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Lelyveld, NY Review of Books, Carter/Apartheid (3/29/07)

*Jimmy Carter and Apartheid*


       By Joseph Lelyveld <http://www.nybooks.com/authors/7956>


         Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
         <http://service.bfast.com/bfast/click?bfmid=2181&sourceid=41397204&bfpid=0743285026>


         by Jimmy Carter

Simon and Schuster, 264 pp., $27.00


         Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide
         <http://service.bfast.com/bfast/click?bfmid=2181&sourceid=41397204&bfpid=0375412344>


         by Jeffrey Goldberg

Knopf, 316 pp., $25.00


     1.

Perhaps an intrepid researcher will one day go through the many Internet
pages that make assertions pro and con on the question of whether
Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories can properly be
assessed as "apartheid." Then we may be in a position to tell whether
the first polemicist to sling the term in the context of the West Bank
was a foreigner, a Palestinian, or, just possibly, an Israeli. Suffice
it to say, it wasn't Jimmy Carter, whose recent book, with its
unpunctuated title /Palestine Peace Not Apartheid/, has been high on the
best-seller lists for nearly three months despite—maybe, in part,
because of—the wrath his use of the term has provoked among Israel's
supporters. Not all of them have been as restrained as Abe Foxman, the
director of the Anti-Defamation League, who complains of Carter's "bias"
but avoids tossing the epithet "anti-Semite" at the president who,
nearly three decades ago, brokered the Camp David accord, which did more
to secure Israel's place and legitimacy in the region than all the
diplomacy that preceded or followed it.

The branding of Israel as an "apartheid state" was one of the themes of
resolutions presented at the World Conference Against Racism held in
Durban, South Africa, under United Nations auspices in 2001 (and one of
the reasons Secretary of State Colin Powell cited for calling the
American delegation home). Yet at about the same time, the term
"apartheid" began to surface in discussions in what might broadly be
called the Israeli peace camp as a plausible if somewhat contentious way
of characterizing the occupation of the territories or the prospects of
the Jewish settlements there; as a benchmark, a description of what the
occupation already was or might become. Five years ago, writing in
/Haaretz/, Israel's most respected newspaper, Michael Ben Yair used the
A-word in describing the occupation that he said began on "the seventh
day" of the Six-Day War. Ben Yair, the attorney general in the
governments of Yitzak Rabin and Shimon Peres in the 1990s, is no fringe
figure. "Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories," he wrote,

   we developed two judicial systems: one—progressive, liberal—in
   Israel; and the other—cruel, injurious—in the occupied territories.
   In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied
   territories immediately following their capture.

Two years later, the political commentator and former deputy mayor of
Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti used the word prospectively. Ariel Sharon's
plan to disengage from Gaza and build a security wall along—and
beyond—the eastern frontier of the West Bank was tantamount, he argued,
to making Israel "a binational state based on apartheid." It meant, he
said, "the imprisonment of some 3 million Palestinians in bantustans."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

In recent weeks, largely in response to the controversy in this country
over the Carter book, the word "apartheid" has popped up in Israel's
interminable security discussion more often there than it normally does
in print. Thus we find Uri Avnery, a veteran of the peace movement,
detecting "a strong odor of apartheid" in a military order (since
rescinded) forbidding Israeli drivers to give rides to Palestinians on
the West Bank; and Shulamit Aloni, the education minister in the last
Rabin cabinet, declaring on the Web site of the tabloid /Yediot Ahronot/
that Israel "practices its own, quite violent, form of apartheid with
the native Palestinian population."^ [1]
<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn1> Two clicks on the Web site
of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a small but vocal
peace group, brings you to a screen headed "Campaign Against Apartheid,"
proposing a "Civil Society Call to Action." Israelis using the term
"apartheid" in debates that go on mainly in Hebrew provoke a predictably
hostile reaction. But that reaction in Israel is ritualized by now, not
nearly as fresh in its outrage as the one the former president aroused
here by using "apartheid" as a verbal battering ram in order to reopen a
debate about the occupation of Palestinian lands—one that Democrats and
Republicans, unlike Israelis, outdo each other in shunning.

Two uses of "apartheid" are in play when attempts are made to attach the
word to Israel: the Durban usage, citing Israel as an "apartheid state";
and, more commonly, the application of the term to the occupation in the
territories, which has now gone on for all but nineteen of the nearly
fifty-nine years of Israel's existence, through different phases as
Jewish settlements took root and expanded on the West Bank along with
the heavy military presence that guards them, supplemented now by a
network of roads for the exclusive use of the settlers and the Israel
Defense Forces. The settlements, roads, barriers and military presence
have effectively divided the West Bank into security zones or enclaves,
severely limiting Palestinian passage from one zone to the next. The
crushing impact on Palestinian lives and families is clear enough. The
debate on whether it amounts to "apartheid" turns on whether it's to be
seen as a legitimate and reversible response to the threat of terrorism
across the border in Israel, or whether it's meant to be as permanent as
it looks.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Durban usage, labeling Israel an "apartheid state," is relatively
easy to dismiss as propaganda. Apartheid, as developed by Afrikaner
nationalists in South Africa, was both a doctrine and a huge legal
apparatus. It was based on a system of racial classification and
elaborated in scores of laws and hundreds of regulations that stripped
the black majority of virtually all rights, including the right to enter
and remain in "white areas," deemed to be most of the land. Nothing
remotely resembling the apartheid doctrine or apparatus can be found
within Israel itself. It's indisputable that Arab citizens face
discrimination of various sorts but on paper at least, they have the
same rights as Jewish citizens (except for what might be called an
existential fact, recently underscored by a group of Arab intellectuals
and activists, that the 1.3 million Arabs of Israel live in a state that
implicitly relegates them to second-class status by defining itself as
Jewish).^ [2] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn2>

Still, to equate Israel with white South Africa of the apartheid era
amounts to saying the Jewish state has no legitimacy at all, that the
1948 partition establishing it needs to be undone in order to
accommodate all Palestinians who might want to regain residence there.
In essence, it's to say what the absolutists in Hamas say in making
their all-or-nothing demands: that the only real Palestine is the
territory that existed before partition (just as the dwindling number of
Jewish absolutists argue that the only real Israel is Greater Israel).

------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's only when one speaks of the lesser "Palestine"—meaning, as Jimmy
Carter says he does, the territories that would participate in the
full-fledged two-state solution that's supposed to be the aim of Western
diplomacy—that "apartheid" begins to shape up as a charge more troubling
than an epithet, as a loose analogy that carries some weight. That's how
Carter defends his use of the term. He says his title—which can be read
either as an accusation or a plea—refers only to the occupied
territories, not democratic Israel. What's remarkable is how little he
has to say about the analogy he sees between the bygone white regime in
South Africa and the occupation of the West Bank as it still exists (and
as it existed in Gaza before the withdrawal of the settlements in 2005).
^[3] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn3> Despite the explosive
force of his use of the word in his title, Carter alludes to apartheid
only glancingly in his text, touching on the subject in just four
paragraphs in the entire book, adding up to barely a couple of pages.
The case is so self-evident, he seems to feel, that it needn't be made.
The one qualification he offers is itself off the mark. "The driving
purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in
South Africa —not racism," the former president writes, "but the
acquisition of land."

Obviously, apartheid had plenty to do with racism but land was also at
the heart of the South African struggle. This was the case even before
the word "apartheid" gained currency at the time of the victory of the
National Party in the 1948 elections, which ushered in an era of rule by
Afrikaner nationalists that was to last for nearly half a century. (A
coinage, "apartheid" meant more than separation; "separatehood," with
the same suffix as "brotherhood," would be a possible translation if
there were such a concept or word in English.) Apartheid rapidly evolved
from a slogan into an ideology, one that had more ambitious goals than
crude old-style segregation or supremacy. Basically it offered a promise
that white South Africa could endure as a sovereign political entity for
all time under Afrikaner leadership without sacrificing Christian
values. That opened the door to a slew of oppressive laws and
experiments in social engineering. Under the Group Areas Act, for
instance, more than two million blacks and other nonwhites were forcibly
moved from what were sometimes called "black spots" in areas designated
as "white" to remote settlements and tribal reserves that were rebranded
as "homelands." In the process, their lands and homes were confiscated.
Finally the denizens of the homelands were told they were citizens of
sovereign states, that they were no longer South Africans. ^[4]
<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn4> All this was in service of
apartheid's grand design.

With adjustments for the large differences in population size and land
mass, it might be argued that land confiscation on the West Bank
approaches the scale of these apartheid-era expropriations in South
Africa. Jimmy Carter is well aware of the pattern of land confiscation
there; he quotes Meron Benvenisti at length on the subject. But since he
thinks apartheid in South Africa was all about race and not about land,
he fails to see that it's precisely in their systematic and stealthy
grabbing of Arab land that the Israeli authorities and settlers most
closely emulate the South African /ancien régime/. What could have been
his most incisive argument in support of his provoking use of the A-word
turns up in the pages of his book as little more than an aside.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are other similarities of which Carter seems to be unaware. For
instance, one of the features of apartheid in its last years as constant
bureaucratic tinkering rendered the model steadily more complicated was
its tendency to spin off various levels of legal status for black South
Africans who were otherwise indistinguishable: some had permission
(falling short of an inalienable right) to live as well as work in urban
areas designated as "white"; others, called "commuters," could work in
these areas but not reside in them; still others could work and live
there in single-sex hostels but not bring their families; a large
residue had no permits to enter the so-called "white" areas (which were,
in fact, nearly always majority black).

On the West Bank, as the hilltop settlements expanded from encampments
around a few trailers into fortified suburban developments and the
security situation grew more dangerous pretty much as a direct result,
permits of various sorts, issued by the military authorities, have come
in broadly analogous ways to govern movement by Palestinians. The latest
set of permits are for some 40,000 Palestinians whose villages or fields
have been cut off by the so-called "separation wall," now about
two-thirds built, that has helped to reduce the infiltration of would-be
suicide bombers into Israel. (A self-proclaimed ban by Hamas on bombings
inside the 1967 borders may have helped as much or even more.)
Palestinians now stranded by the actual or projected wall in what are
designated as special military regions between it and Israel's de facto
border have an unwelcome status all their own: they have no right of
entry to Israel but need permits to visit the West Bank and permits to
return to their homes.

Sometimes the wall is derided by domestic and foreign critics as "the
apartheid wall," though no such barrier was ever erected in South
Africa. Similarly, there was never a South African parallel for the
highways built on the West Bank exclusively for Jewish settlers, from
which Palestinians have been barred, though these are sometimes also
described as an apartheid feature. Carter doesn't deal much with
specifics but perhaps it is to such features as the wall and segregated
highways that he's alluding when he asserts, as he has in articles and
interviews since publication of his book, that the situation on the West
Bank is in some ways "more oppressive" for Palestinians than apartheid
was for South Africa's blacks. ^[5]
<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn5>

Or he may be talking economics: Israel has proven that it's not at all
dependent on imported cheap labor from the territories, that it can get
along just fine with Thais, Filipinos, and Romanians. It has thus gone
beyond South Africa's apartheid theorists who dreamed of a day when they
could do without black labor but never got close; on the contrary, their
economy became steadily more dependent on black skilled workers who
ultimately couldn't be denied limited trade union and residence rights,
undermining the theoretical model of strict separation. Or, again,
Carter may be thinking about the security forces: there's a much bigger
and more obvious military presence in the occupied territories than
normally existed in the black townships and "homelands" of the apartheid
state; and, not just proportionally but in absolute numbers, Israel
holds many more supporters of Palestinian movements as prisoners than
South Africa ever detained in its continuing crackdown on mainly black
anti-apartheid movements. All of these are things Carter might have
meant, might have said, but he leaves it to readers to fill in the
blanks in his argument.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

What's reminiscent in Israel of apartheid in its later, most cynical and
fully developed phase is less the separation than the complexity—all the
arbitrary rule-making by a dominant authority intent on retaining its
dominance, an authority that's fundamentally and obdurately unresponsive
to the needs of most residents of the territories because it sees its
mission as safeguarding a minority it has subsidized and favored from
the start. In the case at hand, that of the West Bank, this means the
Jewish settlers whose numbers have steadily grown over the decades since
Jimmy Carter as governor of Georgia, on his first trip in 1973—to what's
for him, first and foremost, "the Holy Land"—immersed himself in the
Jordan River near the point where he calculated, on the basis of his own
reading of the Gospels, that Jesus Christ had been baptized.

Carter, seeming to view apartheid through a Dixie prism, defines it
essentially as segregation; "forced separation," he calls it, as if the
purpose of force is to pry apart people who might end up living
together. But on the West Bank separation is not the issue; few settlers
are disposed to live at close quarters with Arabs and few Palestinians
care to have the settlers in their midst. ^[6]
<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn6> The basic issue is one of
control, which was the point of the settlements in the first place, for
both the military strategists and the ideologues who backed the
movement. And now that they have spread out so widely across the West
Bank, the issue of control includes the question of whether a two-state
solution can still make room for a Palestinian state that will have any
sovereignty worthy of the name. The settlements have long since become
the "facts on the ground" they were always meant to be and, therefore,
the main obstacle to the "peace" Carter ardently hopes to see.

Those who have taken issue with his book generally skirt what he has had
to say about the settlements. But they represent the nub not only of his
argument but of the problem. Sensing a coldness toward Israel—or at
least its security establishment, struggling on a day-to-day basis to
prevent bombings —his critics catch him out on errors that might
otherwise have been overlooked and pose the question of why he can't be
as indignant about suicide bombers as he is about the occupation. The
complaint has more to do with matters of emphasis and tone than the
points he actually makes. Carter condemns the dispatching of suicide
bombers into crowds of Jewish civilians but does so coolly, tersely,
almost clinically, stressing that such attacks are counterproductive,
without conveying the kind of visceral horror that the phenomenon
arouses among Israel's supporters and many others as well.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

He's capable of such feelings when he turns to the settlements. Carter's
now standard response to his critics is to say that the "horrible
oppression" of Palestinians is really the root of the problem, that most
Americans and even many Israelis are ignorant of this because they
haven't seen what he has seen: the massive apartment complexes that have
been basically absorbed into Jerusalem on land that once was Arab; the
hilltop settlements beyond the capital with their California-style
condos, small shopping centers, and separate highways, strategically
perched above Palestinian towns and villages that are encircled and
frequently isolated from each other by military patrols and checkpoints.
^[7] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn7> He's only half right
when he suggests as he has in recent interviews that the American press
has consistently failed to portray this picture. (If it's too often
taken for granted now, that's because correspondents and editors have
come to consider it an old story, having handled it so many times in the
past; also because the proliferation of military checkpoints frequently
makes movement on West Bank roads almost as difficult for correspondents
as it is for Arab residents.)

But Carter is considerably more than half-right in arguing—and, yes,
even crying from the rooftops—that the status quo is unsustainable and
not amenable to a unilateral settlement imposed by Israel; right too
when he argues that our discussion of issues centering on a "peace
process" that is all process and no peace has become conspicuously
one-sided. Carter blames "a submissive White House and US Congress
during recent years" and "powerful political, economic, and religious
forces in the United States." He doesn't resort to the term "Jewish
lobby" and has recently made it clear —not in his book but in a "Letter
to Jewish Citizens of America" that he wrote in December in response to
the furor—that he intended to include conservative Christians in his
chiding. In his own words:

   The overwhelming bias for Israel comes from among Christians like me
   who have been taught to honor and protect God's chosen people from
   among whom came our own savior, Jesus Christ.

Whatever the cause of the one-sidedness he deplores, it's necessary only
to recall the resolutions both houses of Congress rushed to pass last
summer in support of Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hezbollah in
order to gauge whether he's making a reasonable point. The
offensive—which devastated Lebanon, killed hundreds of civilians, and
ultimately did more to undermine the new government of Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert than it did to weaken Hezbollah—won the backing of the House
of Representatives by a vote of 410–8. When Carter's book was about to
appear, Representative Nancy Pelosi, soon to become speaker, was quick
to say he didn't speak for Democrats on these matters; obviously, she
was right.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

So let's grant that Carter has now stimulated potentially useful debate
(more, surely, than the Iraq Study Group's call for a new effort on the
Israel– Palestinian impasse, which seemed to fade from public discussion
within a couple of news cycles after former Secretary of State James
Baker stressed its urgency the day the report came out). And let's grant
that the former president's peculiar combination of rectitude and
starchy pride can be a little irritating, as it was three decades ago
when he lectured us on energy independence and then blamed our "malaise"
for our failure to heed him. Questions can still be asked: Is
"apartheid," like "malaise," a word he could have done without? And,
with or without it, how much merit does his slender book have as a guide
to the conflict?

Carter defends the use of "apartheid" in his title like a politician
defending a particularly tough attack ad. He says he doesn't regret it,
that it was a deliberate provocation that has had its intended effect;
in other words, that it works as an attention grabber. In his hands,
it's basically a slogan, not reasoned argument, and the best that can be
said for it, as we've seen, is that significant similarities can be
found in the occupation of the territories. It's understandable if
Israelis who feel sickened by a sense that they're personally implicated
in the brutality of the occupation resort to the word in order to shame
their countrymen. Some outsiders might contemplate the phenomenon of
suicide bombing and ask how they would deal with the bombers before
resorting to the label "apartheid." Others might insist on their right
to be outraged about both the bombings and the oppressive measures
imposed in the name of counterterrorism.

Meron Benvenisti, who has been intrigued by the comparison to South
Africa over the years, now calls for a rhetorical cease-fire. The use of
the term "apartheid," he wrote back in 2005, has become in Israel a
"mark of leftist radicalism," while its denial stands as proof of
"Zionist patriotism." Objective comparison or discussion of the validity
of any comparison is "nearly impossible." Anyone who goes into the
question, Benvenisti wrote, "will be judged by his conclusions." The
choice, he said, is between being called an anti-Semite or a fascist.
The occupation should be seen in its own harsh light, he concluded,
rather than subjected to a comparison.

Maybe so. Still, there remains one hopeful thread that can be plucked
from the tangled web of meaning the word "apartheid" came to have in
South Africa: the design didn't work; the system finally ran its course
because its supporters in the Afrikaner establishment lost faith in
their ability to sustain it. Apartheid was then disowned by the party
that created it. Whatever the motives for Ariel Sharon's decision in
2005 to pull the settlements out of Gaza, it was interpreted by many as
a sign that a similar erosion of faith was already far advanced in
Israel. The dilemma now is not whether to trade land for peace but
whether that's now even possible.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Which brings us to the real point of Jimmy Carter's actual book, which
is more memoir than tract and more tract (as it's probably only fair to
expect of an eighty-two-year-old former head of state) than a serious
excursion into the conflict or a sympathetic consideration of the
passions that fuel it. Carter surely has a right to his pride; the Camp
David accord remains the biggest stride to acceptance in the region that
Israel has taken. And, no doubt, he is impressive for his commitment,
his eagerness to continue to travel the area even into his ninth decade,
a not-always-welcome but hard-to-resist global do-gooder.

Still, a loosely stitched narrative of his occasional meetings with
various presidents, prime ministers, and kings since leaving office and
of the elections he has monitored—interspersed with commentary on the
ways his successors tried to advance the cause of peace or, mostly,
failed to do so—makes for something less than a full-bodied account of
the conflict. Jimmy Carter puts himself front and center, using the
first-person pronoun, at the start of eight of his first fifteen
chapters; even more telling is the flash of anger he shows when he's
told by the White House of George W. Bush that it doesn't want him
dropping in on Syria's Bashar al-Assad. "I tried to explain," he huffs,
"that I had known Bashar since he was a university student and that I
would be glad to use my influence to resolve any outstanding problems,
as I had done with his father." But it's no go.

Carter is not eager to sit in judgment on any leader who receives him
cordially—Hafez al-Assad (father of Bashar), Arafat, and Sharon are all
treated evenhandedly, as fellow members of the fraternity of world
leaders. In part, that's because he usually has some point he wants to
make in the cause of peace as he construes it; it's also because the
man's ego is full of vigor.

So Carter's implicit answer to whether a land-for-peace deal is still
possible is that it would have happened already had his successors had
his kind of commitment and grasp of the essential problem. Stripped of
its self-referential passages, the real point of the book is that peace
doesn't have a chance without an active commitment by the United States
that includes a readiness to lean on Israel. He praises Bill Clinton for
his "strong and sustained efforts to find some reasonable
accommodation," then complains bitterly that in the Clinton years "there
was a 90 per cent growth in the number of settlers in the occupied
territories," most of whom would have remained on the West Bank under
the terms that Clinton blamed Arafat for rejecting at Camp David in the
summer of 2000. Carter is more inclined to lay the blame on Israel's
then prime minister, Ehud Barak, whose offer he characterizes as having
been less generous in reality than was said at the time. ^[8]
<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn8> "There was no possibility,"
he writes, "that any Palestinian leader could accept such terms and
survive." If political survival of the leader is the standard, he might
also have acknowledged that Barak—particularly in his acceptance of
Clinton's modified terms in December—probably went as far as any Israeli
leader who hoped to survive could have gone. (Having failed, he was then
exiled to the political wilderness by Israeli voters and members of his
own battered Labor Party.)

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The old peacemaker manages to forget that politics shaped diplomacy even
in the Carter years when a United Nations ambassador, Andrew Young,
could be fired for having unauthorized contacts with the Palestine
Liberation Organization. The Jewish settlements on the West Bank offend
him as an encroachment on Palestinian rights but also on a personal
basis, for he believes Menachem Begin made a verbal pledge to him to
freeze them, then reneged on it. That's now debatable, for as he
ruefully acknowledges, he failed to get it in writing. If Carter is
right, he doesn't go on to explain why he seemingly avoided a showdown
when he might have done something as president about Begin's stalling;
perhaps he was saving that confrontation for his second term.

Now justly outraged over "the almost unprecedented six-year absence of
any real effort" to bring about a negotiated settlement, in his final
pages he puts the onus for a solution wholly on Israel while
contemplating the blatant lack of balance in American policy. "The
bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East," he
writes, "only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with
international law." The solution he foresees mixes the call in
Resolution 242, now nearly four decades old, for an Israeli withdrawal
from the territories; the Arab League plan of 2002, offering Israel
normal relations and a "comprehensive peace" once a sovereign Palestine
with its capital in East Jerusalem has been created in the territories
and a "just solution" for the refugee problem has been achieved; and,
lastly, the Geneva Initiative of a year later, an unofficial exercise by
respected out-of-power Israelis and Palestinians seeking to define such
a peace (resulting in a plan that included specified land swaps to allow
the Jewish settlements closest to Jerusalem to be absorbed into Israel).

Officially, something very much like this is still the goal of American
policy; in practice, the present administration, embracing Israel as an
ally in its "Global War on Terror," has all but abandoned the role of
broker. It has never gone beyond lip service to the sort of sustained
diplomatic effort for which Carter calls (along with poor Tony Blair,
who tried and failed to claim it in exchange for his support for the
Iraq war, and the leaders of most other governments we're in the habit
of describing as allies).


     2.

Anyone needing a refresher course on how far from simple such a
resolution would be should take a long, close look at Jeffrey Goldberg's
conflicted, deeply sad account of his own pilgrim's progress: from
starry-eyed Zionist pioneer brought up in Malverne, Long Island,
determined "to live as a free Jew in the Promised Land," to
disillusioned military policeman, to open-hearted reporter learning to
see the struggle from more than one side while traveling with two
passports, one American and one Israeli.

Goldberg, now the Washington correspondent of /The New Yorker/, gets to
a level of experience that's invisible from the heights traveled by
statesmen who move about in entourages on well-prepared itineraries
designed to make any contact with reality a symbolic event. He has seen
Israeli soldiers brutally beat Palestinian prisoners; has witnessed the
shooting of a young rock thrower on the West Bank; has himself sprayed
tear gas at prisoners behind a barbed wire fence; has heard bereaved
Sephardic Jews scream "Death to Arabs!" at the scene of a suicide
bombing; has had a close call himself at a Hamas rally and been arrested
in Gaza, then witnessed a ceremony there for the induction of young
"human bombs"; has tried and failed to understand a well-educated
Palestinian mother who says she wants martyrdom for her son ("a sane
woman who saw her womb as a bomb factory)."

This is not a sentimental education. Yet Goldberg struggles with his
emotions at every turn, holding on to his love for Israel even as he
discovers that he can't transform himself into an Israeli. A tip-off
comes when an attempt is made to recruit him for the security service:
he's told it would never give its highest clearance to anyone born in
America. But that's not the essence of his problem. It's that the
example of strength and virility he thought Israel offered soft Diaspora
Jews like himself also yields "Jews devoid of pity."

His comrades in the Israeli army suspect him of being what they call a
/yafei nefesh/, "a beautiful soul," meaning a bleeding heart. "You can't
beat them enough," one says, by way of telling him he doesn't understand
the mentality of Arabs. "It's true, of course, that I didn't understand
the mentality of Arabs," he later reflects. "But the realization was
dawning on me that it was also the Israelis, the flesh of my flesh, that
I did not understand."

To find an anchor for his turbulent feelings and for his narrative as
well, Goldberg concentrates on his relationship with a single
Palestinian named Rafiq Hijazi whom he encounters under inauspicious
circumstances: Goldberg is a prison guard at Ketziot, Israel's biggest
prison camp, spread across a bleak landscape where the Negev and Sinai
deserts meet; Rafiq, a prisoner with loyalties to Fatah or Hamas. ^[9]
<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fn9> They chat through a fence
and the beautiful soul from Long Island, sensing that they're alike in
some ways, asks himself whether it's possible that they could be
friends, and if so, whether their friendship could prove in microcosm to
be a test case of the ability of Jews and Arabs to coexist in genuine
peace.

Their story is subject to mood swings, in prison and later, ups and
downs influenced on both sides by the course of the larger struggle.
There are interruptions and distractions; for eight years after Goldberg
leaves Ketziot they have no contact and then, once they're back in
touch, Goldberg flies off on reporting assignments that he now feels a
need to cram into his narrative because they're too good to leave out,
rather than because they advance the story he has set out to tell.
Still, as we encounter Rafiq and his extended family in Gaza,
Washington, D.C., and finally Abu Dhabi, his story comes through.

He was a Fatah member after all, a much more important operative within
the prison camp than the Israeli security service was ever able to
detect. In fact, as he later reveals, he was the keeper of "The
List"—that is, the list of Palestinian collaborators who have to be
interrogated mercilessly and eventually eliminated. Goldberg is stunned
but pursues the relationship, which he sometimes doesn't trust. In part,
it seems obvious, he does so because he sees the possibility of writing
about it; in part because it makes a real claim on his mind and heart.
Rafiq also turns out to be a professor of statistics and an orthodox
Muslim with a wife who stays covered. He believes in the literal truth
of the Koran, doubts there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem where
the al-Aqsa mosque now stands. Yet somehow this Jew and this Muslim end
up trusting each other, sharing the hope that their friendship can
endure, that it has meaning. "I don't want you to die. I want you to
live," the Fatah man tells his former guard.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of these two books, there's no question about which one is deeper,
truer. But it's only the thinner, weaker one, by the old political actor
taking one of his last bows, that presumes to answer the question of
what's to be done. Above all, it's a political statement, a political
act. In a tough review of Carter's book in /The Washington Post/,
Jeffrey Goldberg takes no real issue with the former president on the
central issue of the Jewish settlements. "Many Palestinians, and many
Israelis, have died on the altar of settlement," he writes. For him this
is "a tragedy, of course." If Carter in his use of "apartheid" is too
judgmental in the view of his critics, maybe "tragedy" is not judgmental
enough, seeming to suggest, as it does, that the settlements were not
the result of deliberate and stealthy planning but simply good
intentions gone wrong.

As a journalist, Goldberg doesn't take it on himself to answer Carter's
challenge. He seems inclined to think the answer has to come from the
Palestinians. Twice in his book he wonders aloud about why they haven't
faced the occupation with the Gandhian tactic of nonviolent resistance.
Gandhians have hardly been conspicuous in the Israeli leadership, but on
the level of tactics it's a good question; nonviolence could hardly have
accomplished less for the Palestinians than suicide bombing. It's also a
reminder of the downward spiral that sets in when two sides come to
recognize only the other's darkest impulses, each saying that the other
understands only one language, the language of violence. That's what
South Africans, black and white, used to say of each other; it's what
many Israelis and Palestinians have told themselves for years.

Jimmy Carter says the Americans have to intervene. Jeffrey Goldberg
wants the Palestinians to renounce violence. Maybe that means that if
anything positive is going to happen, it's up to the Israelis to make
the next move, if only to demonstrate that they're not permanently
trapped in their old security doctrines and failed dreams of dominance
(or those of a waning administration in Washington). Anwar Sadat and
Yitzak Rabin, each in his own time, showed that the situation can be
changed by an imaginative leap; each then paid with his life. Now each
side says there's no negotiating partner; and each side has proven to be
right, so far.


         Notes

^[1] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr1> Ms. Aloni's article
appeared in translation on Salon.com <http://salon.com/>.

^[2] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr2> For an effective
answer to the charge that Israel is an "apartheid state," see
"Apartheid? Israel Is a Democracy in Which Arabs Vote," an article by
Benjamin Pogrund, a crusading anti-apartheid journalist from South
Africa who now lives in Jerusalem, where he is involved in efforts aimed
at recon-ciliation between religious Jews and Muslims. The article first
appeared in /Focus/, a publication of the Helen Suzman Foundation in
Johannesburg and now available on the foundation's Web site. Pogrund
also decries the application of the term to the occupation on the West
Bank, calling it "a lazy label." See /The New York Times/, February 8,
2007, for a dispatch on "The Future Vision of Palestinian Arabs in
Israel," the statement by Arab intellectuals and activists.

^[3] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr3> Israel maintains that
its occupation of Gaza ended with its unilateral withdrawal of troops
and settlements, though it makes frequent military incursions in
response to rocket attacks from the territory. Human Rights Watch argues
that Israel "continues to have obligations as an occupying power in Gaza
because of its almost complete control over Gaza's borders, sea and air
space, tax revenue, utilities, and the internal economy of Gaza."

^[4] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr4> This aspect of what
was called "grand apartheid" is echoed in the plan of Avigdor Lieberman,
now a deputy prime minister, to forcibly "transfer" Arab citizens of
Israel to Palestinian jurisdiction unless they pass a loyalty test.

^[5] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr5> For example, see Jimmy
Carter, "Speaking Frankly about Israel and Palestine," /Los Angeles
Times/, December 8, 2006.

^[6] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr6> "The desire for
national self-definition and separation dominates the Israeli–
Palestinian conflict," Meron Benvenisti wrote in /Haaretz/, May 19, 2005.

^[7] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr7> Interview on National
Public Radio, January 25, 2007.

^[8] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr8> Carter is not the only
one to have reached this conclusion. See Hussein Agha and Robert Malley,
"Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors," /The New York Review/, August 9,
2001, and responses from critics, including Dennis Ross (September 20,
2001) and Ehud Barak (June 27, 2002).

^[9] <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19993#fnr9> The Ketziot prison was
shut down following the prisoner releases that accompanied the Oslo
agreement. It was reopened in 2002 as the second intifada raged.
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