Does Jimmy Carter have a mute button? And if so, can someone please press it?
The former U.S. president has made headlines with Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, a new, one-sided book that rewrites history to cast Israel as the Middle East's main villain. As Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz wrote on these pages earlier this month, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid "is so biased that it raises the question of what would motivate a decent man like Jimmy Carter to write such an indecent book."
Last week, Mr. Carter went further. He declared that the decision of Western nations to withhold aid from the Palestinian Authority's Hamas-led government is criminal. "It's a crime against the people of Palestine," Mr. Carter told CBC News. "For Canada and others to punish the Palestinian people because they voted for their candidates of choice, I think is literally a crime."
In the same interview, Mr. Carter upped the ante on the offensive premise embedded in his book's title: "There is in many ways a much more serious deprivation of human rights among the Palestinians ... than even there was in South Africa" (our emphasis).
It is outrageous to compare Israel's anti-terrorism policies to those of Apartheid-era South Africa. In the case of South Africa, the abominable treatment of blacks was motivated by a fundamentally racist, white supremacist mindset. In Israel, by contrast, such overt racism is confined to the militant fringe of national politics. As for the security fence, the checkpoints, the Gaza incursions and all the other tactics Mr. Carter deplores -- they are motivated by one thing only: a desire to stop Palestinian terrorism.
Mr. Carter's slur on Canada and other Western nations is equally unwarranted. What "crime" is there in Ottawa's decision to withhold foreign aid from a Palestinian government publicly committed to the destruction of a neighbouring state?
Until recently, the Palestinians received more foreign aid, per capita, than any people on the face of the Earth. When Hamas definitively renounces terrorism and accepts Israel's existence, perhaps that aid can be restored.
We are not the only ones outraged by Mr. Carter's accusations. In response to his new book, Kenneth Stein, a Middle East expert and longtime Carter advisor, quit his fellowship at the Atlanta-based Carter Center (motto: "Waging peace. Fighting disease. Building hope") in protest. By his account, his former boss's book is not only biased, it distorts the historical events to which Mr. Carter bore personal witness.
"President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analysis," Mr. Stein wrote in a letter to Mr. Carter. "It is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments ... Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book."
We salute Mr. Stein for his principled act. As for Mr. Carter, his proper punishment should be a loss of credibility on the world stage. As Mr. Dershowitz concluded, his "ahistorical, one-sided brief against Israel forever disqualifies him from playing any positive role in fairly resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."
Remember that the next time Mr. Carter accuses Israel -- or Canada -- of perpetrating "crimes" against the Palestinians.