FM: John Whitbeck
Former Congressman Paul Findley is currently recovering from broken
bones suffered in a fall. However, as the CHICAGO TRIBUNE op-ed
transmitted below makes clear, he has not lost his fighting spirit or
his passionate concern for justice and the best interests of his country.
Carter enters lions' den
Despite criticism, his book is work of a true patriot
By Paul Findley
February 7, 2007
At the age of 82, Jimmy Carter entered the lion's den. With the
publication of his latest book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," he did
what a patriot would do: rally Americans to vigorous debate of a
critical issue that affects our future. He deserves a hero's praise.
Instead, he has been attacked and defamed.
Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee throughout
the Carter administration. Carter frequently invited me to huddles in
the White House; discussions that would ultimately lead to a lasting
peace between Israel and Egypt. I know Carter well and consider him a
I also experienced firsthand what Carter now faces. Toward the end of my
22-year tenure in Congress, I spoke in favor of Palestinian rights and
was critical of Israeli policies of Palestinian land confiscation and
Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian lands. These actions were counter
to American policy and values. They dimmed chances for peace.
As a result of my evenhanded position, the pro-Israel lobby poured money
into my opponent's campaign. I overcame their challenge in 1980 but lost
in 1982 by a narrow margin. Still, the message was heard loudly on
Capitol Hill: Criticize Israel and pay with your congressional seat.
In my 1985 book, "They Dare to Speak Out," I detailed the tactics used
to silence criticism of Israeli policies. One of the groups employing
these tactics is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. On its
Web site, AIPAC calls itself "America's pro-Israel lobby" and boasts a
New York Times description of it as "the most important organization
affecting America's relationship with Israel."
All citizens have the right to band together and push for policies they
believe are right. But AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups do not
plead the case for Israel on the stage of public opinion. Instead, they
often resort to smear campaigns and intimidation to clear the floor so
that only their side is heard.
Carter has dared to call a spade a spade. South African leaders, like
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and UN Envoy John Dugard, compare Israeli
policies to apartheid. The Israeli press uses the term, as do Israeli
politicians. Former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni said in a recent
commentary, "Indeed apartheid does exist here." Pro-Israel lobby groups
have not debated the credence of these claims. Instead, they lob
accusations and insults, even insinuating that Carter is anti-Semitic.
They do not prove him wrong with facts. They seek to discredit him with
I do not believe these groups set out to discredit opponents and destroy
free speech. I believe they had the singular purpose of ensuring U.S.
government support for Israel. But after decades of Israeli actions
running counter to American policies and values, it becomes difficult to
do one without the other.
American policy has long held, for example, that Israeli settlements on
occupied Palestinian land are illegal. Yet Israel continues to build
them. American values demand that all people be treated equally, that
rights be doled out in equal measure regardless of one's race, religion
Yet, as Carter points out in his book, Israel endows Jewish settlers
living on Palestinian land with full rights, while denying those rights
to the Palestinians living on their own land.
If these issues were debated openly, U.S. policymakers would have to
hold Israel accountable and demand that our financial and diplomatic
support be contingent upon Israel upholding American values and policy
Yet there is silence. Critical discussion of Israeli policies is
non-existent in Congress. Rather than conducting vigorous committee
hearings, as happens with other issues, members of Congress compete to
outdo one another in statements of support for Israel. And American tax
dollars keep flowing uninterrupted to Israel.
Our unconditional support of Israel damages our credibility on the world
stage. It deprives us of potential allies in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
It allows Israel to remain intransigent and condemns Palestinian and
Israeli children to decades more of conflict.
Open discussion, where all perspectives are debated, leads to good
policy. Carter took a stand for what is right: for Americans, for
Palestinians and for Israelis. It is time for a sitting president and
members of Congress to do the same.
Paul Findley represented Illinois in the U.S. House for 22 years. He is
the author of numerous books, including "They Dare to Speak Out" and
"Silent No More."
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune <http://www.chicagotribune.com/>