I grew up in the United States during the 1970’s, the one decade universally acknowledged to have truly sucked. In 1970’s America 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 our president.
I can still recall just how depressing it was to watch his taciturn face on TV 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 attempt to rescue them. Jimmy Carter was arguably the most hapless president in all American history.
But with the 2007 publication of his ignorant rant against Israel, “Palestine Peace not Apartheid,” many came to believe that Jimmy Carter was not just a loser but an anti-Semite. I disagree. Jimmy Carter is not so much anti-Semitic as anti-intellectual, not so much a Jew-hater as a boor. The real explanation behind Jimmy Carter’s limitless hostility to Israel is a total lack of moral understanding. Jimmy Carter wants to do what’s just. His heart’s in the right place. He is, and always has been, a well-meaning imbecile, a well-intentioned fool, a man of good intentions bereft of good judgment. He invariably finds himself defending tyrants and dictators at the expense of their oppressed peoples. Not because he is a bad man, but because he is a confused man.
More troubling than the prattlings of an unpopular one-term president from nearly 40 years ago is the current furor over Secretary of State John Kerry. On Friday, Mr. Kerry told a roomful of influential world leaders that Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state” if no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be found in the near future. It wasn’t until Mr. Kerry realized his “apartheid” remark had been taped that he walked back his comments and firmed up his support for the Jewish state.
Those like Mr. Kerry and Mr. Carter subscribe to what I call the ‘always root for the underdog’ school of morality. Rather than developing any real understanding of a conflict, they side immediately with the weaker party, however wicked or immoral.
Israel has tanks and F-16’s. The Palestinians don’t. Therefore, the Palestinians are being oppressed. Never mind that the Palestinians have rejected every offer to live side by side with Israel in peace, and have just formed a “unity” government pledged to Israel’s annihilation. Their poverty dictates the righteousness of their cause even if their actions speak otherwise. If Israel builds a barrier to cordon off the Palestinians, it is not to prevent their suicide bombers from dismembering children but to punish them for having darker skin.
Mr. Carter’s obsession with the unrighteous underdog has embarrassed him many times before. It was what motivated him to visit and legitimize Fidel Castro and take his side in a bio-weapons dispute with the United States. Mr. Castro runs a tiny island in the shadow of the world’s Superpower. He must therefore be a victim of American bullying, even if he is a brutal dictator and tyrant.
Championing the unrighteous underdog also led Mr. Carter to praise the murderous North Korean tyrant Kim Il Sung with these words: “I find him to be vigorous, intelligent,…and in charge of the decisions about this country.” He added, “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 the murderous Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, “Our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics . . . We believe in enhancing human rights.” Championing the underdog also had Carter tell the Haitian dictator Raul Cédras that he was “ashamed of what my country has done to your country.”
As a marital counselor, I have met many well-meaning arbitrators who always take the side of the wife in an ugly dispute in the belief that a woman is always the innocent and aggrieved party. Even where the evidence pointed to the wife being violent and unreasonable, the arbitrator could not conceive of the husband as anything but oppressor. Such arbitrators cause more harm than good, which is why Jimmy Carter would make an even worse marital counselor than he was president.
No, Jimmy Carter is not anti-Semitic so much as a man whose lack of judgment and shallowness renders him incapable of telling right from wrong.
The obscene comparison of Israel with apartheid South Africa ignores the fact that Israel is the first country to airlift tens of thousands of black Africans to become free and full citizens in its borders, a phenomenon that has no precedent in the history of the world.
By saying that the Palestinians are being subjected to apartheid Mr. Carter has grossly maligned not Jews but black South Africans. Whereas black South Africans inspired the world with their humane capacity for forgiveness and peaceful coexistence with their white brethren, even after having been so egregiously wronged, the Palestinians have unfortunately embraced murderous hatred and racism. Arab newspapers are filled with grotesque caricatures of Jews, and the Palestinians teach kindergarten children to grow up and blow up Israeli buses. Nelson Mandela rose to become the world’s greatest statesman with his articulation of brotherhood and reconciliation. But Yasser Arafat fathered international terrorism and stole hundreds of millions of dollars from his own people who continue to live in abject poverty.
John Kerry and Jimmy Carter have good intentions. But before one runs around the world as a global do-gooder, one should first develop the ability to identify the good.
Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 30 books and has just published Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.