by Joshua H. Liberatore
It may be that the most provocative feature of Jimmy Carter’s Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (2006) is the title, but if this aspect alone incites more Americans to read it with fresh enthusiasm for the issues it explores, the book loses no value. The obvious strengths of this latest effort are found in the former president’s sincere personal convictions about the necessity for a novel resolution, the depth of his direct involvement during and since his official tenure, and the bold realities he uses to illustrate the absurdity of the status quo, which leaves a good twenty percent of Israel’s citizens living a second- or third-class existence. His argument is simple and straightforward and flies in the face of the commonplace defeatism that leaves most casual observers either complacent or indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians: peace is possible. Not only is it possible, it is precedented. The original Camp David accords of September 1978, which Carter himself facilitated, demonstrate that Israel and at least one of its neighbors – at the time Egypt was enemy number one – can come to an agreement and forge a lasting peace. It may seem selfish or convenient for Carter to issue this reminder, but one can find no better and no more recent example of a lasting accord, so who can blame him for quoting his own resume?
At the very least, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid provides a readable and comprehensive review – for all those who have forgotten or choose to ignore – of the complexity of the problems in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the compelling morality of facing those problems. Carter also has the requisite courage and the hard-earned clout to call the current set up what it is in fact: apartheid. If drawing an implicit analogy between contemporary Israel and the egregious, corrupt South African regime that earned the rebuke of the world over sparks some ire, it should. Let us hope that readers of the New York Times and other corporate media outlets form their own opinion of Carter’s important book and do not brush it aside under the usual facile rubric that rates most critics of Israel. Apparently, in the bipolar world in which we are constantly encouraged to live, any sympathy shown for the plight of the Palestinians is viewed necessarily as both “anti-Semitic” and “cynical.” Is it always so simple? Carter’s book, and the long experience behind it, may argue otherwise.