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Michael Smerconish Headshot

He Comes in Peace?

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Every day when my radio show ends, I gather with my producers, critique that day's show and plan the next. One such meeting was recently interrupted by a telephone call. "Amber" was on hold for me, but I had not a clue who she was nor what her call concerned. Amber? Sounds like someone you'd meet at a Gentleman's Club and Steak House.

She was calling me with former President Jimmy Carter on the line for an interview concerning his new book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. I was embarrassed. I pride myself on reading the books for authors I am to interview, but in this instance, I had not seen, much less read the book.

Nevertheless, I took the call and rolled tape, determined to be deferential to a former Commander in Chief and hoping to get a few sound bytes about the day's news, which concerned the release of the Iraq Study Commission Report.

As President Carter spoke, I quickly accessed a blog at HuffingtonPost.com wherein Professor Alan Dershowitz had taken issue with the use of the word "apartheid" in the title of President Carter's book.

Dershowitz had written "His bias against Israel shows by his selection of the book's title: Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. The suggestion that without peace Israel is an apartheid state analogous to South Africa is simply wrong. The basic evil of South African apartheid, against which I and so many other Jews fought, was the absolute control over a majority of blacks by a small minority of whites. It was the opposite of democracy."

My mere mention of Dershowitz's name caused the former President to audibly blanche. The interview for which I was woefully unprepared suddenly turned very interesting.

President Carter responded, "Well he obviously didn't even read the title, do you see 'Israel' in the title? No, it's about Palestine, it's not about Israel. It's about the land that Israel is occupying that belongs to the Palestinians and that's the only place that apartheid applies."

I shared with him my impression that no amount of negotiation relative to borders would ever appease the Palestinians, and that they want it all.

I told him I was mindful that Yasser Arafat used to parade around in a military uniform with patch featuring the Middle East as he envisioned it - containing no Israel whatsoever. And to that end, I told him "The concern that I have in handing back the West Bank and Gaza is that's not enough to appease these folks...I think they want it all and they don't want any Israel."

To which President Carter testily responded "Well, and you're mistaken I think but thanks a lot."

When the call ended, I was stunned by the change I had heard in his demeanor. So I called Professor Dershowitz, and played him the tape. Dershowitz was not surprised.

He told me "Jimmy Carter has refused to be on the same program with anybody who has a different point of view and who knows the facts because he's spewing nonsense. His facts are all wrong and his information is all skewed. He makes it seem as if Israel doesn't want peace and Hamas and the PLO and Arafat want peace. He forgets to mention that in 1967 when Israel, in response to an attack by Jordan, captured the West Bank it offered it back immediately if the Palestinians would accept 242, the resolution he talks about. The Palestinians and Arabs went to Khartum and issued their three famous 'no's': 'No peace, no recognition, no negotiation'

He continued, "Israel said we accept it and we'll give it back. They gave back the Gaza, they offered to give back the West Bank and end the occupation in 2000-2001. Jimmy Carter believes Yasser Arafat's account of 2000 and 2001 over Bill Clinton's and that speaks volumes. He essentially calls the President of the United States a liar because Bill Clinton says it was Arafat who turned down the opportunity for a Palestinian state in 2000-2001 and Jimmy Carter says, 'No no no, it was the Israelis who turned it down it was the Israeli's fault.' Jimmy Carter chooses to believe what Arafat says, what Hamas says, he just doesn't like Israel."

Already the episode was feeling surreal. So maybe I should not have been surprised when not long after it ended, I was provided with a release from Real Peace Productions, an entity producing a movie directed by Jonathan Demme entitled He Comes in Peace: The President Carter Documentary about the release of Carter's book. Demme was apparently rolling tape at Carter's end of the conversation. My off the cuff interview now has a chance to go Hollywood.

And the controversy continues to grow.

Recently 14 members of the Carter Center's advisory board have now resigned. Among other things, I suspect, as was highlighted in the NY Post they were dismayed by what they saw on page 213:

"It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel."

In other words, just keep killing innocent folks until then.


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