Saturday, February 14, 2009

On Jimmy Carter's New Book

Jimmy Carter has published a new book, WE CAN HAVE PEACE IN THE HOLY LAND: A Plan That Will Work and the New York Times gave it to leftwinger Gershom Gorenberg to review.

Here's something I want to comment on:

A beginning student of the Middle East should not learn diplomatic history from this text. In Carter’s telling, the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem at his prodding. More objective accounts portray Sadat as making an end run around Carter’s stubborn intent to reconvene the Geneva peace conference.

...The agreement with Egypt arguably improved Israel’s security as much as any other single event in its history. Yet a portion of American Jewry has never forgiven Carter for his success. This hints at a key lacuna in Carter’s agenda: though he got into the peacemaking business as a politician, he gives too little attention to the need for building political support for a diplomatic initiative — among voters at home as much as among Israelis and ­Palestinians.

Indirectly, Carter’s title also hints at a second lacuna. Looking for a neutral name for the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, he chooses “Holy Land,” a phrase from Christian tradition. Carter’s perspective is explicitly religious. Though that can irritate secular observers, it has served him well. His faith helped him build personal connections both to Sadat and to the Israeli ­leader Menachem Begin, despite Begin’s intransigence. Yet when he finally presents his outline of a peace agreement here, he makes no new, creative proposal for the future of the holy place claimed by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. Given Carter’s sensitivity to religious issues, this is surprising and disappointing.

My comments:

a) "arguably". Well, that's an understatement. True, no war but there have been terror attacks and most of the Hamas arms are coming in through Egypt, stored there and transported to Rafah.

b) "a portion of American Jewry". That's a snide swipe at Jews who support the legitimate right of Jews to live in their homeland, who care for Israel's security and who campaign for US support for those policies as America, unlike Gorenberg it might seem, is democratic. The old "ost-juden"* complaint: it's them you should be angry at, not me who is grovelling to be accepted by liberal and progressive forces.

c) "'Holy Land', a phrase from Christian tradition". Of course, the Land of Israel is refered to in Jewish tradition as אדמת הקודש - the Holy Land but why should Gershom as a Jew know that? There is a verse that refers to Sinai where God's presence is immanent: "של נעליך מעל רגליך, כי המקום אשר אתה עומד עליו אדמת קודש הוא"
in Exodus 3:5: ...take your shoes off your feet, for the place upon which you stand is holy ground.' And since the land of Israel is where the Divine Presence is, then Eretz-Yisrael became the Holy Land. As the Prophet Zechariah 2:16 wrote ונחל יהוה את-יהודה חלקו, על אדמת הקודש; ובחר עוד, בירושלים and in English: And the LORD shall inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. And this verse in Isaiah 14:2, וְהִתְנַחֲלוּם בֵּית-יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל אַדְמַת יְה-ה - and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD. The exact term Eretz-Yisrael is in I Samuel 13:19. (Here's a 1913 book in Hebrew on The Holy Land although the Hebrew word for Land is adama rather than eretz).

Of course, if he had used "Judea and Samaria", Gorenberg would have gone ballistic.

d) and leave the Temple Mount to us.



"...the poor, despised Ostjuden, who [in the early 20th Century] were pouring into Western Europe in flight from the Russian pogroms.”

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