Note: The Books section is currently in partial disarray as I’m in the middle of breaking up the hardwired index page and replacing it with a bunch of subject headings driven off a rather hacked approximation of a database. But I’ve rushed ahead to update the website because the Carter book page also collects a couple of earlier posts relating to the book. The following post is just the new section. Another option would be to just post a link here. I don’t have a compelling reason one way or another, but I’m inclined to keep dumping my book reports out initially in the blog, even when they are backed up elsewhere. I expect that there will be quite a few of these in the following weeks as I try to file big piles of recently read books.
I doubt that there is anything more terrifying about the power of the right-wing media in America than the extent to which Jimmy Carter has been and continues to be villified in public. one obvious, even if petty, example is Bernard Goldberg’s ranking Carter high on his list of “101 People Who Are Screwing Up America.” It’s easy enough to see why Carter was voted out of office in 1980, although even there a sober assessment of history shows that he made some hard, unpopular calls that have largely been vindicated. He managed to break the spiral of inflation even though the short term economic cost was extreme. He recognized the long-term threat of rising oil costs even though he was unable to do much about it. and he made virtually the only significant contribution to peace in the Middle East by any American in the last fifty years. He staked a strong claim to always telling the truth, in contrast to his predecessor Nixon and, for that matter, every President who followed him.
But even if it is debatable how good, or great, a President he was, his service as an ex-President is impossible to fault, unless you have a particularly bloody political axe to grind. yet this short, simple, logical, humane solution to a grave problem that has been rendered intractable by sheer demagoguery has elicited an almost unprecedented torrent of character assassination from Israel’s apologists and propagandists. Brings to mind the saying, methinks they doth protest too much. After all, there is no sound basis for arguing with the solution: it’s been laid out again and again, in the series of UN resolutions, in the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel which Carter himself negotiated, and in many other forms. What’s strange is the contortions so many go through to deny the obvious. What’s bizarre is that there’s been no solution. Carter’s too kind to explain why that is; he simply wants to put us back on the right path. it is in fact the path he’s always been on — a point he makes by sketching out his own personal experience with Israel.
Carter talking about his first visit to Israel in 1973, when he was governor of Georgia, contemplating his run for president (p. 30):
At that time, Foreign Minister Abba Eban was the best-known Israeli, famous for the eloquence of his speeches in the United Nations, and I was excited when he invited us to meet with him. not surprisingly, he was full of ideas about Israel’s future, some of which proved to be remarkably prescient. He said that the occupied territories were a burden and not an asset. Arabs and Jews were inherently incompatible and would ultimately have to be separated. The detention centers and associated punitive and repressive procedures necessary to govern hundreds of thousands of Arabs against their will would torment Israel with a kind of quasi-colonial situation that was being abolished throughout the rest of the world. when questioned, he replied without explanation that the solution to this problem was being evolved. (I knew that some Isaeli leaders were contemplating massive immigration from both Russia and the United States plus encouraging Arabs to emigrate to other nations.) Eban explained his extraordinary role in the United Nations by saying, “If I were foreign minister of the only Arab nation surrounded by thirty-nine hostile Jewish ones, I would turn to the U.N. for support.”
Eban’s great skill was his ability to play to the prejudices of West: the patronizing colonialism that once honored itself as the “white man’s burden” and now establishes common ground between Israel and the West; the matter-of-fact racism of the “incompatibility” of colonizers and natives; the “repressive procedures” that necessarily follow. What the quote shows is that Israelis in high positions knew what they were getting into, even if they underestimated how many Jewish immigr