Full coverage of the historic Jan. 23rd visit by former President Jimmy CarterReleased on January 24, 2007
Photos by Mike Lovett, Brandeis University
Read "At Brandeis, Carter Responds to Critics" in the New York Times.
Read "Jimmy Carter's 'Peace' Mission To Brandeis" in the Washington Post.
Read "Carter wins applause at Brandeis" in the Boston Globe.
President Carter apologizes for ‘mistake’
in book, defends viewpoints on Middle East
By Marjorie Lyon
The Brandeis Reporter
Greeted by a standing ovation at Brandeis Jan. 23, and speaking to a polite audience, former President Jimmy Carter apologized for a language mistake in his new book on the Middle East but stood by its widely controversial treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Carter spoke for 15 minutes and answered questions for about 45 minutes in Shapiro Gymnasium, which was packed with more than 1,700 Brandeis students, faculty and staff members. Introduced by David Hackett Fischer, University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History, President Carter talked about his experiences in dealing with the Middle East conflict and the content of his book, “Palestine Peace not Apartheid.” Some have charged that Carter espouses an anti-Israel bias in the book, while others have criticized the work for being sloppy, for leaving out important information, and for being off the mark factually in some instances. In many passages, the book is harshly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Mari Fitzduff, professor of coexistence and director of the Master’s Program in Intercommunal Coexistence, moderated the Carter program, which drew about 50 protesters, many of whom defended the 39th President. With signs and banners, they gathered outside in the crisp winter air, across the street from Gosman Sports and Convocation Center.
Long regarded as a statesman for world diplomacy that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, Carter said he is concerned over personal attacks that have been made against him since the book’s release. “This is the first time that I’ve ever been called a liar and a bigot and anti-Semite and coward and plagiarist,” Carter said. “This has hurt me.” Using the word “Apartheid” in the title provoked controversy, but Carter defended that choice, saying he used it knowing that it would be provocative.
“In the long run it has precipitated positive discussion and it has brought the issue of a lack of progress on peace for Israel, and a lack of progress on the end of the Palestinian suffering to the forefront,” he said.
“I realize that this has caused great concern in the Jewish community. The title makes it clear that the book is about conditions and events in the Palestinian territory and not in Israel. And the text makes clear on numerous occasions that the forced separation and the domination of Arabs by Israelis is not based on race.” Carter explained that he is not using the word to describe racism, but the desire to acquire, occupy, confiscate and then to colonize Palestinian land.
The Faculty and Student Committee to bring Jimmy Carter to Brandeis invited the former President to campus. It screened 178 questions and chose 15 for Carter to answer. The panel opted to solicit questions before the event to save time and create a smoother flowing format for the event. President Carter did not know what he was going to be asked, and the committee said it put no preconditions on the questions’ content.
Asked about a sentence in his book that seemed to justify terrorism by saying that suicide bombings should end when Israel accepts the goals of the “road map” to peace with Palestinians, Carter said, “That sentence was worded in a completely improper and stupid way. I’ve written my publishers to change that sentence immediately in future editions of the book. I apologize to you personally and to everyone here.”
Carter described a dire situation for Palestinians in the West Bank, because of roads that Palestinians could not use, a huge dividing wall, and more than 500 checkpoints. He suggested that a group of Brandeis students and professors visit the occupied territories for a few days and meet with leaders and citizens “to determine whether I have exaggerated or incorrectly described the plight of the Palestinians.”
“While there,” he added, “you could also assess a subject that I have not mentioned: whether treatment of Arabs inside Israel is fair and equitable.”
Carter says in his book that Israel is responsible for making peace. He told the audience, “Israel will never find peace until it is willing to withdraw from its neighbors’ land and to permit the Palestinians to exercise their basic human and political rights.”
Criticism of his book focuses on Carter’s suggestion that Israel has committed human rights abuses against Palestinians, that the American Press is extremely pro-Israel, and that Israel lobbyists stifle debate. Carter said he never claimed nor believed that American Jews control the news media. He emphasized that he wants to rejuvenate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, which he argued has been completely dormant in the past six years. He said he would like to see negotiation orchestrated or promoted by the United States with participation by the “quartet” of the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union. And he said he hopes his book will provide an avenue to “a secure Israel living in peace with its neighbors, while exemplifying the principles of ancient sacred texts and the philosophy of Justice Louis D. Brandeis: justice and righteousness.”
One student, Gideon N. Katsh ’09 asked about Carter’s criticism of the security fence that Israel says has reduced by 95 percent the number of suicide bombings. Carter answered that he opposed the fence because “on occasion it penetrates deeply within the West Bank to encompass not only the existing Israeli settlements, but also to encompass beautiful land and hilltops for the construction of future settlements. So this is the difference. I would have no objection and neither would the international community if this barrier would be built along the border.”
While some students were critical of Carter’s views, others felt that the controversy he has sparked creates valuable debate that could fuel progress towards a solution.
President from 1977 to 1981, Carter brokered the 1978 Camp David Peace Accord between Israel and Egypt. He established the Carter Center to support humanitarian outreach, and has won respect for his efforts through Habitat for Humanity, which, among other initiatives, has constructed homes for people too poor to buy them.
After the completion of the Carter program at Brandeis, Professor Alan M. Dershowitz spoke in the same venue to about 800 members of the university community. He, too, was invited by a group of students and faculty that said it wanted to hear alternative analyses about the situation in the Middle East. Dershowitz criticized Carter’s book but said he had many views in common with what Carter imparted in his Brandeis address. “Had he written a book similar to what he said on stage, I don’t believe there would have been much controversy,” said Dershowitz, adding, “There are two different Jimmy Carters.” He criticized Carter for being overly simplistic.
“President Carter suggests that everything rides on Israel’s decision not to give back land. Somehow this is about land and the small percentage of Israelis who live in the occupied areas, that they are the only barriers to peace. That simply is not the reality.”
Dershowitz said that he and Carter agree on one thing: they want “an un-militarized Palestinian state living in peace side by side with Israel.”
Below is a transcript of the opening remarks by President Carter, which began the afternoon's programming, Jan. 23, 2007.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you this afternoon. I might say in the beginning that, except for an invitation from the U.S. Congress to deliver my inaugural address from the U.S. Capitol almost exactly 30 years ago, this is the most exciting invitation I’ve ever received. And, it’s gotten almost as much publicity.
I’ve been cautioned by students and others who invited me to leave plenty of time for questions at the end. So, I’ll do that. As a matter of fact, I don’t often write my speeches, but I decided to this morning. I read over it before I left home in Plains, Ga. It took fifteen minutes without any pauses for applause. So I can predict for you that I’ll be ready to answer questions in about 15 minutes.
First of all let me say that it is an honor to return to a university that is named for a great jurist, whose opinions helped shape the moral values of the nations that I served as President. His strong support for freedom of speech is exemplified by the students and faculty giving me an opportunity to come here today, and Justice Brandeis’ leadership in the establishment of the nation of Israel and also his courageous championship of individual rights affects the subject to be discussed by me.
It may be difficult for young students and even professors to realize what I faced as a new president concerning the nation of Israel. There was an oil embargo by Arab OPEC nations, with a secondary boycott of any American corporation doing business with Israel. There had been four major wars in 25 years against Israel, led by Egypt, the only Arab country that then had Soviet military support, that had the status of a formidable challenger. There had been a lack of concerted efforts to bring peace to America’s closest ally, Israel, in the Middle East, and there were no demands on me at all as a successful candidate to initiate any kind of negotiations. There had never been a national site in America as a reminder of the despicable facets of the Nazi Holocaust. Also, the Soviet Union at that time permitted only a handful of Jews to leave Russia each year.
After becoming president, I began to communicate publicly with noted human rights heroes like Andrei Sakarov and to confront Soviet leaders at every possible opportunity I had with them on behalf of Natan Sharansky and others. This increased tension between me and President Brezhnev, president of the Soviet Union then, but within two years, annual Jewish emigration to America from Russia increased to more than 50,000. I was grateful when Sharansky was released, and he gave me credit for having saved his life.
We also supported a very controversial law sponsored by Congressman Ben Rosenthal that prohibited secondary boycotts against Israel, with the severe penalties against any U.S. corporation that violated the new law.
And in 1978, on Israel’s 30th birthday, on the South Lawn of the White House with Prime Minister Menachem Begin there and hundreds of rabbis from around the country, I announced a Commission of about 50 members to establish a Holocaust Museum, with Elie Wiesel as its chairman. The Holocaust Museum in Washington is a tribute to their good work.
As one of my highest priorities, I negotiated the Camp David Accords, which David mentioned, between Israel and Egypt in 1978, in which, in exchange for peace, Israel agreed to grant full autonomy for the Palestinians. I wrote autonomy, and Prime Minister Begin said, “Why don’t you make it full autonomy.” And the withdrawal of Israeli military and political forces in the Camp David Accords from the Egyptian Sinai and the lands of the Palestinians. This agreement was ratified by an 85 percent majority in the Israeli Knesset. Six months later, we concluded a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, not a word of which has been violated now for almost 27 years. This removed from Israel its major Arab military threat.
I left office believing that Israel would soon realize its dream of peace with its other neighbors – a small nation no longer beleaguered, that exemplified the finest ideals based on the Hebrew scriptures that I have taught on Sundays—I still teach—since I was 18 years old, where, in the English language version of Hebrew scriptures, the word “justice” is mentioned 28 times and the word “righteousness” 196 times.
Since leaving the White House, I have traveled throughout the Middle East at every opportunity, to encourage peaceful relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and I’ve traveled extensively in the West Bank and Gaza. I would say, without fear of being contradicted, that few people on earth have had a greater opportunity to understand the complex interrelationships in the Middle East peace prospects from personal observations.
More recently, I have led The Carter Center in monitoring the Palestinian elections of 1996, 2005, and 2006, which required from me and my associates at The Carter Center a thorough and intimate involvement with the candidates who ran, public officials, and Palestinian citizens throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, and also working closely with Prime Ministers Shimon Peres in 1996, Ariel Sharon in 2005, and Ehud Olmert in 2006, who gave their full political support to these adventures.
I am familiar with the harsh rhetoric and extreme acts of violence in the Middle East that have been perpetrated against innocent civilians, and I understand completely the fear among many Israelis that threats still exist against their safety and even their existence as a nation. During all these years—as David said, 33 years—I have reiterated my strong condemnation of any acts of terrorism, which are not justified at any time or for any goal.
In summary, I have spent a great deal of my adult life trying to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors, based on justice and righteousness for the Palestinians. These are the underlying purposes of my new book.
Let me refer now to my use of the word “apartheid.” I realize that this has caused great concern in the Jewish community. The title makes it clear that the book is about conditions and events in the Palestinian territories and not in Israel. The text makes clear on numerous occasions that the forced separation and the domination of Arabs by Israelis is not based on race and should give no aid or comfort to any of those who have attempted to equate racism with Zionism. The driving force for the resulting oppression and persecution comes from a minority of Israelis and their desire for Palestinian land.
Let me refer now to the controversial word again. Prominent Israelis, including a former attorney general, Ben Yair, who served under three prime ministers of both the Likud and Labor parties; scholars and legislators, including Mrs. Shulamit Aloni; editors of major newspapers, including Ha’aretz; human rights organizations, including B’Tselem; and a group of litigants who have recently in the last week appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem have all used and explained the word “apartheid” in much harsher terms than I, pointing out that this cruel oppression is contrary to the tenets of the Jewish religious faith and contrary to the basic principles of the nation of Israel. Both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu have visited the territories and used the same description.
Originally, as you may know, the West Bank only comprised 22 percent of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, just 22 percent, Israel 77 percent and Gaza 1 percent. But their choice hilltops, vital water resources, and productive land have been occupied, confiscated, and then colonized by Israeli settlers. Like a spider web, the connecting roads that join more than 200 settlements in the West Bank, often for the exclusive use of Israelis, Palestinians are not permitted to get on those roads or even to cross some of them. This divides this area into small bantu stans, isolated cantonments. In addition, there are more than 500 checkpoints in the tiny West Bank, and a huge dividing wall, sometimes as high as these rafters, 40 feet high, and a fence in other places that goes deep within the West Bank. All of this makes the lives of Palestinians almost intolerable. This harms Israel as well by angering the entire Arab world and makes peaceful relationships more difficult.
David mentioned here a while ago, what could students here do about it? It would be an intriguing experience for a group of Brandeis professors and students to visit the occupied territories for a few days, to meet with leaders and private citizens, and to determine whether I have exaggerated or incorrectly described the plight of the Palestinians. While there, you could also assess a subject that I have not mentioned: whether treatment of Arabs inside Israel is fair and equitable.
I have never claimed (nor believed) that American Jews control the news media; that’s ridiculous to claim. But I have reiterated that our nation’s overwhelming support for Israel comes from among Christians like me who have been taught since I was three years old to honor and protect God’s chosen people from among whom came our own Christian savior, Jesus Christ.
An additional factor, especially in the political arena, is the powerful influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is exercising its legitimate goal of explaining the current policies of Israel’s government and arousing maximum support in America for those policies. There have been few significant countervailing voices in the public arena, and any debate is still practically nonexistent within the U.S. Congress.
I am convinced that the withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from Arab territories will dramatically reduce any threats to Israel. An immediate step must be the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, now absent for six years. There has not been a day of peace talks for six years. President Mahmoud Abbas is the official spokesman for the Palestinians, because he is the head of both the Palestinian National Authority, which is not recognized officially by Israel, and the PLO, and has repeatedly called for peace talks.
But in the last few weeks, President George W. Bush has announced that peace in the Holy Land will be a high priority for his administration during the next two years, and on her current trip to the region, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called for an early U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian meeting to discuss the peace process. She has recommended the 2002 offer of all 23 Arab nations as a foundation for peace. The offer was this: full recognition of Israel based on a return to its internationally recognized borders. This offer is compatible with official U.S. policy, key U.N. resolutions supported by the United States and Israel, previous agreements approved by Israeli governments in 1978 at Camp David and in 1993, the Oslo Agreements, and the "road map" for peace developed by the "quartet" of the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union.
Israel will never find peace until it is willing to withdraw from its neighbors’ land and to permit the Palestinians to exercise their basic human and political rights. As indicated in the Geneva Accords, announced in November 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland—I was there and made the keynote speech—this "green line," or eastern border of Israel, can be modified with negotiated land swaps to let approximately half of the Israeli settlers remain in their highly subsidized homes east of the internationally recognized border. These homes remaining would be very close to the so-called “green line.” The premise of getting peace in exchange for Palestinian territory that is adequate for a viable and contiguous state has been acceptable for several decades to a substantial majority of Israelis--- (I’ve observed and studied those public opinion polls very closely. They always have 60 percent or so.)---but not to a minority of the more conservative leaders, who are unfortunately supported by most of the vocal American Jewish community, through AIPAC’s influence. And I don’t criticize it.
The current policies are leading toward an immoral outcome that is undermining Israel’s standing in the world and is not bringing security to the people of Israel.
These same premises, of recognizing Israel, acceptance of all past agreements, and the rejection of violence, will have to be accepted by Hamas and any government that represents the Palestinians. The long-term prospects are not discouraging. In fact, a poll last month, in December, by the Harry S. Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found that 81 percent of citizens in the occupied territories approved and 63 percent approval among Israelis. So you see, an overwhelming majority of Palestinians and Israelis support peace for Israel based on the acceptance of Israel of its international borders with some modifications, with justice and peace for the Palestinians. An early exchange of the three Israeli soldiers for some of the 10,000 Palestinian prisoners will expedite the peace process.
What I have covered in these few minutes is a brief summary of the contents of my recent book. They provide an avenue that can lead to what all of us want: A secure Israel living in peace with its neighbors, while exemplifying the principles of ancient sacred texts and the philosophy of Justice Louis Brandeis: justice and righteousness. [end of speech]
Question and Answer session: The Carter Program
Question 1: In an interview on “Hard Ball with Chris Matthews” this past November, you compared Palestinian oppression to the situation in Rwanda. Could you both clarify this remark and justify comparing the political oppression of an anti-governmental group to an all out genocide?
President Carter: Well Christopher was not there, and his substitute was fumbling around with a present tense, I think he got Darfur mixed up with Rwanda. And my question if you look at the exact transcript was: “Are you talking about today, the persecution today?” And my answer was: at the current time, there’s no substantial persecution in Rwanda. I’m quite familiar with that area of the world. So today, obviously the Palestinians have a worse time than the Rwandans do, but in history one of the worst examples second only in my memory to the Holocaust in Germany was the execution over just a 48-hour-period of 500,000 Rwandans. So there is no comparison between what happened in Rwanda, I think in 1993, and what is happening in Israel with the Palestinians now. That would be a ridiculous comparison. But he was talking about today; he was confused. Chris Matthews, as I said once more, was not there.
Question 2: President Carter I’d just like to start off by saying I agree with some of your assertions that the media and polity in the United States is biased in favor of Israel, and some of Israel’s behavior has been harsh and unjust. But I also wanted to ask you, in regards to your quote and your stated aim with this book, to quote “help bring a lasting peace to the Middle East,” do you as a noted mediator and man of peace think that that the controversy surrounding the use of a divisive term like apartheid as well as the interpretation of many of your claims. which have been seen as one-sidedly blaming Israel, couldn’t that be counterproductive and in the long term take us further away from that goal of lasting peace?
President Carter: Yes, I can certainly see that that is a possibility, and that is a judgment that I made myself, no one else. But when I proposed this title, by the way the title doesn’t have any punctuation in it. We intended it to be Palestinian Peace not Apartheid, but erroneously people have put a colon there. But anyhow, I can see then and now that it could precipitate some hard feelings or some obstacles that might prevent the negotiation of a peace agreement and equity or fairness of treatment for the Palestinians. And the Palestinians are horribly treated, and their treatment is not known at all or minimally in this country. So I chose that title knowing that it would be provocative. But I think in the long run, it has precipitated at least discussion. There has been a lot of positive discussion, and I believe that it has brought the issue of a lack of progress on peace for Israel and a lack of progress on the end of Palestinian suffering to the forefront of the American consciousness much more than it was had the book not been written. I am deeply concerned about the tensions that might have arisen. That was not my intention at all. And I’ve been hurt and so has my family by some of the reaction. I’ve been through political campaigns for state senate and for governor and for president, and I’ve been stigmatized and condemned by my political opponents and their stories. But this is the first time that I’ve ever been called a liar and a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward and a plagiarist. This has hurt me. I can take it. But I think that that group of people who have made those statements—sometimes in full-page ads in the New York Times—I think they are an extreme minority. I’m not complaining. I’m willing to face the accusations. I think that, for instance, this weekend I was with Justice Steven Breyer, who spent a weekend with me, my wife, and others. I was with Stu Eizenstadt, one of the directors of Brandeis. I was with Rick Hertzberg, who was my speechwriter in the White House, and others. I don’t think that any of them would agree with any of those personal epithets, and the fact that the debate has deteriorated into add hominem attacks on my character, I think has probably been a greater obstacle to progress than the fact that I chose a particular word in the title.
Question 3: Hello, Mr. Carter. On page 213 of your book you write, “It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international law and the ultimate goals of the road map for peace are accepted by Israel.” By making cessation of terrorism by Palestinian groups conditional on Israeli acceptance of the “ultimate goals of the road map and international law” are you justifying the use of suicide terror as a political tool?
President Carter: The answer is absolutely not. That sentence was worded in a completely improper and stupid way, for which I have apologized to many audiences, and I have written my publishers to change that sentence. I’m sure you would agree if you have read the book, repeatedly I call on all Palestinians and Israelis to terminate the use of violence in particularly against innocent civilians or those who are not in uniform. So again let me repeat I apologize for the wording of that sentence it was a mistake on my part, and it is now being corrected in future editions.
Questions 4 and 5: President Carter, during my service in the Israeli defense force, I spent time guarding roadblocks and checkpoints and was exposed to Palestinian suffering. Nevertheless, I never opposed Israel’s policy in the territories because I understood how vital this policy is to Israel’s security. In your book, you criticize Israel’s policy in the territories. How can you justify this criticism in light of Israel’s crucial and delicate security needs?
President Carter, in 2002, the year Israel began construction on its security fence, there were 234 casualties from Palestinian suicide bombings. Last year, there were only two bombings and 11 related deaths, a 95 percent drop. How can you say that Israel has no right to have a security fence, when it has proven such an effective tool for stopping terrorists and protecting Israeli citizens?
President Carter: I’ll try to combine my answers. First of all, I don’t think anyone has been a stronger proponent of insuring that Israel had adequate capability of defending itself. When I was president, Israel never lacked of any military or political support from my administration, and I’ve supported all of that assistance to Israel since then. We feel as a nation, I felt as a president, that we were allies with Israel, and Israel’s security was vital to me. However I spent 13 days at Camp David and then another 6 months with Egypt, negotiating with Menachem Begin, who was a very conservative Likud leader, as you know. And Begin himself agreed and signed officially a document that called for Israel to grant the Palestinians full autonomy, that is control of their own affairs, and also agree to withdraw both military and political forces from the occupied territories, from the West Bank and Gaza, which he called Judea and Sumaria. So he submitted this controversial proposal to the Israeli Knesset to withdraw from the occupied territories. It was approved by an 85 percent vote, as a said in my talk. Since then, every single agreement that has been negotiated concerning Israel has called for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories. One of the most notable cases was with the Oslo Agreement in 1993, and I think it was a very clear benefit to Israel potentially that the 2002 unanimous vote by the Arab countries – all 23 Arab countries in the world agreed unanimously to recognize Israel and Israel’s right to live in peace within its international borders. When then Crown Prince Abdullah, who was later king of Saudi Arabia, was questioned by the news media: “What do you mean by recognizing Israel’s right to live in peace? What relationship would you have with Israel?” He said, “We would treat Israel the same as we would treat all other Arab nations.” So, that’s the dream that we have had. I might add, that the so-called, the present road map for peace also encompasses the withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories. I have modified those agreements by all the international community and by Israeli leaders including the Knesset by working on what I described in my talk as the Geneva Accords. There was a good faith negotiation following President Clinton’s good moves, unfortunately in the last few days of his administration. The agreement was reached between Israelis and Palestinians to modify the green line to permit the settlements near the green line, near the border, to stay there, which would encompass more than half of all the Israeli settlers on Palestinian territory. To conclude my answer to your part of the question, this would be the greatest step that Israel could make toward its own security. I think it would be much more secure if it were willing to withdraw from the Palestinians’ territory. I don’t think it would weaken Israel’s security.
To get to the other question, the fence was proposed – it’s not a fence, it’s a wall – if you go there, just for instance, if you try to drive from Israel to Ramallah, or Israel to Jericho, a few miles outside Jerusalem in Palestinian territory, you would run into a wall that’s 40 feet high, as high as a four-story building, solid concrete. And in the heavily occupied areas, including surrounding Bethlehem, a concrete wall exists. In non-populated areas, out in the countryside, there’s a swathe about 100 yards wide cleared, and there’s a high wire fence in the middle. It’s a not a concrete wall, to save money. But, when Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister and Shimon Peres was the deputy, they proposed that a wall be built on the green line along Israel’s border, the same way the fence was built in Germany to separate East and West Germany—on the line. And international courts said, that’s okay. Then when Rabin was assassinated, and Netanyahu and others took over the government, they said, “We don’t want the wall to built on the line. We want to move it inside the West Bank.” And, on occasion, it penetrates deeply within the West Bank, to encompass not only the existing Israeli settlements, but also to encompass beautiful land and hilltops for the construction of future settlements. So, this is the difference.
I would have no objection, and neither would the international community if this barrier would be built along the border. I might point out, too, that about the same time – you mentioned the reduction in deaths – Hamas declared unilaterally what they called a hudna in August of 2004. They pledged that they would not permit among their own membership any more suicide bombings, and there has not been a suicide bombing attempted by Hamas since then. I’m not bragging on Hamas. But what I am saying is that there are more factors involved than just building an intrusive wall deep within Palestinian territory. If you take the route of the wall planned by Sharon and now Olmert, it winds deep inside the West Bank; it connects on both ends, on the north of the Jordan Valley and on the southern Jordan Valley with territory along the Jordan River that is also controlled by Israel. So, this wall will completely surround the remaining Palestinian territory. It will still be saturated at this moment with 205 different settlements, and each one of those…settlements are connected with a highway, a beautiful highway, sometimes four lanes, sometimes just two lanes, and those highways connect to Jerusalem. Palestinians are prohibited from going on those highways in their own territory. And the reason for the lawsuit that I just described to you that was filed within the last week or so by eight different human rights organizations and others is because there was a new rule promulgated by the Israeli military in the West Bank that would make it a crime, with a sentence of five years in prison, for any Palestinian who was caught riding in the same automobile with Israelis, that had an Israeli tag on the car. I hope that the high court, the supreme court of Israel, will not let this additional persecution of the Palestinians be permitted. I don’t have any doubt in my own mind – I know many people who might disagree – that the best way that Israel can find both peace and security is to withdraw to their own territory and let the Palestinians have a viable and contiguous state of their own living side-by-side in peace.
Question 6: Former President Carter, as often as those that are critical of Israel are repeatedly slammed as being anti-Semites, especially on a campus that endures such strong and widespread support of Israel, you yourself have already received such labels, as you’ve touched on already. In these cases, how does one deal with this and still go on to make constructive dialogue?
President Carter: I hope, I think that your inviting me here after some confusion at the beginning of the process is a great indication that Brandeis has made notable progress in opening up the political and social environment to open debate. My guess is that after this appearance, I’m not bragging on myself, their will be a much more free discussion of some of the issues. And I don’t think that the quotes that I gave earlier, I was little bit hesitant to do it, of the allegations against me, they haven’t hurt me. I can take it, I’m not running for public office, and I have secret service protection the rest of my life, so I’m kind of impervious to attack. But I think this campus has demonstrated by this enormous turnout, and the reception that you gave me is a great indication in the future if not in the past, you’ll be given a perfect right to express you own views. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I wish you would take to heart, everybody here including some professors, my suggestion that you form a delegation of say ten people that be might elected or something, I don’t know. Make it three professors and seven students, and go to the West Bank, and just spend three days. I can give you a list of people that you might want to talk to, or you can use your own judgment. You decide whether what I said is accurate or whether the situation is vital. I would guess that you would be amazed at the impact that your report will have when you come back. I’m not anticipating what it will be. It would have a great impact on this nation. It would have a great impact on members of Congress. It would have a great impact in Israel, for that group of unrestricted lovers of Israel to say lets take another look and see if we cannot find peace based on justice and fairness, and equity and righteousness. I believe that can happen, so I think you’ve got a good question. But let the debate take place, and I’ve never responded to any of the people that have made their attacks on me. I understand there is a Harvard professor that has done so. I turned down a meeting with him; I felt, I didn’t think that Brandeis needed a Harvard professor to come in here and tell you how to ask questions. But to summarize my answer I think it is going to be much easier in the future not only in this campus but around the nation to debate these issues. Thank you for your question.
Question 7: Hello, President Carter. Your book raised the issue of biases that influence our leaders and our policies, in that quote “Voices from Jerusalem dominate our media.” Yet The Carter Center has received millions of dollars from Saudi sources, and its website indicates that you and Mrs. Carter speak with heads of state about human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch notes that Saudi Arabia has violated human rights in many ways including: by prosecuting, imprisoning, flogging, and torturing people for homosexual conduct. Have you spoken out publicly or directly to authorities concerning these abuses, and if so what have you said?
President Carter: The answer is absolutely yes. The Carter Center has had, for the last 20 years, in its bosom a collection of human rights organizations, 22 at this moment, including Amnesty International, Lawyers Committed for Human Rights, Mideast Watch, Africa Watch, and so forth. We analyze each year the preeminent human rights violations in the world and where people are not permitted to speak out. For the last four years, my chairman or chairperson at those annual conferences has been the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. We bring into The Carter Center representatives from about 40 nations who come and give us a report on abuses in their own countries and restraints of their own rights, because they are speaking out publicly to Saudi Arabian abuses particularly under the Islamic banner that prohibits certain things-- punish those who get married without their parents’ permission and who don’t permit any sort of Christian or any other presence in Saudi Arabia--are abominable. I would like to say that I was prepared for this question about finances because it’s very important. I didn’t mention that one of the epithets that concerned me in the past was accepting bribes. I had my staff go down the detailed records of The Carter Center since 1981. Every contribution that we have received has been publicized in the Annual Reports. Our income and expenditures every year is thoroughly audited by internationally recognized auditing firms. Of the total amount of contributions that we have received from all the Mideast Arab nations combined, the amount has been 2.7 percent. Of that amount, 71 percent of their contributions have gone for health programs in Africa, 21 percent have gone for our Carter Center’s endowment, five percent went for our original construction of The Carter Center buildings, and 3 percent have gone for elections, economic development, and so forth. Part of that money that helped us with the cost of elections in Palestine came from some of those donors. We have never had a Mideast donor who wanted to be anonymous. All of them have been publicized. I might add that I have never received one cent personally, either from Mideast contributors or from The Carter Center. This is the (Carter Center’s) 25th year. I’ve always worked without any salary whatsoever. When I do receive an award, for instance from Sheik Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, one of those names. That was, I believe, a $200,000 award because we had the outstanding environmental achievement of the year. The reason was that we had initiated a system of farming in 15 nations in Africa that ended the slash and burn technique that they had used in the past, and the $200,000 award was given, awarded to me. I gave the check to The Carter Center. When I received the Noble Peace Prize, I didn’t keep a penny of it, because a lot of it was for the Carter Center’s work. I gave it to The Carter Center, a little bit to my wife’s additional program down at Georgia Southwestern College on Caregiving. I received a $100,000 award from the Rotary International Organization and another $100,000 from the Lions International. All that money went to The Carter Center. So, I’ve received no benefit at all personally from those sources, and I never will. Thank you.
Questions 8 and 9: First of all, Mr. President, thank you for coming to speak to us today. My question is as follows: In your book you stated, quote, “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land had been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land,” end quote. As someone who helped negotiate the Camp David Accords and has seen Israel’s huge sacrifice’s for peace, how can Israel be to blame when supposed partners like Hamas and the PLO have explicitly declared that they accept no Jewish State in the land, and that negotiations with Israel are inherently forbidden?
Good afternoon, Mr. President. Thank you for mentioning that Hamas offered a truce in 2004. Presently, we all know that Hamas is in power and has a strong presence among Palestinians. My question goes like this: Do you agree that Israel and the United States have missed a great opportunity to bring Hamas into the political arena of the peace process and have made large contributions to radicalism and (inaudible) in Iran by their act by (inaudible) the newly democratically elected government and imposing sanctions on the Palestinian population. Was this the only message the United States would deliver to the second democracy in the Middle East after Israel? Thank you.
President Carter: Let me say first of all that the Camp David Accords, which I consider to be notable, in its potential benefit for Israel was subverted in its benefits because Israel did not comply with the agreement that’s in writing, its in the back of my book, that was approved by Menachem Begin and the Knesset to withdraw military and economic forces from the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, shortly after going back to Israel, the Likud Party under Menachem Begin began to build a large number of settlements, which had been frozen up through the Camp David Accords. This has made it necessary, from a conservative Israeli leader’s position, to subjugate the Palestinians in order to retain Israeli control over these choice settlement areas. So I don’t see any incompatibility there between my being proud of what the Camp David Accords achieved and the subsequent breakdown in its beneficial aftermath. I don’t have any brief to bring here to you supporting any Palestinian who advocates violence or the destruction of Israel; that’s completely obnoxious to me. Prior to Oslo, as you know, the PLO, headed by Arafat, did have that as one of their basic premises. When Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and other negotiators on Israeli side and the Palestinians on their side, concluded the Oslo Agreement, then Arafat went to the PLO and declared the official policy was to accept Israel’s right to exist and to live in peace. That was making good progress until Rabin was tragically assassinated. Ariel Sharon, announced even before Rabin’s assassination, that the Oslo agreement was national suicide, and that was the opinion of Netanyahu as well as Ariel Sharon, and I presume Ehud Olmert, I’m not sure about him. But it was a discarding of the friendly and peaceful agreement that was negotiated under the auspices of the Norwegian government. But any Palestinian who won’t accept the three premises that I’ve mentioned in my book—the recognition of Israel’s right to live in peace in compliance with the 2002 unanimous Arab nations commitment; and to forego violence, any acts of terrorism; and to accept previous agreements, which would include Oslo and Camp David—then I would have no brief for them and no sympathy for them. But I think that those radical Hamas voices are in direct contradiction with 81 percent to the Palestinian citizens recently polled just last month by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After Hamas won their victory—they only got 42 percent of the votes—there was another poll by the same institution—the Harry S. Truman Institute at Hebrew University. It showed that only one percent of the Palestinian population would approve an Islamic government Sharia government. So those radical voices from Hamas and from other groups like Hezbollah I think are an extreme minority, particularly when you look at the broad gamut of every single Arab country being committed to Israel’s right to live in peace within their borders.
Question 10: President Carter, during your presidency you tried to reach a comprehensive peace agreement for the Middle East, but the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians continued. Oslo and the Road Map on the other hand pursued the step-by-step approach, and this policy seems to have failed, too. So do you think there is a third way that could break the deadlock, and if yes, which role can the U.S. play in this regard?
President Carter: Simon, I don’t think there is any doubt that the Road Map spelled an identical goal that would be the premise for the only peace that I can envision. And that is Israel’s withdrawing from the occupied territories with some modifications of the borders and granting the Palestinians a right to have a viable and a contiguous state in order to live side by side in peace. That’s the only ultimate goal. It’s a goal of the Road Map. It’s a goal of the 23 Arab countries, that I mentioned two or three times. It’s a goal of Oslo. It’s a goal of Camp David. And it’s the goal apparently of the present administration (small gap in tape)…No longer does the United States have to be the sole negotiator. I mentioned in my book the absolute impossibility of the Israelis and the Palestinians agreeing by themselves on peace talks. That they cannot possibly agree on the right place or the right date or the agenda or who can participate, how much access the press has, and all those multiple issues that have to be resolved for any solutions. But the United States, if it’s a little bit timid in stepping forward unilaterally, they now have a built in coalition for the first time, official, approved by the United Nations, of the Quartet. I don’t think there is any harm at all. I think it would be very beneficial, instead of the United States being the sole negotiator to bring in the Israeli side, the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas representing all the Palestinians, and the European Union and the Russians and also the United Nations. So that Quartet now can provide not only a worldwide beneficial influence toward accommodation, but it can also take a little bit off the responsibility from the United States’ shoulders. I think this might be at least being considered in Washington, because the last proposal that Condoleeza Rice made—I forget the exact date—but the international Quartet will be convened within the next few days to contemplate the next moves toward peace.
The bottom line for me, when I was at Camp David, when I was negotiating the peace agreement later on, and during my 25 years since I left the White House, has been that the people in the Mideast Region want peace. The Lebanese, God knows, want peace. The Jordanians want peace. The Egyptians want peace. The Palestinians want peace. The Israelis want peace. I mean by overwhelming majorities. If that desire can be tapped, then we will see, I hope in my lifetime, certainly in yours, an Israel living in peace with its neighbors, side by side, with a proud non-challenging democratic Palestinian state.