Standing Up for Jimmy Carter's Use of the Word 'Apartheid'

Jimmy Carter’s use of the word “apartheid” in the title of his new book has generated a lot of controversy—the Washington Post reporting that a Middle East scholar has angrily resigned his affiliation with the Carter Center over Carter’s book. The Democratic Party has of course banished Carter over the word, and, inevitably, Dershowitz has castigated the gentlemanly old prez.

The word is obviously loaded, as it echoes the South African regime that oppressed blacks, denying them many rights. Apartheid literally means separateness; and it’s worth pointing out that the Israelis themselves call their forbidding wall, which goes well east of the Green Line, sometimes encircling Palestinian villages, a “separation fence.” More importantly, if you’ve visited the Occupied Territories, apartheid seems a fair description of the isolation and abuse the Palestinians experience, and the denial of so many rights, including the freedom to move about, the freedom to seek employment. In this interview on Youtube, you can watch Avichai Sharon of Breaking the Silence describe how as an IDF soldier he used to confiscate Palestinians’ cars for minor infractions and seize their keys and never return them, simply forget about them. There was a box of keys at his headquarters; no one had bothered to give them back. Jimmy Carter and a South African church leaderI met in Hebron both say that the Israeli treatment of Palestinians is in some ways “worse” than apartheid.

Apartheid is now a general term (with of course a South African shadow). According to the U.N.’s description, it means denying a subject group of different ethnicity “basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

The journalists who are now piping the Israel lobby’s objections should visit the Occupied Territories and report for themselves on the real conditions of the Palestinians.