By Bernard Josephs
In the face of student protests and strong criticism from world Jewry, former US president Jimmy Carter remained unrepentant about his book Peace Not Apartheid when he received an honorary fellowship at Oxford University.
Mr Carter, 83, who hosted the Camp David accords which led to peace between Israel and Egypt, acknowledged that his written account of the Middle East crisis was controversial, but he stuck to his argument that Israel’s policies in the occupied territories amounted to apartheid.
“Apartheid is where two peoples sharing the same land are forcibly segregated and one of those people dominates the other. That is the situation in Palestine, although not in Israel proper,” he said, after being presented with the fellowship of Mansfield College by its principal, Dr Diana Walford.
According to Cherwell, the Oxford student newspaper, a group of the college’s students had signed a petition protesting about the award. One of them, Daniel Brodie, said he was shocked that Mr Carter was to be honoured because of his “clearly antisemitic rhetoric”. There was something wrong with awarding a fellowship to someone who had been “denounced very strongly” by the New York based Anti-Defamation League.
Another student, Julian Mansfield, sent an e-mail to the principal saying that awarding the former US president was “deeply misguided so soon after the publication of such a book”.
However, at the ceremony, attended by more than 100 people, Mr Carter said that South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu had termed conditions in the territories as akin to apartheid.
“The Palestinians have been forcefully removed to a tiny area of productive land and replaced by heavily subsidised [Jewish] settlements.” They were also hemmed in by a “spider’s web” of settlers’ roads, “and there is a huge dividing wall — a fence in some places — which creates a life for Palestinians that is intolerable”.
The wall was also bad for Israelis because it made the building of good relations between the two peoples “impossible”. “I have no doubt that Israeli withdrawal from the territories would reduce the terrorist threat to Israel.”
Mr Carter stressed that he, like many Americans, was dedicated to Israel’s security. However, he criticised US, European and Israeli attitudes towards the recent Palestinian elections, which saw Hamas in control of the PA and was followed by virtual civil war in Gaza.
“Israel and the US decided to punish all Palestinians for that result. They cut off aid and tax revenues owed to the PA, and tragically, European governments went along with this. The Palestinian people will not accept this separation [between Hamas and Fatah] which is inspired by Israel and the US.”
An “honest broker” role for America was essential for the peace process, he said. But the power of the pro-Israel lobby was a stumbling block. In the forthcoming US presidential election, he said, it would be “inconceivable that any politician will call for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories”.
(The Jewish Chronicle, June 29, 2007)