"IS JIMMY AN Anti-Semite?" was the topic of a Feb. 11 Peace Café at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. Prof. Robert Pastor, of American University's International Studies Department spoke to the mostly Jewish audience regarding charges that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is a bigot due to the content and title of his latest book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Pastor's response to the accusation was a resounding "no." Pastor has known President Carter for over 30 years, he said, having served in the Carter administration, and been founding director of the Carter Center's Latin American and Caribbean Project, as well as of the center's Democracy and China Election Projects.
Carter made a personal journey when it comes to the Middle East peace process, Pastor said. "Jimmy Carter feels a deep frustration, he wanted to accomplish a true peace in the Middle East," he explained. "He has always felt he had to do everything that he could do to bring a lasting peace to the region."
Carter has felt this way ever since he worked to bring a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt at Camp David in 1977, Pastor noted.
Describing Carter as "a compassionate listener," Pastor said the former president approaches a problem by accepting both narratives, and listening to both sides. Carter's research concluded that the Israeli government was imposing on the Palestinians of the occupied territories a form of apartheid-not one based on race, but based on a land grab. Defining apartheid as a system which imposes separation between two people, Pastor noted that both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, who lived under South Africa's apartheid system, have called the Israeli occupation an example of apartheid.
Carter views the construction of settlements as "a major obstacle to peacemaking," Pastor said. Ten percent of West Bank land has been confiscated for the construction of Israeli settlements, and Israel has appropriated another 30 percent to support and protect the settlements. As for its so-called security wall, Pastor said, "It does not separate the Israelis from the Palestinians, but separates Palestinians from Palestinians. It's a way to keep the Palestinians from forming a community."
Many American reviewers of Carter's book have focused on the title of the book without really going deeper into the book's content, Pastor said. Noting that "Opponents have torn the book apart, and all they could find was one sentence which was written in a sloppy manner that seems to condone terrorism in any form," Pastor pointed out that "Jimmy Carter has apologized for his oversight and has directed his publisher to change the wording. …