[News] A Palestinian view of Jimmy Carter's book
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
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
A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse" (Metropolitan
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