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September 2000 - Return to Monthly Index           MiddleEast.Org 9/20/00
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Carter and the Arabs - MER FlashBack

              READER'S COMMENTS SO FAR THIS WEEK (9/19/00):

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 looking for independent and accurate news I go to MER."
      Musil - Cairo

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 just wish the US policy makers could see this and mend their ways."

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 "Thank you for your cogent analysis... I think you are exactly correct...
 Therefore, until the Palestinians trade in Arafat for a Ghandi or a
 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr...they will not emerge from their 'bondage,
 corruption, repression, and deception.'"

  John Wheat Gibson
  Lawyer, Dallas


                          JIMMY CARTER:


           "...wealthy and grateful Arabs have channeled
           substantial contributions to the Carter Center."

MER - Washington - 27 March:

The history of the Middle East is convoluted and tortuous indeed. It is also full of well-meaning folk, like Jimmy Carter who only made things worse; as well as so much dastardly conspiracy and hypocrisy.

As for Carter, he is the well-meaning born-again rather miserably failed "liberal" American President who brought on the era of Ronald Reagan and reduced the democratic party to Bill Clinton.

True enough, Carter may be a nice fellow, and he certainly is a good born-again Christian, but when it comes to the Middle East Carter always was a simpleton and in the end he and his friends brought only more suffering and misery to the peoples of the Middle East -- especially to the Lebanese and Palestinians whom Carter so badly mislead.

It was at Camp David, as his policies and Presidency were floundering, that Carter begged and promised Anwar Sadat to trust him.  Tragically Sadat did, though nobody else would, and indeed Sadat's friend of 40-years, and Foreign Minister, wisely resigned rather than go along with what was to result.

Within a short time Carter's promise to halt Israeli settlements vanished gutting the heart of the Camp David deal; Anwar Sadat was isolated, demoralized, and then assassinated; and the Iranian revolution soon erupted. The Israeli invasion and destruction of Lebanon, the Iraq-Iran bloodbath, the Palestinian intifada, the Gulf War, "dual-containment", and the the "peace process" -- these were all resultant from ill -conceived and even more ill-implimented policies of the Carter years.

And now we learn how direct a hand Jimmy Carter had in misleading and corrupting the once proud PLO, turning Arafat into but a stooge and puppet in the years to come. And while doing so, it just so happens we now learn that Carter was reaping in the bucks, "convincing" some of the wealthy Palestinians and Arabs -- always easy marks to squander their money if invited to the White House -- to provide large amounts of funding for his "Carter Center" in Atlanta.

Indeed, Hasib Sabbagh, the Shuman family of the Arab Bank, and others have squandered so much and achieved so little. Their legacy, in fact, is today's double occupation of their people and the Apartheid-like conditions under which Palestinians are more disenfranchised, more repressed, and more hopeless today then ever before.

So much for Jimmy Carter's well-meaning "help"; the only real beneficiary turning out to be the Carter Center which has flourished on the huge subsidies from Jimmy's Arab "friends".

The following article is from the front page of today's Boston Globe. It's a self-serving Carter-glorifying article in many ways; largely because the book in question should be considered more like a subsidized propaganda work than anything else. So make sure to read and digest this latest about Carter, and Arafat, in the context of Carter's failures and self-serving activities, rather than his "successes".


                  By Curtis Wilkie, Globe Staff

NEW ORLEANS - 03/27/98 - At a time when Yasser Arafat was regarded as a diplomatic pariah by the US government, former President Jimmy Carter secretly coached the Palestinian leader to improve his image, drafted passages for Arafat's public speeches, and counseled other leaders of the Palestinian uprising in Israeli-occupied territories, according to a forthcoming book.

''There was no world leader Jimmy Carter was more eager to know than Yasser Arafat,'' the historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in ''The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House'' to be published in May by Viking. ''Carter felt certain affinities with the Palestinian: a tendency toward hyperactivity and a workaholic disposition. ... Both men were like modern Bedouins with airplanes
instead of camels,'' always moving.

The book draws a portrait of Carter as a messianic character, infused with righteousness, working Arab back channels to change Middle East equations.
From their first meeting in 1990, Carter and Arafat ''stayed in constant communication,'' Brinkley writes. While Arafat agreed to ''distance himself'' from radical elements in the Palestine Liberation Organization, Carter encouraged the PLO chairman to describe the Palestinian plight to the ''world community'' in speeches designed ''to secure maximum sympathy.''

In one letter, written in May 1990, Carter suggested that Arafat begin an address by describing the ''abusive policies'' of the Likud government in Israel during the early stages of the intifadah. Carter recommended that Arafat say:

''Our people, who face Israeli bullets, have no weapons: only a few stones remaining when our homes are destroyed by Israeli bulldozers. Our young men and women ... want to learn ... Since January 1988, the Israelis have closed all the Palestinian universities; 93,000 of our young people are forced to spend their days on the streets, or huddled together with their families in darkened rooms under interminable curfews.''

Carter urged Arafat to use a rhetorical litany after each mention of a deprivation: ''What would you do if these were your children and grandchildren?''

It could not be determined if Arafat ever used Carter's precise language, but the PLO leader did adopt a less belligerent way of talking about Palestinian distress. At the time of the Carter letter, Arafat was still struggling to overcome the pariah status he acquired during his organization's years of violent resistance. The PLO would eventually win full recognition from the United States when Arafat appeared with the
late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a White House peace ceremony in 1993.
Brinkley, who interrupted plans for a three-volume biography of the 39th president to concentrate on Carter's career after leaving the White House, said he was given ''full access to Carter's postpresidential papers and trip reports.''

The historian conducted numerous interviews with Carter and accompanied him on trips to the Middle East and Haiti to gather material. Although the 73-year-old former president has reviewed the manuscript, Brinkley said it was agreed that the book ''would be unauthorized so I would be free to draw my own conclusions.''
Brinkley, a professor of history and director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, made page proofs of the 500-page book available to The Boston Globe.

In the book, Brinkley characterizes Carter as a ''self-styled peace outlaw'' who repeatedly defied conventions and raised the hackles of the State Department with his freelance diplomacy.

Carter's penchant for using CNN, controlled by his friend Ted Turner, as a mouthpiece led to clashes with President Clinton over policies involving North Korea and Haiti. After Clinton learned of telephone calls between Carter and Fidel Castro, Clinton ordered his foreign policy apparatus to ''keep Jimmy Carter out of Cuban policy,'' Brinkley wrote.

Carter, preparing for an overseas trip, was not available for comment.

Before his quarrels with Clinton, Carter was often in conflict with President Reagan. He regained favor with President Bush, but according to Brinkley, Bush and his defense secretary, Richard Cheney, were ''outraged'' after learning of Carter's private attempts to persuade American allies to abandon the war buildup against Iraq in 1991.

When other Arab states withheld financial support after the PLO sided with Iraq in the Gulf War, Brinkley writes, Arafat prevailed upon Carter to undertake ''a fund-raising mission for the PLO'' by flying to Saudi Arabia. ''By obtaining King Fahd's pledge of support, Carter had rendered the PLO an invaluable service,'' Brinkley writes.

Although ''The Unfinished Presidency'' follows the former president's efforts - operating out of the Carter Center in Atlanta - to resolve crises, monitor elections, and combat illness from Bosnia to Somalia over the past two decades, the most fascinating chapters deal with Carter's alliance with the Palestinians.

''The intifadah exposed the injustice Palestinians suffered just like Bull Connor's mad dogs in Birmingham,'' Carter told Brinkley in a reference to a 1960s incident in the civil rights struggle in the South.

While Carter has championed the Palestinian cause, Brinkley noted, wealthy and grateful Arabs have channeled substantial contributions to the Carter Center.
Although Carter has long identified with underdogs, it took years for his Palestinian position to evolve. Early in the first year of his presidency, Carter created a diplomatic flap by referring to a Palestinian ''homeland'' at a town meeting in Clinton, Mass. He backed away from the controversy and excluded Palestinian representatives from his Camp David summit meeting with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978. It was a decision Carter later came to regret.

After losing the White House, Brinkley writes, Carter struck up a relationship in the mid-1980s with Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American who operated a center for the study of civil disobedience in Jerusalem. ''Carter helped Awad rewrite passages of his pamphlets before they were distributed throughout the occupied territories,'' Brinkley says. Awad was later deported by the Israelis for advocating nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The Carter connection encouraged the Palestinian leadership in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip to challenge the Israeli occupation. Hanan Ashrawi, one of the most prominent of the West Bank Palestinians, told Brinkley: ''We knew Carter was working with us. That knowledge gave us strength.''

The intifadah broke out in late 1987. More than two years later, Carter called upon Mary King, a friend and his former deputy director of the agency overseeing the Peace Corps, to arrange a meeting with Arafat in Paris. In the 1960s, King had been a civil rights crusader linked to New Left causes embracing the Palestinians.

As president, Carter had been constrained from meeting with Arafat by a policy developed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and written into a law forbidding contact with the PLO. Carter called it ''an unwarranted restraint'' in an interview with The Boston Globe in 1990, shortly after his meeting with Arafat, who was then moving toward winning recognition from the United States. ''It would have been easier for us to bring about more progress toward peace if the Kissinger commitment had not been made,'' Carter said, but he felt honor-bound not to violate the policy.

Carter felt no such restraint as a private citizen. In one of his own books, ''Living Faith,'' he described his renegade philosophy: ''Jesus went to his death and Paul spent his final years in prison rather than conform to religious and secular laws which they could not accept,'' Carter wrote in 1996. ''We are not required to submit to the domination of authority without assessing whether it was contrary to our faith or beliefs.''

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