By Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Abba Eban used to say of Arab leaders and Mideast peace: “Tthey never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Former President Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, never misses an opportunity to say it’s all Israel’s fault.
In Sunday’s editions of The Washington Post, Mr. Carter — returning from his latest “Elders” Holy Land tour — first tells of his visit to Gaza, described “as a walled-in ghetto,” whose inhabitants are blocked by Israel from “receiving any cement, lumber… and hundreds of other needed materials needed to repair schools, hospitals, business establishments or the 50,000 homes that were destroyed or heavily damaged by Israel’s assault last January.”
Absent is even a fleeting reference to Hamas’ gift for Israel’s 2006 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza: an unrelenting suicide terror campaign and 8,000 rockets targeting adjacent civilian communities, where post-traumatic syndrome still runs close to 75%. Also missing from his narrative is the fact that even during the intense eight-month barrage of rocket fire into Sderot, this Elder did not rush there to experience first-hand Hamas’ payback for yet another Israeli “painful concession” to the “peace process”.
Mr. Carter then spoke of “a growing sense of concern and despair among those who observe, as we did, that settlement expansion is continuing apace.” Settlements have become the former President’s mantra.
But he doesn’t say with whom shall Israel make peace – with West Bank Palestinians or Gaza Palestinians? Carter is not worried that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, is the only president in the world who for five years has been unable to visit his people’s most populous city. Carter is blind to the growing despair among the rank and file Israelis — Left, Center, and Right — over the growing expansion of Palestinian denial of any legitimacy of their Jewish neighbors’ narrative. The latest example came just after the “Elders” departed from Gaza when religious figures, enraged that UNRWA might teach their children about the Shoah, again called the Holocaust “a lie.”
President Carter then bemoaned “An even more disturbing expansion taking place in Palestinian East Jerusalem…” But he has nothing to say about the continuing Palestinian denial of the city’s 3,500-year connection with the Jewish people. Ask Palestinians which part of Jerusalem is legitimately linked to Israelis’ forefathers, and the answer you get is “none of it.” They pretend Solomon’s Temple was in Rome, Isaiah prophesied from Afghanistan, and Jesus walked in an ancient temple in Spain.
Meanwhile another “Elder”, Archbishop Tutu, added this admonition: “The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns.” With all due respect to the Archbishop, what we learned from the Holocaust is that never again should the destiny of the Jewish people be entrusted to others. For 2,000 years, Jews depended on the pity of others – we had no land and no army. And what we got in return were inquisitions, pogroms, and, finally, the Holocaust. Those painful lessons taught us, that our freedom will only be secure if we are prepared to fight for it.
Finally, in reviewing Palestinian options, Carter reports about a warning of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state before any borders are set, and also explores the one-state solution, with right of return for millions of “refugees” to the future – no longer Jewish State – of Israel.
In that unified state, Palestinians would undertake a non-violent civil rights struggle, using, as their examples, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela. In fact, there are troubling contemporary echoes of Gandhi’s own views about Jewish destiny: Here’s what he wrote in November 1938:
“The German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history…If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews… But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant.”
And to the 600,000 Jews already living in the land of their forefathers Gandhi said:
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home… The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not geographical tract. It is in their hearts. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs…They can offer themselves to be shot or thrown in to the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. They will find the world opinion in their favor in their religious aspiration.”
But here’s what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., America’s ultimate non-violence practitioner, said of Israel, on March 25, 1968, less than two weeks before his assassination: “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”
If American Presidents past and present truly want to fast-track peace, they should be less concerned over a new bathroom or baby’s nursery added to a Jewish apartment in East Jerusalem and more involved in empowering those Palestinians prepared to teach their children that the Israeli narrative is as legitimate as theirs. When that day comes, Arabs and Jews will have finally taken the first baby steps on the road to peace.
Rabbi Marvin Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.