Sunday, January 28, 2007

Read the book: think for yourself.

"Hello! Earth to Emory!"

President Jimmy Carter has been lambasted by some on the knee-jerk right and some knee-jerks on the left for his latest book. How dare he take a balanced approach to the Israeli/Palestinian issue! Jody Powell writes, in a letter to the editor in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to point out that Carter is definitely not unused to such vitriol: he's endured it since he first began trying to deal with reality in the Middle East as President in 1977:

Strident 'friends' of Israel
never give Carter a break

In her attack on Jimmy Carter's book, Emory Professor Deborah Lipstadt surmises that he is "unused to criticism."

Hello! Earth to Emory! In 1977, I watched with pride and trepidation as he told the American people the truth —- peace for Israel required a "homeland" for Palestinians. The response from self-styled "friends of Israel" was swift and brutal.

In subsequent years, the same chorus retaliated in similar terms when Carter said that multiplying Israeli settlements on Palestinian land was profoundly destructive to prospects for peace.

More recently, Israel and the chorus seem to have concluded that Palestinians do qualify for a homeland and that those settlements were a costly mistake. Apologies from the chorus were no doubt lost in the mail.

Now, Carter has tried to explain why Palestinians are so angry and what must be done to end the shedding of Palestinian, Israeli, and American blood in that holy, misery-stricken land. The professor responds with the same old epithets and innuendo from the same dog-eared script. She accuses him of "anti-Semitic stereotypes" and "traditional anti-Semitic canards," of providing "refuge for scoundrels," "trivializ[ing] the murder of Israelis," and "minimiz[ing] the Holocaust." She notes that a fellow chorus member describes the man who risked his presidency to bring peace between Israel and Egypt as "moronic." In a final bow to civil discourse, the distinguished professor charges Carter with "giving comfort" to Holocaust deniers.

After all that, Lipstadt can't fathom why one might conclude that criticism of Israeli policy will be met with vitriol and intimidation rather than reasoned debate. She also seems unable to comprehend the corrosive damage that such hateful outbursts do to the cause and the country to which she is so obviously devoted.

For those confused and distressed by all this, one small suggestion: Read the book ["Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"] and think for yourself.

Powell served as White House press secretary in the Carter administration.

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