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Friday, January 12, 2007

Palestine Peace Not Apartheid

Jimmy Carter, de voormalige president van de VS, heeft het boek "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid" geschreven, om zijn visie op het Israëlisch - Arabische conflict nog eens toe te lichten. Volgens de onderstaande recensie herhaald hij daarbij uitspraken van Yasser Arafat en de Syrische president Assad, zonder kritisch weerwoord. Daardoor ontstaat een eenzijdig beeld.
Intussen hebben  al 14 medewerkers van het Carter Center ontslag genomen uit protest tegen het boek.


This is a strange little book about the Arab-Israeli conflict from a major public figure. It is premised on the notion that Americans too often get only one side of the story, one uncritically sympathetic to Israel, so someone with authority and knowledge needs to offer a fuller picture. Fine idea. The problem is that in this book Jimmy Carter does not do so. Instead, he simply offers a narrative that is largely unsympathetic to Israel. Israeli bad faith fills the pages. Hollow statements by Israel's enemies are presented without comment. Broader regional developments go largely unexamined. In other words, whether or not Carter is right that most Americans have a distorted view of the conflict, his contribution is to offer a distortion of his own.

Yasir Arafat is portrayed as someone who disavowed terrorism. Hafez al-Assad, who was president of Syria until 2000 when he died and his son took over, is quoted for an entire section, offering harsh impressions of Israel, including the opinion that it "initiated the 1967 war in order to take even more Arab land." Carter does not contradict him. The separation barrier that Israel is building along and inside parts of the West Bank is not to stop suicide bombers and other violent attacks. Its "driving purpose," Carter says, is "the acquisition of land." Such misrepresentations - and there are others - are a shame because most of what Carter focuses on is well worth reading about. The barrier (which he calls a "wall" even though a very small percentage is wall) does indeed take land from the Palestinians. His chapter on the endless humiliation of daily life for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation paints a devastating and largely accurate picture of confiscated farm produce, unfair competition from Israeli goods, withheld foreign donations, leveled houses and legal dead ends. Carter is right that insufficient attention is being paid, but perhaps that is because his picture feels like yesterday's story, especially since Israel's departures from southern Lebanon and Gaza have not stopped anti-Israel violence from those areas. This book has something of a Rip van Winkle feel to it, as if little had changed since Carter diagnosed the problem in the 1970s. All would be well today, he suggests, if his advice then had been followed. Forget Al Qaeda (the name does not appear in this book), the nuclear ambitions of Iran and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. If Israel had "refrained from colonizing the West Bank," he asserts, there would have been "a comprehensive and lasting peace." The debate about the Israeli occupation "will shape the future of Israel; it may also determine the prospects for peace in the Middle East - and perhaps the world."

This is an awfully narrow perspective. The Middle East could well be the source of the next major war and the chances of avoiding it would be increased if the Israeli question were settled. Moreover, if Israel had not built settlements throughout Gaza and the West Bank, solving its dispute with the Palestinians would probably have been - and would be - a lot easier. But there are other factors to consider, including that for the most radical leaders of the Muslim world - and their numbers are not dwindling - settling the Israel question does not mean an equitable division of land between Israel and Palestine. It means eliminating Israel.

To see the narrowness of Carter's perspective, it is worth returning to 1979, the year of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that resulted from Carter's Camp David mediation as president, a hugely significant accomplishment. Carter rightly accuses Menachem Begin, then Israel's prime minister, of deception regarding the expansion of West Bank settlements. Begin promised to freeze the settlements. Not only did he not do so; he had no intention of doing so. Carter lost re-election in 1980 to Ronald Reagan and suggests that Reagan's nod-and-wink tolerance of Israeli actions - its bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor, annexation of the Golan Heights, settlement building and 1982 invasion of Lebanon - were the beginning of the end of the process he had set in motion.

Yet the trouble that was brewing even before these events suggests they may not have been the central issue Carter sees them as. Egypt was instantly ostracized from the Arab world because of its agreement with Israel. Moreover, 1979 was the year of the Iranian revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's consolidation of power in Iraq. As much as Israeli policies fueled Arab rage - and they certainly did - these other forces contributed heavily to the state of affairs today. This does not mean that the problems on the ground have no impact. Israel's friends will increasingly tell you that the dispute is not about land or occupation at all but about the growing radicalism of the Muslim world and its refusal to countenance a Jewish state in its midst. The confiscation of land, the roadblocks and border closings, the preference given to Israeli products within the occupied areas over locally made ones do not amount to much, they say. And those who focus on them are engaging not only in anti-Israel propaganda but in a kind of anti-Semitism.

1 comment:

Ariël Bruéns said...

Misschien iets voor jou Keesje ?