*FM: John Whitbeck*
*Transmitted below is a reality-based assessment by Norman Finkelstein
of certain of the "new peaks of lunacy" scaled by critics of Jimmy Carter.*
*December 28, 2006*
*/Carter's Real Sin is Cutting to the Heart of the Problem/*
*The Ludicrous Attacks on Jimmy Carter's Book*
By NORMAN FINKELSTEIN
*A*s Jimmy Carter's new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
climbs the bestseller list, the reaction of Israel's apologists scales
new peaks of lunacy. I will examine a pair of typical examples and then
look at the latest weapon to silence Carter.
No aspect of Carter's book has evoked more outrage than its
identification of Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
with apartheid. Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post called it
"foolish and unfair," the Boston Globe editorialized that it was
"irresponsibly provocative," while the New York Times reported that
Jewish groups condemned it as "dangerous and anti-Semitic." (1)
In fact the comparison is a commonplace among informed commentators.
From its initial encounter with Palestine the Zionist movement
confronted a seemingly intractable dilemma: How to create a Jewish state
in a territory that was overwhelmingly non-Jewish? Israeli historian
Benny Morris observes that Zionists could choose from only two options:
"the way of South Africa"--i.e., "the establishment of an apartheid
state, with a settler minority lording it over a large, exploited native
majority"--or "the way of transfer"--i.e., "you could create a
homogeneous Jewish state or at least a state with an overwhelming Jewish
majority by moving or transferring all or most of the Arabs out." (2)
During the British Mandate period (1917-1947) Zionist settlers labored
on both fronts, laying the foundations of an apartheid-like regime in
Palestine while exploring the prospect of expelling the indigenous
population. Norman Bentwich, a Jewish officer in the Mandatory
government who later taught at the Hebrew University, recalled in his
memoir that, "One of the causes of resentment between Arabs and Jews was
the determined policy of the Jewish public bodies to employ only Jewish
workers. This policy of 'economic apartheid' was bound to strengthen the
resistance of Arabs to Jewish immigration." (3)
Ultimately, however, the Zionist movement resolved the dilemma in 1948
by way of transfer: under the cover of war with neighboring Arab states,
Zionist armies proceeded to "ethnically cleanse" (Morris) the bulk of
the indigenous population, creating a state that didn't need to rely on
anachronistic structures of Western supremacy. (4)
After Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the same
demographic dilemma resurfaced and alongside it the same pair of
options. Once again Zionists simultaneously laid the foundations for
apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territory while never quite
abandoning hope that an expulsion could be carried off in the event of
After four decades of Israeli occupation, the infrastructure and
superstructure of apartheid have been put in place. Outside the
never-never land of mainstream American Jewry and U.S. media this
reality is barely disputed. Indeed, already more than a decade ago,
while the world was celebrating the Oslo Accords, seasoned Israeli
analyst and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti observed,
"It goes without saying that 'cooperation' based on the current power
relationship is no more than permanent Israeli domination in disguise,
and that Palestinian self-rule is merely a euphemism for
If it's "foolish and unfair," "irresponsibly provocative" and "dangerous
and anti-Semitic" to make the apartheid comparison, then the roster of
commentators who have gone awry is rather puzzling. For example, a major
2002 study of Israeli settlement practices by the respected Israeli
human rights organization B'Tselem concluded: "Israel has created in the
Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination,
applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the
rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one
of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from
the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa." A more recent
B'Tselem publication on the road system Israel has established in the
West Bank again concluded that it "bears striking similarities to the
racist Apartheid regime," and even "entails a greater degree of
arbitrariness than was the case with the regime that existed in South
Those sharing Carter's iniquitous belief also include the editorial
board of Israel's leading newspaper Haaretz, which observed in September
2006 that "the apartheid regime in the territories remains intact;
millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement
or a livelihood, under the yoke of ongoing Israeli occupation," as well
as former Israeli Knesset member Shulamit Aloni, former Israeli
Ambassador to South Africa Alon Liel, South African Archbishop and Nobel
Laureate for Peace Desmond Tutu and "father" of human rights law in
South Africa John Dugard. (8)
Indeed, the list apparently also includes former Israeli prime minister
Ariel Sharon. Pointing to his "fixation with Bantustans," Israeli
researcher Gershom Gorenberg concluded that it is "no accident" that
Sharon's plan for the West Bank "bears a striking resemblance to the
'grand apartheid' promoted by the old South African regime." Sharon
himself reportedly stated that "the Bantustan model was the most
appropriate solution to the conflict." (9)
The denial of Carter's critics recalls the glory days of the Daily
Worker. Kinsley asserts that "no one has yet thought to accuse Israel of
creating a phony country in finally acquiescing to the creation of a
Palestinian state." In the real world what he claims "no one has yet
thought" couldn't be more commonplace. The Economist typically reports
that Palestinians have been asked to choose between "a Swiss-cheese
state, comprising most of the West Bank but riddled with settlements, in
which travel is severely hampered," and Israel "pulling out from up to
40 percent or 50 percent of the West Bank's territory unilaterally,
while keeping most of its settlements." (10)
The shrill reaction to Carter's mention of apartheid is probably due not
only to the term's emotive resonances but its legal-political
implications as well. According to Additional Protocol I to the 1949
Geneva Conventions as well as the Statute of the International Criminal
Court, "practices of apartheid" constitute war crimes. Small wonder,
then, that despite--or, rather, because of--its aptness, Carter is being
bullied into repudiating the term. (11)
*Partial or full withdrawal?*
In order to discredit Carter the media keep citing the inflammatory
rhetoric of his former collaborator at the Carter Center, Kenneth Stein.
On inspection, however, Stein's claims prove to be devoid of content.
Consider the main one of Carter's "egregious and inexcusable errors"
that Stein enumerates. (12)
According to Stein, Carter erroneously infers on the basis of U.N.
Resolution 242 that Israel "must" withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza.
It is true that whereas media pundits often allege that the extent of
Israel's withdrawal is subject to negotiations, Carter forthrightly
asserts that Israel's "borders must coincide with those prevailing from
1949 until 1967 (unless modified by mutually agreeable land swaps),
specified in the unanimously adopted U.N. Resolution 242, which mandates
Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories." (13)
In fact and to his credit Carter is right on the mark.
Shortly after the June 1967 war the U.N General Assembly met in
There was "near unanimity" on "the withdrawal of the armed forces from
the territory of neighboring Arab states," Secretary-General U Thant
subsequently observed, because "everyone agrees that there should be no
territorial gains by military conquest." (14)
When the General Assembly couldn't reach consensus on a comprehensive
resolution, deliberations moved to the Security Council. In November
1967 the Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 242, the
preambular paragraph of which emphasized "the inadmissibility of the
acquisition of territory by war." The main framer of 242, Lord Caradon
of the United Kingdom, later recalled that without this preambular
statement "there could have been no unanimous vote" in the Security
Council. (15) Fully 10 of the 15 Security Council members stressed in
their interventions the "inadmissibility" principle and Israel's
obligation to fully withdraw while none of the five other members
registered any disagreement. (16)
For its part the United States repeatedly made clear that it
contemplated at most minor and mutual border adjustments (hence Carter's
caveat of "mutually agreeable land swaps"). Jordanian leaders were told
in early November 1967 that "some territorial adjustment will be
required" on the West Bank but "there must be mutuality in adjustments"
and, on a second occasion, that the U.S. supported "minor border
rectifications" but Jordan would "obtain compensationfor any territory
it is required to give up." (17)
When Israel first proposed annexation of West Bank territory, the U.S.
vehemently replied that 242 "never meant that Israel could extend its
territory to [the] West Bank," and that "there will be no peace if
Israel tries to hold onto large chunks of territory." (18)
In private Israeli leaders themselves suffered no illusions on the
actual meaning of 242. During a closed session of the Labor Party in
1968 Moshe Dayan counseled against endorsing 242 because "it means
withdrawal to the 4 June  boundaries, and because we are in
conflict with the SC [Security Council] on that resolution." (19)
In its landmark 2004 advisory opinion, "Legal Consequences of the
Construction of a Wall In the Occupied Palestinian Territory," the
International Court of Justice repeatedly affirmed the preambular
paragraph of Resolution 242 emphasizing the inadmissibility of
territorial conquest as well as a 1970 General Assembly resolution
emphasizing that "No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat
or use of force shall be recognized as legal." The World Court denoted
this principle a "corollary" of the U.N. Charter and as such "customary
international law" and a "customary rule" binding on all member States
of the United Nations. It merits notice that on this crucial point none
of the Court's 15 justices registered any dissent. (20)
Carter's real sin is that he cut to the heart of the problem: "Peace
will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government
is willing to comply with international law."
*Norman Finkelstein's* most recent book is Beyond Chutzpah: On the
misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history
(University of California Press). His web site is
(1) Michael Kinsley, "It's Not Apartheid," Washington Post (12 December
2006); "Jimmy Carter vs. Jimmy Carter," editorial, Boston Globe (16
December 2006); Julie Bosman, "Carter Book Stirs Furor With Its View of
Israelis' 'Apartheid'," New York Times (14 December 2006).
(2) Benny Morris, "Revisiting the Palestinian exodus of 1948," in Eugene
L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim (eds), The War for Palestine (Cambridge: 2001),
(3) Norman and Helen Bentwich, Mandate Memories, 1918-1948 (New York:
1965), p. 53.
(4) Ari Shavit, "Survival of the Fittest," interview with Benny Morris,
(9 January 2004).
(5) Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine
Conflict, second edition (New York: 2003), pp. xxvii-xxxi.
(6) Meron Benvenisti, Intimate Enemies (New York: 1995), p. 232.
(7) B'Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the
Occupied Territories), Land Grab: Israel's settlement policy in the West
Bank (May 2002), p. 104. B'Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human
Rights in the Occupied Territories), Forbidden Roads: Israel's
discriminatory road regime in the West Bank (August 2004), p. 3.
(8) "The Problem That Disappeared," editorial, Haaretz (11 September
2006), Roee Nahmias, "'Israeli Terror is Worse,'" Yediot Ahronot (29
July 2005) (Aloni), Chris McGreal, "Worlds Apart: Israel, Palestine and
Apartheid" and "Brothers In Arms: Israel's secret pact with Pretoria,"
Guardian (6 February 2006, 7 February 2006) (Tutu, Liel), John Dugard,
"Apartheid: Israelis Adopt What South Africa Dropped," Atlanta Journal
-Constitution (29 November 2006).
(9) Gershom Gorenberg, "Road Map to Grand Apartheid? Ariel Sharon's
South African inspiration," American Prospect (3 July 2003). Akiva
Eldar, "Sharon's Bantustans Are Far from Copenhagen's Hope," Haaretz (13
(10) "Ever More Separate," Economist (20 October 2005).
(11) Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald-Beck, Customary
International Humanitarian Law, Vol. I: Rules (Cambridge: 2005), pp.
310-11, 586, 588-9. The quoted phrase comes from Additional Protocol I;
the wording in the ICC statute slightly differs.
(12) Rachel Zelkowitz, "Professor Describes Carter 'Inaccuracies'," The
Emory Wheel (12 December 2006).
(13) Carter, Palestine, p. 208.
(14) "Introduction to the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on the
Work of the Organization, 16 June 1966--15 June 1967," in General
Assembly, Official Records: Twenty-Second Session, Supplement No. 1A.
United Nations (15 September 1967), para. 47.
(15) Lord Caradon et al., U.N. Security Council Resolution 242: A Case
Study in Diplomatic Ambiguity (Washington, D.C.: 1981), p. 13.
(16) John McHugo, "Resolution 242: A Legal Reappraisal of the Right-Wing
Israeli Interpretation of the Withdrawal Phrase With Reference to the
Conflict Between Israel and the Palestinians," in International and
Comparative Law Quarterly (October 2002), pp. 866-872.
(17) Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of
anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005), p. 289.
(19)Daniel Dishon (ed.), Middle East Record, v. 4, 1968 (Jerusalem:
1973), p. 247.
(20) Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied
Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion (Int'l Ct. of Justice July 9,
2004), 43 IL M 1009 (2004), paras. 74, 87,117.