Pro-Palestinian Groups Praise Jimmy Carter's Book
Posted: January 03, 2007
Many pro-Palestinian groups in North America have praised Jimmy Carter's book " Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" for using the term "apartheid" to describe Israel's policies. Several of these groups have been active in promoting a grassroots movement to boycott Israel based on the 1980s anti-apartheid campaign that targeted South Africa. These groups see the adoption of the term by a former president as an important development in America's Middle East policy.
Some of the groups are promoting the book by distributing or selling copies of it, initiating fundraising drives to get the book into public libraries, and sending it to representatives in Congress.
Some of the groups suggest, however, that Carter's criticism of Israel does not go far enough because he still accepts Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
The following are some examples of praise for Carter's book among pro-Palestinian groups:
- The American Arab anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) issued a press release, in which it said that the book was important because "many seek to foreclose the debate on the Middle East by promoting the idea that criticism of Israel's policies is indistinguishable from hatred of Jewish people and a person raising these issues is Anti-Semitic." Mary Rose Oakar, ADC president, added that "We hope this message of peace will reach the American public and US policymakers who have the power to put Israel and Palestine on the path to peace and away from apartheid."
- Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society (MAS) issued a statement recommending Carter's book. He mentioned a 2002 speech in which "I proclaimed that Israel was an apartheid state." He then lamented: "It is incredibly difficult in the U.S. to have real dialogue, debate, or criticism concerning the Israeli occupation of Palestine without being labeled an anti-Semite, disloyal, terrorist, or attacked ad hominem." Bray included Carter's opinion piece, "Israel, Palestine, Peace and Apartheid," which appeared in the Guardian (UK), in the statement.
- M. Kay Siblani, co-founder and executive editor of The Arab American News, a Michigan-based newspaper with a national distribution, opens by warning Arab American News readers: "Don't expect to find a detailed historical analysis of Zionism and why he supports it… Carter proceeds from the premise that Zionism is legitimate." He explains why it is nevertheless a positive development: "Carter's book is a first. First of its genre to be written by such a high level former official, first to unashamedly use the name Palestine, first by a mainstream author to call Israel's current control of Arab land and people by the name it deserves: apartheid."
- The U.S. Campaign to the End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of anti-Israel groups that promote divestment from Israeli companies and lobbies the U.S. Congress to end U.S. support for Israel, issued an action alert prior to the release of Carter's book. The alert says the fact that a former U.S. president "is using the term 'apartheid' to describe Israel's policies toward Palestinians represents a fundamental shift in the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the United States and has the potential to dramatically shift US policy for the better."
U.S. Campaign also urges its supporters and member organizations to ask local bookstores to stock Carter's book, call local talk radio programs and write a letter-to-the-editor "affirming that Israel's policies toward Palestinians are apartheid," and send messages to members of Congress and the Democratic Party "stating that you support President Carter's use of the term 'apartheid' to describe Israel's policies." The coalition is also making "experts" available to the media to discuss the "apartheid nature of Israeli policies toward Palestinians."
- Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Yale University associate professor and founder of the radical anti-Israel group Al-Awda, says "the vicious attacks on Jimmy Carter continue even though many of us consider his book far too leaning and accommodating to racist Zionism." In an Al-Awda holiday greetings, Qumsiyeh wrote: "Although Israel's actions are given diplomatic and financial cover by my adopted country of America, I feel hopeful. Jimmy Carter's new book 'Palestine: Peace not Apartheid' marks the first time a major US politician recognized publicly the reality of discrimination against the Christians and Muslims of Palestine."
- In her article, "Jimmy Carter and the 'A' Word," Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, co-founder of the Institute for Middle East Understanding, says Carter's book "eloquently describes the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it is here that Israel exhibits its strongest parallels to apartheid." The article has appeared on several Web sites, including Counterpunch, an anti-Zionist radical left newsletter. Tuffaha is also a member of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Seattle chapter.
- The American Educational Trust (AET), publisher of anti-Israel magazine the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, is offering Carter's new book together with a documentary, The Iron Wall by Mohammed Alatar, at a discounted price as an "exclusive gift package" for the holidays.
- Norman Finkelstein's article, "The Media Lynching of Jimmy Carter," appears on several Web sites, including Counterpunch, an anti-Zionist radical left newsletter. Finkelstein says, "Carter's analysis of the impasse in the "peace process" as well as his description of Israeli policy in the West Bank is accurate - and, frankly, that's all that matters."
- American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a non-profit Quaker organization, has asked its supporters to call their representatives to express support for Carter's book: "Tell Congress you stand with President Carter." AFSC's Adam Horowitz quoted Carter's criticism of U.S. support for Israel: "The United States is squandering international prestige and goodwill…by unofficially condoning and abetting the Israel confiscation and colonization of Palestinian territories."
- The Israel-Palestine Working Group of Progressive Democrats of America has initiated a petition in support of Carter's book. The petition declares: "Thank you for writing the courageous and inspiring Peace Not Apartheid. We hope that the publication of this book will help expand the debate over how US foreign policy can help bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians." The Working Group's board members includes anti-war activists Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin and several U.S. congress members including John Conyers. The petition has collected more than fifteen hundred signitures.
- The Arab American Institute (AAI) posted M. Kay Siblani's Arab American News article (see above) on the "Must Read News" section of its web site. AAI also had this comment regardin a Carter interview on CNN: "Watching former President Jimmy Carter discuss his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has been both a breath of fresh air and a jarring reminder of the inaccuracies that ordinarily permeate coverage of Palestine and Israel."
- The Council for the National Interest (CNI) quoted Carter's book in a paid ad that it published on Christmas Eve in the New York Times. In a solicitation letter to supporters the CNI wrote: "we hope that our ads play a part, along with the Walt/Mearsheimer paper, Jimmy Carter's book and the Iraq Study Group report, in pushing the debate beyond the advertising pages and into the rest of the paper. The Israel lobby insists on closing down debate or even discussion of U.S. Middle East policy by claiming that criticism of Israel is, by itself, anti-Semitic."
- Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada and popular Arab American activist, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, "A Palestinian view of Jimmy Carter's book" (December 26) in which he praised Carter for his bravery: "President Carter has done what few American politicians have dared to do: speak frankly about the Israel-Palestine conflict… [he] has braved a storm of criticism, including the insinuation from the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League that his arguments are anti-Semitic." Abunimah, however, criticized Carter for saying that his book's description of Israeli policies as discriminatory pertained to the West Bank.
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- The Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) criticized the media for treating Carter's book unfairly. In its statement, CIC said, "Canadian media bias toward former U.S. president Jimmy Carter's latest book, 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,' is unprofessional, unfair and lacks balance." CIC also announced that it "plans to give complimentary copies of [Carter's book] to all donors who contribute $100 or more," and that it will dedicate a Web page for Carter's book "for those who seeking truth about Israel-Palestine."