Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld Headshot

Cancel Carter's Speech

Posted: Updated:

President Obama should correct a terrible mistake planned for the upcoming Democratic National Convention and disinvite President Jimmy Carter. Currently Carter is scheduled to give a speech to the convention. The fact that Carter is speaking is insulting to Israel's supporters and is possibly a danger to Jews around the world.

The Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman, said about Carter: "He is flawed, he's got an obsession with Israel, a biased obsession that borders on anti-Semitism."

The U.S. Ambassador to Israel at the time of the Camp David accords -- Samuel Lewis -- told me in an interview that he once did for an old radio show of mine (called Shmoozin with Shmuel) that Carter's obsessive dislike of Israel goes back to the Camp David accords where Carter believed he was double-crossed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Whatever the reason, his views are harmful, flat out wrong, and intentionally damaging to Israel.

Let's look at Carter's book on the Middle East, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006), which has received extra attention and outsized importance because of Carter's role as a former President and Nobel Prize winner.

David Schoen, an Alabama based attorney, shared with me his research which documents the many errors in the book. He and others contend that Carter intentionally falsified facts and invented narratives in order to make Israel look bad.

Here are just a few examples:

On page 51-52 of the book Carter writes: "The Israelis have never granted any appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians."

Wrong. Since 1993 Israel has transferred forty percent of the West Bank and one hundred percent of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Only a person with a specific anti-Israel agenda could write such a thing.

Carter equally blames Ehud Barak and Yasir Arafat for the breakdown of the Camp David/Taba negotiations. Carter writes (150-151): "There was no clear statement from Prime Minister Ehud Barak but he later stated that he had twenty pages of reservations." Well, Barak might have had reservations but as the Chief US negotiator at the Camp David/Taba negotiations, Dennis Ross, pointed out (and as Carter certainly knows) in his book The Missing Peace, Prime Minister Barak accepted the plan despite his many reservations and in fact the Israeli cabinet voted to accept it.

Carter also misrepresents what Israel offered to the Palestinians. He writes (150-151) that the best offer to the Palestinians was for Israel to withdraw only twenty percent of the settlers covering an area of approximately "ten percent of the occupied land." This too is simply not true. In reality the proposed agreement called for Israel to vacate 94-96% of West Bank territory plus a land swap of 1-3% additional territory.

There are many more examples of Carter's rewriting of history, but one more will suffice. I include it since it is an example of him rewriting history in order to support what the world now sees as a brutal regime.

Carter grossly misrepresented Syria's position about its willingness to leave the Golan Heights. Carter claims in his book (p. 130) that in a 1990 meeting with Syrian President Hafez Al-Asaad, Syria proposed that each side should demilitarize the Golan Heights and that Syrian troops would actually withdraw to an even greater degree than the Israeli troops. Sounds too good to be true, no? A murderous regime whose offspring is now slaughtering its own citizens would willingly leave a land it has contested with its sworn enemy and in fact give up more land. Well, Carter claimed that that's how it happened. Yet, a former Executive Director of the Carter Center, Kenneth Stein, who actually attended those meetings with Carter, said that no such thing happened. In fact, the opposite occurred. He said that Syria said that they could not accept such a treaty which would violate their own sovereignty. Stein called Carter's book full of "gross inventions, intentional falsehoods and irresponsible remarks."

Not only did Stein resign in response to Carter's book, but fourteen other advisors of the Carter Center also resigned in protest of Carter's charges against Israel. Stein himself said that Carter put these damaging fictions in the book intentionally in order: "To make Israel appear intransigent."

Carter's narrative is basically a modern day canard against the Jewish people and the State of Israel. By wrongly putting "facts" out there that show Israel to be denying peace and promoting apartheid, he is fanning the anger of anti-Semites and potentially endangering the welfare of Jews around the world.

So why has President Obama allowed him to speak at the convention?

It is wrong to give Carter a place and the invitation should be rescinded.

Further, even if the invitation is not rescinded, President Obama should forcefully speak out against Carter's narrative of Middle East history. He should argue that Carter's views on the Middle East are not reflective of the narrative that he believes and knows to be true.

Finally, those people who are at the Democratic Convention when Carter's speech occurs have a choice to make: they can quietly listen to Carter's words and thereby give their tacit approval of his narrative or they can turn their backs and walk out of the convention. There is another option as well. Personally, I would stay in and loudly boo his speech.

Carter's gross misrepresentations make him an unworthy speaker at the Democratic convention.