Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not so much "unworthy to unlatch his sandal" as "unable to identify a sandal without instructions from the Israeli Foreign Ministry"

I recently read Jimmy Carter's excellent book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. I have to say it didn't tell me very much I didn't already know, apart from details of some of the peace negotiations. I was aware (is anyone still unaware?) that the 1967 Six-Day War was begun by Israel (who after all continually boast of having destroyed their opponents' air forces on the ground), after - one must add - provocation from Egypt that they could hardly have ignored. I'd forgotten (though it's easily checked) the fact that the 1973 Yom Kippur War was not an attack on Israel at all: Egypt and Syria were advancing into their own territory, illegally retained by Israel in violation of international law for six years. (Amazing though, how often these wars are spun into treacherous attacks on plucky little Israel.)

Anyway.... Carter's book has attracted a whole lot of ill-informed - no, dammit, uninformed, as most of the critics have clearly not bothered to read the book at all - criticism. If indeed one can dignify ignorant name-calling with such a description. Most of the critics, for example, appear to think that Carter is accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. If one actually reads the book (even the title would do) he is referring only to the Occupied Territories, which have never been (and one hopes never will be) part of Israel. Carter has also been accused of taking all the credit for the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt (for which Begin and Sadat received the Nobel Peace Prize). Not in his book, he doesn't. Mind you, the "critic" there is our old friend Benjamin "BCK" Kerstein, who is interested in nothing he didn't write himself, who believes that the ability to write ad hominem abuse in Hebrew qualifies him as an intellectual, and who fled the USA for Israel either to escape persecution or to find a university which would accept him despite that solitary talent (pick whichever story you find more credible).

In the post I cited, Norman Finkelstein mentions Kenneth Stein as one of Carter's loudest critics. Stein, according to wikipedia, is "William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies and Director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel of Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia", which calls to mind Andy Hamilton's description (on BBC Radio Four's News Quiz) of the academic who believed that teenagers didn't buy Beatles records in the 1960s as "Professor of Madeupology at the University of HisHouse". The impression is strengthened, not only by his ignorance of the basic facts of UN resolution 242 as pointed out by Finkelstein, but by his following up his attention-seeking resignation from the Carter Centre with signature of a petition. This petition, from the hugely credible and balanced Simon Wiesenthal Centre (/irony) states

"President Carter there is no Israeli Apartheid policy and you know it. I join with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in respectfully reminding you that the only reason there is no peace in the Holy Land is because of Palestinian terrorism and fanaticism."

For the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to have failed to notice the small matter of forty years of brutal and illegal military occupation is scarcely a surprise, as the SWC concerns itself wholly and exclusively with injustices visited on Jews by non-Jews. For a self-styled expert on the Middle East to share that blind spot beggars belief. About his resignation from the Carter Center, Stein said: "I had to make a clean break.... My professional reputation was being affected." What professional reputation? Indeed, what kind of "professional"? A professional Israeli lobbyist? A professional liar? No wonder Kerstein is such a fan: even he could probably be accepted as a student by such a powerhouse of thought. Someone who proudly adds his name to piece of drivel which isn't even decent English - can these charlatans not be bothered to make the effort even to lie convinclingly? - is hardly going to worry about Kerstein's thousand-word sentences conveying only that he failed high school physics. Truly, they deserve each other: a pair of dim bulbs desperately pretending that they have something to contribute to grown-up debates.

I recommend Carter's book, which is neither long nor (to a European) remotely controversial.

Of course, while Jimmy Carter doesn't accuse Israel of being an apartheid state, it is clear from stories such as this one (in the Jerusalem Post) that it is in danger of becoming exactly that.


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