Carter, not unlike God, has long been disproportionately interested in the sins of the Chosen People. He is famously a partisan of the Palestinians, and in recent months he has offered a notably benign view of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that took power in the Palestinian territories after winning a January round of parliamentary elections.
There are differences, however, between Carter's understanding of Jewish sin and God's. God, according to the Jewish Bible, tends to forgive the Jews their sins. And God, unlike Carter, does not manufacture sins to hang around the necks of Jews when no sins have actually been committed.
But the more interesting part of the review was about the interplay between the book and evangelical support for Israel. Conservatives have tried to tag Carter's book as a sign that Democrats no long support the Jewish State. The problem is that there is no evidence that Democrats care a whit what Carter has to say on the subject. When questioned on the issue, Nancy Pelosi remarked:
With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel. Democrats have been steadfast in their support of Israel from its birth, in part because we recognize that to do so is in the national security interests of the United States. We stand with Israel now and we stand with Israel forever. The Jewish people know what it means to be oppressed, discriminated against, and even condemned to death because of their religion. They have been leaders in the fight for human rights in the United States and throughout the world. It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously.
That's a pretty strong repudiation.
But Goldberg claims that the primary targets of Carter's book (in terms of who he's trying to persuade) are not liberals but fellow evangelicals, whom he wants to pull away from pro-Israel politics. The right-wing love for Israel always struck me as a rather odd position--it's not like there is a long history of Christian love for Jews, and Jews have steadfastly refused to ally with the evangelical right on pretty much any substantive issue they care about. Carter may think that they might be crackable:
Why is Carter so hard on Israeli settlements and so easy on Arab aggression and Palestinian terror? Because a specific agenda appears to be at work here. Carter seems to mean for this book to convince American evangelicals to reconsider their support for Israel. Evangelical Christians have become bedrock supporters of Israel lately, and Carter marshals many arguments, most of them specious, to scare them out of their position. Hence the Golda Meir story, seemingly meant to show that Israel is not the God-fearing nation that religious Christians believe it to be. And then there are the accusations, unsupported by actual evidence, that Israel persecutes its Christian citizens. On his fateful first visit to Israel, Carter takes a tour of the Galilee and writes, "It was especially interesting to visit with some of the few surviving Samaritans, who complained to us that their holy sites and culture were not being respected by Israeli authorities -- the same complaint heard by Jesus and his disciples almost two thousand years earlier."
There are, of course, no references to "Israeli authorities" in the Christian Bible. Only a man who sees Israel as a lineal descendant of the Pharisees could write such a sentence. But then again, the security fence itself is a crime against Christianity, according to Carter; it "ravages many places along its devious route that are important to Christians." He goes on, "In addition to enclosing Bethlehem in one of its most notable intrusions, an especially heartbreaking division is on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples." One gets the impression that Carter believes that Israelis -- in their deviousness -- somehow mean to keep Jesus from fulfilling the demands of His ministry.
I'm not sure how much credibiliy Carter has in the evangelical community these days, so I'm not sure how effective his plea will be. Nevertheless, it does perhaps foreshadow a worrisome trend.
At the end of the day, Leon Hadar remarks:
I'm not sure whether Carter doesn't like Israelis or hates Jews but from my perspective, he would go down in history as someone who made a huge contribution to Israel's security through his successful mediation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
That should be true. Obviously, Carter did Israel a great service in brokering the peace treaty with Egypt. I am perfectly content to remember him for that, and proceed to forget every thing else he does in the region for the remainder of his life.
Jefferson Morley has a round-up of folks talking.
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