Carter, facts and Jews


Jimmy Carter getting the facts wrong is nothing new, but you’d think the vaunted New York Times Op-Ed page would know better.

He writes today about the Goldstone report into last year’s Gaza war, which recommends war crimes investigations for Israel and Hamas.

First off, he gets the "out" Goldstone has suggested to Israel and Hamas — investigate yourself — half backwards:

He has called on the United States, Israel and others who dispute the accuracy of the report to conduct an independent investigation of their own. Hamas leaders have announced that their investigation is under way, but Israel has rejected Judge Goldstone’s request.

Israel has yet to decide what to do — which isn’t wonderful, but still. Hamas, on the other hand, has straightforwardly said "go jump." Today, from Xinhua: Hamas wants the Palestinian Authority to prosecute its U.N. envoy for even hinting Hamas has done anything wrong:

"This is the first time that a representative of a people under occupation agreed that his people had committed the so-called violations against the occupying power," Taher al-Nounou, spokesman for the Hamas administration, said in a statement.

Al-Nounou called on the PNA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, to prosecute (Riyad) Mansour for his comments.

More aggravating, though, is how Carter, apparently, has conferred upon himself rabbinic authority: Judge Richard Goldstone is a "devout" Jew:

He is a devout Jew and has long been known as a fervent defender of Israel’s right to peace and security.

Except, here’s Goldstone in his recent call (PDF) with rabbis associated with Ta’anit Tzedek, the Fast for Gaza:

Well, absolutely. And this is why I admire what you’re doing, because I think as rabbis it’s very important to have that commitment to morality and to the norms – certainly I’m not an expert on Judaism or Judaic philosophy, but certainly I’ve grown up to believe that the Jewish tradition is a highly moral system and certainly one that recognizes the humanity of all people.

Neither am I "devout" nor an "expert on Judaism," so it’s not a big deal — and Goldstone is, provably, a committed Jew and a Zionist (before you write, yes, I believe folks who raise stacks of cash for Israeli educational institutions, as Goldstone has done, have the right to call themselves "Zionists.")

So what G-ddamn train did Jimmy Carter get off of that he thinks he can dictate to Jews who is and who is not "devout?" "Devout" describes belief; what Carter admires about Goldstone — his commitment to human rights — has, as Goldstone himself has repeatedly said, little to do with his Jewish upbringing:

I don’t believe that being Jewish has shaped my views particularly towards racism and racial oppression.

Carter wants to speak to Israelis and Jews but it never seems to have settled into his hard-as-a-peanut kopf that as soon as you define for other groups of people what they ought to be — they stop listening. It doesn’t work for Arabs (see under Orientalism) and it sure as sugar don’t work for Jews.

Carter’s been doing this for years — Jeffrey Goldberg honed in on why it is so offensive in his brilliant opening to his Washington Post review of Carter’s ugly little exercise in self-love, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid:

Jimmy Carter tells a strange and revealing story near the beginning of his latest book, the sensationally titled Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. It is a story that suggests that the former president’s hostility to Israel is, to borrow a term, faith-based.

On his first visit to the Jewish state in the early 1970s, Carter, who was then still the governor of Georgia, met with Prime Minister Golda Meir, who asked Carter to share his observations about his visit. Such a mistake she never made.

"With some hesitation," Carter writes, "I said that I had long taught lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures and that a common historical pattern was that Israel was punished whenever the leaders turned away from devout worship of God. I asked if she was concerned about the secular nature of her Labor government."

Jews, in my experience, tend to become peevish when Christians, their traditional persecutors, lecture them on morality, and Carter reports that Meir was taken aback by his "temerity." He is, of course, paying himself a compliment. Temerity is mandatory when you are doing God’s work, and Carter makes it clear in this polemical book that, in excoriating Israel for its sins — and he blames Israel almost entirely for perpetuating the hundred-year war between Arab and Jew — he is on a mission from God.

The pity of it is that, in his op-ed today, Carter has an important case to make for a formula to end Gaza’s siege. But, Carter being Carter he just has to slide into it with his assessment of Goldstone’s divine devotion.

Yo, Jimmy: No one will listen.

Patronize folks and the inner ear switches to "la lala la la." You’d think Carter would have had that one figured out after he was drummed out of office in 1980.

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