Thursday, January 11, 2007


I could be wrong, but I believe this post was my only major contribution to the whole Carter apartheid book kerfluffle. It was a silly book, even my more leftist friends at Carleton pretty much were of the opinion that he was a hack, and--for all his talk about how true conversation about Israeli policies is impossible in America--he's demonstrated absolutely zero inclination to actually debate the points he's raised. So I felt no particular compunction to deal with the story.

But, via Eugene Volokh, I see that Emory Professor Melvin Konner has seized upon a sentence in Carter's book that probably deserves some explanation:
"It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel." (Pg. 213)

Konner had volunteered to advise Carter and Emory's Carter Center on the controversy over the book, but withdrew after further consideration. There were a variety of reasons for this, among them that
President Carter has proved capable of distorting the truth about such meetings and consultations in public remarks following them.... [and] in television interviews I have seen over the past week, President Carter has revealed himself to be so rigid and inflexible in his views that he seems to me no longer capable of dialogue.

However, this sentence was a major part of his withdrawal. As Konner and Volokh both note, there doesn't seem to be a way to read it that doesn't have it specifically approving of "suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism" until such time as Israel "accepts" (whatever that means) international laws and the Roadmap for Peace (presumably, as interpreted by Carter and said Palestinian groups, as I'd imagine Israel would claim it does this already).

Now, one can believe that Israel is in grave breach of international law. One can even say that they don't care about the peace process (though this strikes me as an empirically far less tenable position). However, my impression was that one of the horizons for respectable discourse on the Israeli/Palestinian issue was that terrorism must be rejected at all points in the process--it is not a bargaining issue, just something that has to happen. Under the most charitable reading of Carter's work, he's rejecting this position to instead say that Palestinian actors won't move against terrorism their demands are met (which, of course, would lead to an indefinite stalemate). Under a less charitable reading, this is not an observation but a threat--terrorism will continue to occur, with our blessing and approval, until Israel capitulates. But since he is not just making a prediction, but specifically asking Palestinian groups to set this as their policy, it's difficult for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Either way, this is not peace. These are not words of peace. These are the words of someone who has absolutely no qualms about violence against Israel, violence against the Jewish citizens of Israel, and is perfectly willing to have that continue for the indefinite future without a word of condemnation or concern.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think the most charitable reading of that single sentence in isolation -- and I have no idea what the surrounding context is -- is that Carter is saying that Arabs and Palestinians must make clear that they will end terrorism when Israel puts itself out there by making a commitment to peace. That is, the Israelis will not feel secure in a roadmap unless they can be sure that terrorism will end and that they're not just giving something up only to have the bombings continue -- and now in much closer proximity, and without any Israeli control over the territories where they originate.

The terrorism seems to be a simultaneous reason why Israel can't withdraw, and the bargaining chip to make the Israeli government go against the rightwing settler extremists. But a bargaining chip only works if it's sincere.