Palestine long has been a complex and poorly understood land and problem for most Americans. For practicing Christians it is perhaps hopelessly entangled in the Biblical character and sanctity of the Holy Land. For Americans in general the often concocted victimization of the Israeli people is common media fare. But the truly dire circumstances of the 4 plus million Palestinians, herded like cattle by the Israelis into open prisons in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank region of the Jordan River, are rarely explained to Americans. Thus, in the United States it has been easy for media to portray all Palestinians as terrorists and all Israelis as innocent victims of terrorism. The United States is most often purveyed in this context as an honest broker whose actions are essential to bringing the parties to successful peace negotiations, but the truth, when faced, casts America in a less helpful and even sinister light. Few Americans have been prepared to talk or write truthfully about this situation, and Zionists as well as supporters of Israel have castigated any who dare to tell it like it is.
Former President Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine - Peace not Apartheid, was put to the largely uninformed American public late last year, and it had immediate impact. The book rose quickly to the top and now holds at number nine on the best seller list. That meteoric rise may have been aided by the work of two American academics, John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt whose work, the Israel Lobby, was a rude awakening to many about Israel's extreme influence on American leadership and policy. Carter's book, however, stands tall on its own as a candid and authoritative commentary on Palestine and Israel's relations with each other and with their neighbors.
No other American is positioned as well as Jimmy Carter to write such a book. Even during his years as Governor of Georgia in the early 1970s, through travel to Israel and meetings with key leaders, Carter began to take on board the convoluted nature of US relations with the Middle East. As President, he became deeply troubled by the situation and took upon himself the task to find solutions. For an American President, he took the virtually unthinkable step of closeting himself with Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin, the 6th Prime Minister of Israel, for more than two weeks at Camp David. The result was a body of agreements, now known as the Camp David Accords, which--with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338--are the basis of all subsequent efforts to find peace in the Middle East.
In part due to Israeli refusal to make any vital concessions to the Palestinians, and in part due to Palestinian resort to terrorist violence, peace was not achieved as a result of those Herculean efforts, but Jimmy Carter never gave up, and he still has not given up. As his book relates, Carter has tracked closely and often has been consulted or involved in every peacemaking effort since Camp David. He is thus a unique senior American with more than a thirty year record of close involvement in the Middle East peace process; in effect, he is the only American personally equipped to write this book.
Through Carter's eyes the reader of Palestine - Peace not Apartheid will gain a view of the modest achievements and depressing failures of the peace process up to the weeks following Israel's invasion of Lebanon in July 2006. While conceding the right of Palestinians to defend their rights and interests, Carter condemns all acts of Palestinian terrorism. He is equally clear in condemning Israeli land grabs, theft of water resources, the imprisoning Israeli wall, the constant Israeli harassment and treatment of the Palestinians as subhuman. Carter equates the sum of that Israeli misconduct toward the people of Palestine as equivalent to apartheid in South Africa. He holds back from asserting that such Israeli conduct is racially motivated, but other writers in the alternative media have been less generous on that point.
Carter is meticulous in describing the stages and the failures of negotiation, and he provides the maps and documents that record each important stage. In so doing he makes clear that blaming the failures on Palestinians is a constant Israeli political game that is simply not supported by the facts. As a rule, the Israelis demand much and concede little or nothing, while the Palestinians are held, both by Israel and the United States, to an unreal standard of conduct, given that they are subject to constant repression by the Israelis.
The accuracy of that appraisal is well understood and documented by any serious observer of the Middle East situation. Palestine - Peace not Apartheid provides a frank and, for a short book, comprehensive review of the issues, as well as a candid recital of the faults of the players. It does this through the eyes of the most constant insider/observer of the Middle East peace process. And it lays out the roles, the costs, and the consequences of American involvement. Because of its clarity, scope and candor, this book deserves the serious attention of all Americans. For better or worse, the United States is part of the problem and vital to the solution.
The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College, and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter Terrorism and Emergency Planning. He will welcome comment at <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com.