Jimmy Carter's "Apartheid" Charge is a Refrain of the Same Old Song
Former (thank G-d) President Jimmy Carter entitled his new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. In response to criticism from many quarters, by no means limited to Jews, on December 15, Carter posted a "Letter to Jewish Citizens of America" on the Carter Center website, which was also released by the Carter Center as a press release. Carter defends his accusation that Israeli policy toward Palestinians constitutes apartheid, including the following paragraph:
We [Carter in a meeting in Phoenix with local rabbis] discussed the word "apartheid," which I defined as the forced segregation of two peoples living in the same land, with one of them dominating and persecuting the other. I made clear in the book's text and in my response to the rabbis that the system of apartheid in Palestine is not based on racism but the desire of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land and the resulting suppression of protests that involve violence. Bishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and prominent Israelis, including former attorney general Ben Yair, who served under both Labor and Likud prime ministers, have used and explained the appellation in harsher terms than I, pointing out that this cruel oppression is contrary to the tenets of the Jewish faith and the basic principles of the nation of Israel.
Carter's defense was not convincing to Professor Melvin J. Konner (Ph.D, Harvard, 1973), Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology at Emory University, who on December 22 wrote an editorial published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, castigating Carter's book. In an interview published along side the editorial, Professor Konner explained, who had once described Jimmy Carter as "the greatest former President," now said, "I don't recognize Carter any more. . . . He has not just turned his back on the balance and fairness that all peacemaking depends on. He has become a spokesman for the enemies of my people. He has become an apologist for terrorists. . . ."
Subsequently, Carter and Konner have exchanged letters, as reported in full by Jewish Current Issues. Here is an excerpt from Konner's lengthy and detailed response to Carter, which focuses on Carter's defense in his letter to Konner of his use of the term "apartheid," a defense that Carter had phrased similarly to the above quote from the "Letter to Jewish Citizens of America":
First, with all due respect, your attempt to justify your use of the word “apartheid” is completely unconvincing. I have lived my life by words, and I know that words have connotations as well as denotations. Words have histories. Your use of this word to describe the wall erected by Israel to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks is inappropriate and inflammatory.
As much as one appreciates Professor Konner's spirited attack on Carter's disgraceful book (and I appreciate nearly any spirited verbal attack on Jimmy Carter), the fact is that Konner's previous admiration of Carter was sorely misplaced. As the October 3, 1979 Dry Bones cartoon points out, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid merely continues Carter's apologetics for terrorism.