Simon & Schuster: NY, 2006.
I remember, five to ten years back, learning of some of the behavior of Israelis toward the Palestinians and being shocked. Our culture is saturated with the idea that Arabs/Palestinians are hostile and unreasonable. I grew up with the concept of them as terrorists, period. With the knowledge that our government economically and militarily backs Israel. Imagine my surprise to finally learn that the United Nations, including the United States has consistently stated that Israel has been occupying land illegally since 1967. I knew of the Camp David Accords, led by Jimmy Carter as President, but not details. Imagine my surprise that it was agreed upon in the 1970s that those lands should be given back as the only way forward to peace and that Israel instead has continued to build more settlements all this time. They have also bulldozed homes and businesses of Palestinians, geographically isolated them and imprisoned them within their neighborhoods, not to mention military attacks. Does this sound like a people willing to work towards peace? Does this sound like a country we should be backing militarily?
In this book, Jimmy Carter describes his trips to the Middle East, from when he was Governor of Georgia through 2006. He also discusses his concern with the region and his communication with people of the whole area. After his Presidency, he formed the Carter Center which uses its influence to negotiate peacefully with those that otherwise might not be cooperative with each other. They oversee elections in those areas.
Jimmy Carter clarifies official US policy regarding Israel and Palestine in his book. He delineates the progression of peacekeeping gatherings, the setbacks, the growth of Palestinian leadership, and behavior of several key figures. He describes a picture of a more and more totalitarian relationship of Israeli leaders towards the Palestinians under their rule. In reading, I was struck by the difference between UN and US policy and our media and culture which seems to be only pro-Israel. Why the drastic difference? Why has the US government not acted in accordance with its policy statements? Why are we helping them to continue their oppression of Palestinians who live on land the UN says is legally Palestinian? I was impressed also by Carter's certainty that peace is possible in the region. A majority of people on both sides want it. A majority agree on necessary steps. He believes it likely will happen from within the contested areas and Israel.
The book is eye-opening and thought provoking. It would be ideal for a high school current events class. A good starting point on the issue, and then extend with periodicals and the internet to continue the timeline since 2006. Also, go further and learn how the states surrounding Israel are tied to wars the US has been involved in since the 1970s. It might also work for a nonfiction book club. The point would be to get some discussion going, rather than lectures, and maybe some problem solving brainstorming. Members of the group could bring articles to share. At the very least, it will encourage awareness of the issue instead of propaganda.
I have to say also that the predominant statements about Jimmy Carter as President have been negative. However, the more I read about him and from him, the more I think he was the best President in my lifetime. His unpopularity came from his facing the facts instead of pretending. Maybe also not going along with Big Business. He was called weak, but really he was striving for peace. That is not weak. It is intelligent and courageous. Far easier to give in to the nutcases that always push for war, who benefit from war. I would like to see more Presidents with his vision.
One thing I really like about Carter's writing is that it is accessible. It should be easily understood by young adults and interested middle schoolers.
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