Carter: Race relations in Palestine are worse than apartheid

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Ex-President Jimmy Carter has decried the current Palestinian situation in his recent book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (ISBN 0743285026). In this he compares the building of the barrier in the West Bank to the policy of apartheid (apartness) in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. There, the policy legalized the separation of races and ensured the domination of whites over all others.

Carter gave as examples of the ways in which the peoples of the territory are divided. He cited the concrete walls, fences and electronic devices erected by Israel to contain the Arab peoples and the roads that divided the occupied territories; roads that he said could not be used, sometimes not even crossed, by local Palestinians. But he referred to another barrier caused by the ignorance of the American populace and the absence of critical comment there about the behavior of those on both sides of the wall, the system of apartheid, the constant fear of terror and the failure to implement UN and US policy.

Carter, a Nobel Laureate, claims that by using such a loaded term as “apartheid” he intended to provoke debate and deeper understanding of the problems in Palestine. He complains about a tremendous fear, even “intimidation” of individuals and the media in the United States that stifles information and discussion of Israel’s conduct. There will be no peace until Israel abides by the UN resolutions, retires from Arab lands and ceases to oppress the Palestinians.

The book provoked a bitter response from an erstwhile colleague, Ken Stein, an Emory University professor, who said it was utterly biased and superficial, and contained unsupported allegations, “glaring omissions and simply invented segments”.

Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, disagreeing with Carter’s account, said that the Palestinians had no one to blame but themselves. Their leaders had no regard for the quality of life of their people and no ability to keep law and order. He said that the book was only one man’s view, it did not reflect the opinion of the Democratic party.

Defending his work, Carter claims that it had been reviewed by staff at the Carter Centre but at least one employee resigned in disgust upon the publication of the book. He had been a monitor at Palestinian elections in 2005 and 2006. Carter has made peace making in the Middle East his most important commitment. However, many have argued his efforts are one-sided and he has refused to publicly debate Alan Dershowitz over the views expressed in his work.

The UK's Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed his intention to address the peace process in the Middle East by visiting the region in the near future.