[News] A Palestinian view of Jimmy Carter's book

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 26 13:30:35 EST 2006

A Palestinian view of Jimmy Carter's book
Ali Abunimah, The Wall Street Journal, 26 December 2006


President Carter has done what few American politicians have dared to 
do: speak frankly about the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has done 
this nation, and the cause of peace, an enormous service by focusing 
attention on what he calls "the abominable oppression and persecution 
in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of 
required passes and strict segregation between Palestine's citizens 
and Jewish settlers in the West Bank."

The 39th president of the United States, the most successful 
Arab-Israeli peace negotiator to date, has braved a storm of 
criticism, including the insinuation from the pro-Israel 
Anti-Defamation League that his arguments are anti-Semitic.

Mr. Carter has tried to mollify critics by suggesting that his is not 
a commentary on Israeli policy inside Israel's own borders, as 
compared with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem -- 
territories Israel occupied in 1967. He told NPR, "I know that Israel 
is a wonderful democracy with equal treatment of all citizens whether 
Arab or Jew. And so I very carefully avoided talking about anything 
inside Israel."

Given the pressure he has faced, it may be understandable that Mr. 
Carter says this, but he is wrong. In addition to nearly four million 
Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the occupied territories, 
another one million live inside Israel's pre-1967 borders. These 
Palestinians are descendants of those who were not forced out or did 
not flee when Israel was created in 1948.

They have nominal Israeli citizenship, and unlike blacks in apartheid 
South Africa, they do vote for the country's parliament. Yet this is 
where any sense of equality ends. In Israel's history, no Arab-led 
party has ever been asked to join a coalition government. And, among 
scores of Jewish ministers, there has only ever been one Arab 
minister, of junior rank.

Discrimination against non-Jewish citizens both informal and 
legalized is systematic. Non-Jewish children attend separate schools 
and live in areas that receive a fraction of the funding of their 
Jewish counterparts. The results can be seen in the much poorer 
educational attainment, economic, health and life outcomes of 
Palestinian citizens of Israel. Much of the land of the country, 
controlled by the quasi-governmental Jewish National Fund, cannot be 
leased or sold to non-Jews. This is similar in effect to the 
restrictive covenants that in many U.S. cities once kept nonwhites 
out of certain neighborhoods.

A 2003 law stipulates that an Israeli citizen may bring a non-citizen 
spouse to live in Israel from anywhere in the world, excluding a 
Palestinian from the occupied territories. A civil rights leader in 
Israel likened it to the American anti-miscegenation measures from 
the 1950s, when mixed race couples had to leave the state of Virginia 
to marry legally.

For Palestinians, the most blatant form of discrimination is Israel's 
"Law of Return," that allows a Jewish person from any country to 
settle in Israel. Meanwhile, family members of Palestinian citizens 
of Israel, living in exile, sometimes in refugee camps just a few 
miles outside Israel's borders, are not permitted to set foot in the country.

The rise of Avigdor Lieberman, the new deputy prime minister, who 
openly advocates stripping Palestinians in Israel of citizenship and 
transferring them outside the state, reflects increasingly extremist 
politics. In response to growing discrimination, leaders of 
Palestinians inside Israel recently issued a report, "The Future 
Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel." It calls for Israel to 
become a state where all citizens and communities have equal rights, 
regardless of religion. Many Israeli commentators reacted angrily, 
calling the initiative an attempt to dismantle Israel as a "Jewish 
state." However, even if Mr. Carter's recommendations are 
implemented, and Israel withdraws from the territories occupied in 
1967, the struggle over the legitimacy of a state that privileges one 
ethno- religious group at the expense of another will not disappear.

As other divided societies, like South Africa, Northern Ireland and 
indeed our own are painfully learning, only equal rights and esteem 
for all the people, in the diversity of their identities, can bring 
lasting peace. This is an even harder discussion than the one 
President Carter has courageously launched, but ultimately it is one 
we must confront if peace is to come to Israel-Palestine.

Ali Abunimah is the author of 
"<http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/store/548.shtml>One Country: 
A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse" (Metropolitan 
Books, 2006).

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