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Jimmy Carter in Australia. « Previous | |Next »
January 28, 2007

Jimmy Carter, a former US president, was on ABC Radio National Breakfast programme last Thursday about talking the Israel/Palestine issue. He was interviewed by Paul Barry, whose persona is that of a tough interviewer.Yet Barry skirted most of the hot issues, in a most professional manner of course. (Listen here.)

gaza.jpg Reference was made by Barry to Carter's recent appearance at Brandeis University. What was not seriously explored was Carter's claim of the regime of apartheid imposed by Israel on Palestinians in the occupied territories. Was the title of former President Jimmy Carter's new book fully justified--"Palestine--Peace not Apartheid"? Was Israel practising apartheid in the Palestinan territories, as Carter claimed? Was that too hot to handle?
Did the ABC lacked the courage to tackle the key issue?

There are plenty of hot issues to explore: Carter’s suggestion that Israel has committed human rights abuses against Palestinians, that the American Press is extremely pro-Israel, and that Israel lobbyists stifle debate. Why not mention these things in relation to Australia?

Barry also missed the opportunity to explore the Israeli assumption that it would be enough to apply heavy economic pressure and arrest members of the Palestinian parliament and government ministers to overturn the election results in Palestine that bought Hamas to power. So it was an interview marked by what was not said about the core argument of the book: that Israeli policy toward the Palestinian population in the West Bank is akin to South African policy toward the non-White majority during the apartheid era.

The ultra-nationalism that animates so much of the Carter-bashing was given a free pass. We have a situation in Australia where support for the State of Israel operates to the point of denying that it can do wrong or be responsible for the displacement and oppression of the Palestinians. The hardline Israeli narrative in Australia holds that the Palestinians exist only in terms of being a threat to Israel. There is an inability to regard Palestinians as full human beings with equivalent human rights.

Carter challenges this Zionist discourse because of his commitment to human rights. The over the top responses to Carter indicate that Zionism cannot distinguish between authentic criticism of the concrete reality of Israel and an anti-Semitism that regards the Jew abstractly and in a demonic form. Zionism works by making instrumental use of anti-Semitism, as a rubbish bin into which all opposition to the practices of the Israeli Government can be quickly thrown. Zionism works on activating fearfulness around which to rally Jews.

The Carter controversy seems to be growing and becoming uglier. Consider this op-ed by Deborah Lipstadt in the Washington Post entitled Jimmy Carter's Jewish Problem. She says:

Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," while exceptionally sensitive to Palestinian suffering, ignores a legacy of mistreatment, expulsion and murder committed against Jews. It trivializes the murder of Israelis. Now, facing a storm of criticism, he has relied on anti-Semitic stereotypes in defense.One cannot ignore the Holocaust's impact on Jewish identity and the history of the Middle East conflict....by almost ignoring the Holocaust, Carter gives inadvertent comfort to those who deny its importance or even its historical reality, in part because it helps them deny Israel's right to exist. This from the president who signed the legislation creating the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Lipstadt concludes by saying that though Carter is a 'man who has done much good and who wants to bring peace has not only failed to move the process forward but has given refuge to scoundrels. '

Carter could have given the Jewish narrative more prominence, but it does appear as if the Holocaust is being used as a weapon against Carter. However, the Palestinians had no part in the crime against the Jews of Europe in the 20th century. Carter is arguing that no good reason justifying the current Palestinians suffering.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:41 PM |