Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Essay on Palestine

Review of Jimmy Carter’s “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”

Jimmy Carter’s latest book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” has provoked numerous discussions and the opinions concerning this book vary dramatically from total rejection to acceptance as a new or, at least, different view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is necessary to point out that the book is basically criticized by the Israeli community and pro-Israeli lobby in the US as well as Israeli community in Israel itself. As a rule, it is argued that the book is extremely biased and, what is more, it has an extremely provocative and, as critics of the book estimate, unjust since the ex-President compares Israel policy in relation to Palestinians as apartheid the official discriminatory policy of the white SAR government in relation to the native population of the country. On the other hand, the supporters of the book argue that it suggest a view that is alternative to pro-Israeli view which, as it is estimated, is extremely strong in the US. Nevertheless, what makes this book so controversial and so provocative is its major idea which may be caught even from the title of this work. To put it more precisely, Jimmy Carter attempts to convey to readers the idea that it is Israel official policy that prevents the Middle East, namely Israel and Palestine from peace. In such a way, he argues that Israel should stop its discriminatory policy in relation to Palestinians in order to stop the war and the conflict in the region and establish peace instead.

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Obviously, such an idea is really quite controversial and can be argued by numerous critics. Nevertheless, it is necessary to carefully analyze the content, the message and the basic facts of the book in order to objectively assess the extent to which such an idea is justified or supported by real evidences. First of all, it should be said that Jimmy Carter provides a profound research of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, it is a historic study of the conflict which the author starts from the 19th century. The author actually argues that the roots of the conflict may be found in the historical contradictions and opposition between Jews and Palestinians which may be traced even in the 19th century (Carter 76). Jimmy Carter argues that in the course of time the conflict gradually aggravated and the situation grew worse resulting in the current opposition between Israel and Palestinian population.

On analyzing the causes and reasons for this conflict, the author repeatedly underlines that it is Israel and Jewish population that, to a significant extent, provoked the aggravation of Israeli-Palestinian relationships. For instance, on analyzing the post-World War II period he argues that the Israeli-Arabic wars were mainly provoked by Israel and targeted not just at the improvement of the position of Israel in the region but also at the weakening the position of the Palestinian population in Israel itself through the weakening of its international support from the part of Arab states of the Middle East (Carter 147).

Moreover, Jimmy Carter estimates that the policy of Israel in relation to Palestinians was traditionally discriminatory to the extent that he compares it in the title of the book to South African apartheid. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that he attempts to explain his idea and such a comparison by the fact that Israel historically tended to segregation and separation of Israeli population from Palestinians creating numerous boundaries between Jewish and Palestinian population. He argues that the access of Palestinians to numerous Israeli institutions was limited, for instance, the access of Palestinian children to Israeli schools, or other educational establishments, as well as Palestinians had limited access to political power in Israel and were actually underrepresented, etc. (Carter 195, 202). What is more important, Carter underlines that under the pretext of the struggle against terrorists, Israel even limited the physical access of Palestinians on the territories inhabited by Jewish population. In this respect, he reminds about the numerous checkpoints and militarized zones through which Palestinian could not simply pass through to get access to Jewish territories (Carter 232). Also, it is worthy of mention his reference to the traditional trends of Israel to build resident areas which were separated on the ethnic principles. In other words, Jimmy Carter argues that the Israeli policy of separated settling of Jewish and Palestine population was also discriminatory. As a result, some territories and cities of Israel, such as Jerusalem, were distinctly divided into Jewish and Palestinian areas. In such a way, he justifies his comparison of Israeli official policy to the discriminatory policy of the SAR government in relation to non-white population of the country and in general his arguments seem to be quite persuading and supporting his thesis.

However, on a profound reflection, the criticism of this work seems to be quite just while the position of Carter’s supporters and his ideas are not so unarguable as they may seem to be at first glance. To put it more precisely, on analyzing the entire book and the author’s message it is necessary to underline that the book seems to be one-sided. What is meant here is the fact that the ex-President of the US is very skeptical about the adequacy of the representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of the strong pro-Israeli lobby in the US. On the other hand, he attempts to response to this lobby so eagerly that he simply forgets about the objectivity of representation and support of his ideas. To put it more precisely, on reading the book, it seems as if Israel is the only responsible party in the conflict while Jimmy Carter demonstrates a strong trend to represent Palestinians as victims of Israeli despotism and actually racism, though the latter statement the author attempts to disguise and represent it in a more tolerant way.

However, he seems to practically ignore the fact that Palestine is another active party of the conflict which also struggles for its own rights and larger opportunities in Israel. Unfortunately, this part of the problem remains under-researched by Jimmy Carter in his book. Instead he prefers to blame Israel for its presumably unjust policy in relation to Palestinians. Naturally, it is possible to agree with the author that the official policy of Israel is far from perfect but, on the other hand, it is necessary to realize that Israel cannot simply give in and fulfill absolutely all demands of Palestine since, objectively speaking, this will be absolutely unjust and, what is more, it will be simply impossible because some radical Palestinian movements insist on the total destruction of Israeli state, for instance.

Moreover, on suggesting changing the official policy of Israel, Jimmy Cater does not say a lot about the solution of the problem of terrorism. At any rate, it seems to be quite probable that the change of Israeli policy will lead to the strengthening of radicalism in Palestine and even to the growing threat of terrorism since Israel developed its policy throughout decades to prevent itself from attacks of Palestinian radicals, while Carter suggest a radical change which implies that only one party should give in.

This is why it is possible to conclude that the book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” is really biased and, regardless its persuasiveness, it still represents only one side of the problem while the criticism of Palestinian policy and methods of struggle are practically ignored. Nevertheless, this book is really worthy of reading since it provides a new view on Israeli-Palestinian conflict and makes reader think of this conflict more objectively, taking into consideration that Palestinians may be not only terrorists, as they are often described in the US, but also victims.
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