in the 2006 elections or that the elections should not have taken place given the threat the organization posed to Palestinian society.

If President Bush got it wrong about Hamas and the elections in 2006, then how can we be sure Carter has not gotten it wrong with Hamas and negotiations in 2009? What about Hamas’ ideology and worldview has changed in the past three years?

Question Four: Does insisting that the West and Israel must negotiate with Hamas in a peace process help legitimize a regime that terrorizes the people it rules with violence?

Background: Hamas’ behavior since the 2006 election has contradicted one of the goals of the Carter Center – advancing human rights. In particular, Hamas has violated the right of dissent in the Gaza Strip by intimidating its opposition (Fatah) through murder and leg-breaking. It has also recruited (or forced) civilians in Gaza to serve as human shields, and has stolen humanitarian aid sent by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) into the territory.

All of these are serious violations of human rights and international law. Nevertheless, former President Carter insists that peace can only come through the negotiations with Hamas and has offered little, if any, criticism of the regime's behavior toward the people it rules. Instead of acknowledging Hamas' human rights abuses, Carter's book portrays the organization as enjoying popular support amongst the Palestinians and emphasizes the social servies it provides to Gazans. Events of the past few weeks demonstrate that there is more to Hamas than what the former president discloses in his most recent book and during his media appearences.

Question Five: Just how serious were you when you said you wrote Palestine Peace Not Apartheid to spark debate?

Background: Former President Carter has stated that he wrote Palestine Peace Not Apartheid in an effort to spark debate about American policy in the Middle East. He made this point in his We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, writing that there was “no discussion in our country of issues involved, and little interest in the subject” and that one of the underlying purposes of his book was to “stimulate debate.”

Nevertheless, he refused to debate Alan Dershowiz and while appearing on Larry King Live after the publication of Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Carter even refused to answer questions raised by Dershowitz, stating, “it’s not worth my time to waste commenting on him.”

Ironically, in his most recent book, Carter writes that he “underestimated the debating skills of those with whom I was no engaged …”

Carter, a former U.S. President, was the one who wanted the debate and now he complains about the debating skills of his opponents!


Posted by dvz at February 4, 2009 09:24 AM

Comments

Former Pres. Carter needs prayer, and maybe a lot of it. Only God in Jesus Christ can turn his heart to the truth, which will happen eventually.

Posted by: God's Servant at February 4, 2009 01:07 PM

A reporter for the Houston Chronicle who interviewed Carter recently let this one go by: "You have to remember that the major Israeli lobbies, they’re not in favor of peace. They never have professed to be. What they are in favor of is protecting the policies of whatever government is in charge in Israel. If you look at their Web sites, they make that quite clear. So they’re for Israel, they’re not for peace between Israel and its neighbors."

It's true that "Making peace" may not be the specific mission of organizations like AIPAC. They're working to strengthen Israel. But Carter's clear implication is: That evil Israel lobby in the U.S. doesn't want peace. Carter, I'm sure, knows what he's doing, but the reporter clearly doesn't, or doesn't care. He moves on to the next question.

Posted by: DK at February 11, 2009 10:05 AM

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