Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid...Jimmy
Carter In His Own Words
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is
accusing Israel of creating an apartheid system in the West Bank
and Gaza. The charge comes in his new book "Palestine: Peace
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been
deeply involved in Middle East policies for the past three decades.
As president he negotiated the Camp David Accords - which secured
a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt.
In his new book, Jimmy Carter writes,
"Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian
land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace
agreement in the Holy Land."
Carter criticizes Israel for building
what he describes as an imprisonment wall through the West Bank.
He accuses Israel of strangling the residents of Gaza where the
poverty rate has reached 70 percent and where the malnutrition
rate mirrors countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. And Carter is critical
of Washington's role. He writes, "The United States is squandering
international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American
terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation
and colonization of Palestinian territories."
Some of the most vocal critics of Carter's
book have been fellow Democrats. Incoming House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi said, "It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people
would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes
ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation
John Conyers, the incoming chair of the
House Judiciary Committee, urged Carter to change the title of
the book, which he described as "offensive and wrong."
Meanwhile, the nation's newspapers have
largely ignored Jimmy Carter's book since its publication two
weeks ago. The book hasn't even been mentioned in the news pages
of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA
Today, Boston Globe or Los Angeles Times.
Today on Democracy Now we are going to
hear Jimmy Carter in his own words. On Tuesday night he discussed
his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" at an event
AMY GOODMAN: Today on Democracy Now!,
we'll hear Jimmy Carter in his own words. On Tuesday night, he
discussed his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, at an event
Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President,
speaking November 28th, 2006 in Virginia
JIMMY CARTER: Some people have said the
title is provocative, and I accept that categorization, but I
don't consider the word "provocative" to be a negative
description, because it's designed to provoke discussion and analysis
and debate in a country where debate and discussion is almost
completely absent if it involves any criticism at all of the policies
of Israel. And I think the book is very balanced.
Secondly, the words "Palestine: Peace
Not Apartheid" were carefully chosen by me. First of all,
it's Palestine, the area of Palestinians. It doesn't refer to
Israel. I've never and would imply that Israel is guilty of any
form of apartheid in their own country, because Arabs who live
inside Israel have the same voting rights and the same citizenship
rights as do the Jews who live there.
And the next word is "peace."
And my hope is that the publication of this book will not only
precipitate debate, as I've already mentioned, but also will rejuvenate
an absolutely dormant or absent peace process. For the last six
years there's not been one single day of good faith negotiations
between Israelis and their neighbors, the Palestinians. And this
is absolutely a departure from what has happened under all previous
presidents since Israel became a nation. We've all negotiated
or attempted to negotiate peace agreements. That has been totally
absent now for six years. So "peace."
And then the last two words, "not
apartheid." The alternative to peace is apartheid, not inside
Israel, to repeat myself, but in the West Bank and Gaza and East
Jerusalem, the Palestinian territory. And there, apartheid exists
in its more despicable forms, that Palestinians are deprived of
basic human rights. Their land has been occupied and then confiscated
and then colonized by the Israeli settlers. And they have now
more than 205 settlements in the West Bank itself. And what has
happened is, over a period of years, the Israelis have connected
settlements with highways, and those highways make the West Bank
look like a honeycomb and maybe a spider web. You can envision
it. And in many cases, most cases, the Palestinians are prevented
from using the highways at all, and in many cases, even from crossing
I'd like to make one other point. When
Israel was founded back in 1948 by the United Nations, Israel
was allocated 56% of what we would call "the holy land"
between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. After the wars, when
the Arabs tried to destroy Israel, treaties were worked out, and
Israel wound up with 77% of the holy land. 22% was designated
as the West Bank, and 1% only, Gaza. So at the optimum case, as
recognized by all the United Nations resolutions, Israel would
wind up with 77% of the area, and the Palestinians only 23%, including
Gaza and the West Bank. And remember that Gaza is on the sea coast,
where the Philistines lived during the time of King David, and
it's separated by 40 kilometers, about 30 miles, from the rest
of Palestinian territory. So in order for a Palestinian to go
from Gaza to the West Bank, they have to go through 30 miles of
Israeli land, though that's just a geographical description.
This book is designed to restimulate the
prospect for peace. And I'm going to just read three options that
Israelis face. And I'd like to say at the beginning that none
of them are completely acceptable to all Israelis. But for the
last 40 years, a strong majority of Israelis have preferred to
relinquish Arab land in return for peace. And this sentiment prevailed
until the time when Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated by an
irate Israeli who didn't like what Rabin and Shimon Peres had
done at Oslo in negotiating a peace agreement for which they both
received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Although a clear majority of Israelis
are persistently willing to accept terms that are tolerable to
most of their Arab neighbors, it is clear that none of the options
is attractive for all of the Israelis. And these are the three
options. First one has been discussed quite extensively and most
persistently by the present prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert,
who presented this thesis quite early in his career as a young
member of the Israeli parliament -- he's now the prime minister
-- a forceful annexation of Palestine and its legal absorption
into Israel, which would give large numbers of non-Jewish citizens
the right to vote and live as equals under the law. So, a large
sectarian nation involving both Israelis and Palestinians is this
This would directly violate international
standards and the Camp David Accords, which are the basis for
peace with Egypt. At the same time, non-Jewish citizens would
immediately make up a powerful swing vote if other Israelis were
divided. In other words, if Israelis, who now have a majority,
were divided 60-40 or 50-50, as you could see, then if the Palestinians
voted as a bloc, they would prevail in establishing the basic
policies of Israel, if other Israelis were divided.
It would also maybe constitute an outright
majority in the new greater Israel. This is because of demographic
trends. The Palestinians have a much higher birthrate than do
the Israelis, the Israeli Jews. In fact, in Gaza, which I describe,
the Palestinian birthrate is 4.7% annually, which is the highest
in the world. And that means that in Gaza at this time, half their
citizens are 15 years old or less. Israel would be further isolated
and condemned by the international community. So I think within
20 years or less, in a combined Israel and Palestinian land, the
Arabs would actually have a majority, more than the Jews.
Second, a system of apartheid -- this
is, remember, in Palestine -- with two peoples occupying the same
land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally
dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of
their basic human rights. This is a policy now being followed,
although many citizens of Israel deride the racist connotation,
which I certainly don't imply, of prescribing permanent second-class
status for the Palestinians. As one prominent Israeli stated,
quote, "I am afraid that we are moving toward a government
like that of South Africa, with a dual society of Jewish rulers
and Arab subjects with few rights of citizenship. The West Bank,"
this Israel said, "is not worth it." And that's a majority
-- that's the opinion of a majority of Israelis.
An unacceptable modification of this choice
now being proposed is the taking of substantial portions of the
occupied territory with the remaining Palestinians completely
surrounded by walls, fences and Israeli checkpoints, living as
prisoners within the small portion of land left to them. I think
you can quickly see the unacceptability of both of those options.
There's only one option left, and that
is withdrawal to the 1967 border, as specified in UN Resolution
242 and as promised legally by the Israeli government in the Camp
David Accords and the Oslo Agreement and prescribed in the Road
Map of the International Quartet. You remember, the Quartet consists
of the United States and Russia and the United Nations and the
European Union. Those four comprise a Quartet. And they have devised
the latest proposal, known as the Road Map for Peace, which has
been enthusiastically endorsed by President Bush, as you know.
This is the most attractive option and the only one that can ultimately
be acceptable as a basis for peace. Good faith negotiations can
lead to mutually agreeable exchanges of land, perhaps permitting
a number of Israeli settlers to remain in their present homes
near Jerusalem inside Palestinian territory.
One version of this choice was spelled
out in the Geneva Initiative. The Geneva Initiative is described
in a separate chapter. I was involved, in some ways, in the preparation
of the Geneva Initiative, and I was there and made the keynote
speech in Geneva when this initiative was prescribed. But what
it does do is work out a compromise between the Palestinians and
the Israelis through which about half of the total Israelis who
live now in the West Bank could stay where they are, and the others
would withdraw, which would still leave the Palestinians with
a contiguous -- that is, a constant -- area of land over which
they could have a united government of Palestinians.
And also a part of that was a swap of
land. Whenever the Palestinians would give up part of their land,
where the large Jewish settlements are built, then the Israelis
would give up an equal amount of land that might lie just west
of Gaza or some parts -- relatively uninhabited parts -- of Israel.
So it was a swap of land for land.
The other step was the right of return.
This is a very important thing for Palestinians, none of whom
would give this up. It's guaranteed in United Nations Resolution
194. The right of Palestinians to return to their homeland, or
either to be compensated for their property if they can prove
that they actually have title to that property. And a compromise
worked out in the Geneva Initiative was, okay, the Palestinians
can return, but they can return only to Palestine. They cannot
return to Israel, the new nation of Israel, unless Israelis approve
each application for return. But they would still be -- have available
to them some kind of compensation.
And the third major issue -- I'm summarizing
very quickly -- is the settlement of the property, about who controls
or owns East Jerusalem. And this is covered quite extensively
throughout the book. But a very good compromise was reached, where
the holy places would be under the complete control of the Arabs,
on the one hand, and the Jews, on the other, including the Wailing
Wall and the adjacent land. And then the rest of East Jerusalem
would be administered by a joint commission that would take care
of housing and schools and garbage collection and water and electricity
and that sort of thing. So it was a very good compromise. In my
opinion, ultimately something very close to the Geneva Initiative
described in this book is the only avenue toward permanent peace
for Israel, with justice and peace for their Palestinian neighbors.
So the book is deliberately -- I wouldn't
say controversial, but it's deliberately designed to be provocative,
because, as I said earlier, in Israel and in Europe, these kind
of issues are debated every day, in a most vehement way, particularly
in Israel. Pros and cons, arguing back and forth, in the news
media, television, radio, the major newspapers. Never, in this
country, do you hear any of these issues proposed publicly by
an elected member of the House or the Senate or in the White House
or NBC or ABC or CBS, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times.
Never. And I think it's time for Americans to start looking at
the facts about the Mid-East situation. And only then, and based
on the knowledge of the facts, will we ever have a chance to move
forward and consummate a peace agreement that would give Israel
what they need and what they deserve -- permanent peace, recognized
by their neighbors and all Arab countries and the rest of the
world -- and the Palestinians to have their human rights, their
land and a chance to have their own state, side by side, living
in peace with their Israeli neighbors.
AMY GOODMAN: Afterward President Jimmy Carter spoke on Tuesday
about his book, Palestine: Apartheid Not Peace [sic], he took
questions from the audience. He was asked to outline what a balanced
US-Middle East policy would look like. Again, his book is called
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
JIMMY CARTER: Yeah, the word "balance"
is one that's almost unacceptable in our country. If you had a
candidate for Congress running either Democratic or Republican
and they announced to the general public, "I'm going to take
a balanced position between the Israelis and the Palestinians,"
they would never be elected. That's an impossibility in our country.
But that doesn't preclude an incumbent administration from demonstrating
with their own actions and words that they are concerned about
Israeli peace, they are also concerned about peace and justice
for the Palestinians. And that's what I did. It's what Richard
Nixon did. It's what Ronald Reagan did after I left office. It's
what George Bush, Sr. did. It's what Bill Clinton did. But it's
not being done now.
There is a general feeling throughout
the Arab world, throughout Europe, not even noticed in this country,
that our present administration has not given any consideration,
in my opinion, to the plight of the Palestinians. And you don't
have to be anti-Israel to protect the rights of the Palestinians
to have their own land and to live in peace and without being
subjugated by an occupying power.
So I think that that is a proper approach.
If it is impossible during the next two years of President Bush's
administration for him to take that, to use your word, "balanced"
approach, then as a fallback, it may be possible for the International
Quartet to take that role. And that would obviously be the United
States playing a major role, but not the only role, and for it
to involve the United Nations and Russia and the European Union.
And I think they could say, okay, let us orchestrate peace talks
based on United Nations resolutions, based on the Camp David Agreement
that I worked out, based on the Oslo Agreement, and based on the
will of a majority of Israeli citizens, and based on the Road
Map that we ourselves have prescribed.
By the way, every element of the Road
Map has been adopted enthusiastically by the Palestinian side.
None of the key elements in the Road Map have been adopted by
the Israeli side. They have rejected all of them. And I have the
actual action of the Israeli cabinet in the appendix to this book.
So, to summarize, the international group
of leaders, the Quartet, could take strong action to implement
the terms of the Road Map.
Thank you all very much, and I will sign
a few books.