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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Posted: September 30, 2009 06:44 PM

Jimmy Carter's Price Tag

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You've got to admire Jimmy Carter. No matter how wrong he is, no matter how many times he is refuted, no matter how inane his ramblings, he just keeps on coming back for more. Forget the fact that he was eviscerated in a landslide election where the American people overwhelmingly voted to shoo him from the presidency. And forget the fact that historians and the public rate him as arguably the worst president of all time. Carter doesn't seem to have gotten the message. We're stuck with him forever. He just won't go away.

Most recently Carter shared his penetrating insight that opposition to President Obama is fueled by racism. Obama himself disagreed with the great oracle from Plains. More importantly, Obama's biggest critics still like him a lot more than the ex-President, even though Jimmy is a white man.

But leaving aside that inconvenient fact for a moment, it seems incredible that Carter would accuse Obama's critics of racism when around the world Carter is perceived to be an anti-Semite. His nonstop criticism of Israel as an apartheid state and his refusal to acknowledge Israel's right to defend itself -- he has accused Israel of atrocities in Gaza while not leveling similar criticism at the Hamas terror organization which rained incessant missiles on Israeli families - has confirmed in the minds of many that Carter just has a bit of a problem with the Jewish state.

But I for one have never bought it.

Carter, I have argued, is not so much an anti-Semite as, what Lenin famously called, 'a useful idiot,' his mistake being to always side with the weaker party in a conflict notwithstanding their immorality. Let us never forget that the Carter Administration tried to seat the exiled Khmer Rouge as the rightful government of Cambodia even though they slaughtered one out of three Cambodians. For Carter, weakness was itself a sign of righteousness.

I grew up in the United States during the 1970s when we danced to disco music, wore leisure suits, and watched The Brady Bunch. But as if that weren't torture enough, we had Jimmy Carter as president. I can still recall how depressing it was to watch his taciturn face announcing one catastrophe after another, from the skyrocketing misery index, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to the capture of our hostages in Iran, to the tragically botched rescue attempt to free them. Fortune did not smile on Jimmy Carter and he was, poor thing, hapless at everything he touched.

But Carter's biggest failing was to be bereft of a moral compass. To be sure, his heart wished to do good. It's just that his head was often confused as to what the good was. Throughout his career he invariably found himself defending tyrants and dictators at the expense of their oppressed peoples, not because he was an insensitive man but rather because he was a confused man.

Carter always subscribed to what my friend Michael Scroccaro calls 'Underdogma,' a knee-jerk reaction to champion the cause of the underdog, however immoral. Poverty dictates virtue and weakness dictates righteousness. So, if the Israelis have jet-fighters and the Palestinians only Katyushas then that must necessarily mean that the Israelis are the guilty party.

Carter's obsession underdog obsession is what motivated him to legitimize Fidel Castro and take his side in a bio-weapons dispute with the United States and to praise North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung with the words: "I find him to be vigorous, intelligent,...and in charge of the decisions about this country." Carter added absurdly, "I don't see that they [the North Koreans] are an outlaw nation." He also hailed Marshal Joseph Tito as "a man who believes in human rights," and said of murderous Romanian dictator Nicolas Ceausescu, "Our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics . . . We believe in enhancing human rights." Carter also told Haitian dictator Raul Cédras that he was "ashamed of what my country has done to your country," which made most Americans ashamed of Jimmy Carter.

From all this I concluded that Jimmy Carter was not anti-Semite so much as a man hopelessly naïve and utterly lacking in moral judgment. Truly, a well-meaning idiot.

To be sure, I received a great deal of criticism from informed and intelligent readers who told me I was the one who hopelessly naïve. Jimmy Carter was a glaring anti-Semite. Was I blinded by my own theory?

Therefore, when Carter said in 2006 that Israel's policies in the West Bank were actually worse than apartheid South Africa, I began to question whether my readers were right. When he followed up in his 2009 book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" that due to "powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the U.S., Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate our media," I said to myself anyone who rolls out the old Jews-control-the-world theory probably is an anti-Semite. And then the clincher seemed to be Carter's recent pronouncement that "the key factor that prevents peace is the continuing building of Israeli settlements in Palestine, driven by a determined minority of Israelis who desire to occupy and colonize east Jerusalem and the West Bank." You mean Palestinian terrorism, Arab aversion to democracy, and sixty years of Arab wars to annihilate Israel had nothing to do with the absence of peace? Surely this man was a bigot! And yet, something inside told me that Carter did not harbor any unnatural hostility to Jews.

I was therefore delighted to chance upon Prof. Alan Dershowitz's outstanding series of articles detailing the millions of dollars of known funding that Carter has personally and institutionally taken from leading Arab sources, including Saudi King Fahd, the now-defunct BCCI bank that was controlled indirectly the Saudi royal family, Shiekh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and Agha Hasan Abedi, among others. These millions, some of which even went to bail-out the Carter family peanut business in the late 1970s, finally vindicated my earlier theory.

Jimmy Carter is not an anti-Semite. He is simply a man with a price.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. His newest book is 'The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation.' www.shmuley.com.