Public Comment

Commentary: Praise for Carter Book Unwarranted

By Rachel Neuwirth
Tuesday January 23, 2007

I am not familiar with the curriculum of the “Peace and Conflict Studies” at UC Berkeley. But if Matthew Taylor’s latest article (“Jimmy Carter: The Courage to Tell the Truth”) reflects the standards of the P&CS, I can only despair of its future graduates. For it seems to me that the resolution of conflicts and the search for peace ought to be primarily based on factual truths. Only when these facts are sought, understood, analyzed and corroborated, can we address the source of the conflict and propose a peaceful solution. It is clear that Matthew Taylor has done none of that. He just plunged head on into a sycophantic praise of Jimmy Carter and his book, without the slightest effort at fact finding. 

Taylor’s comments are replete with the usual unsubstantiated accusations against Israel: it “violated international law”; it pursues “territorial expansion”; it “oppresses…dispossesses… the indigenous population”; its “colonizers…steal [Palestinians’] lands”; it is guilty of “ethnic cleansing and apartheid”, etc. All this and more is true according to Jimmy Carter, and Taylor insists that Carter “tells us the truth.” To support these accusations, Taylor refers to the authority of “historians”, Ilan Pappe being among the most notorious. Pappe is a man for whom truth has no intrinsic value. This is apparent in all his ideologically tainted books and he did not shrink from stating it openly: “We do [historiography] because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers... ‘there is no such thing as truth, only a collection of narratives’…’Historical research need not be based on facts’.” Pappe’s candid admission should discredit him outright and give pause to all those who use his “findings” to prop their own misrepresentations. 

Taylor also holds Jeff Halper in high esteem, a dubious source who is financed by foreign groups hostile to Israel, who applauded the Durban Conference of September 2001, and who militates against the existence of a Jewish State, while never finding any Palestinian guilt or responsibility for their murderous activities. I do hope Halper receives the Nobel Peace Prize for which he has been nominated. He will be in the company of kindred spirits: terrorist Yasser Arafat, scandal ridden Kofi Annan and fact-distorter Jimmy Carter. 

On the only occurrence where Taylor refers indirectly to an historical document (the Mandate for Palestine), he manages to distort its purpose. He writes: “[Israel has taken] an enormous bite out of the 22 percent of British mandatory Palestine that the Palestine Liberation Organization has claimed as its state since 1988.” Had he read the document, Taylor would have realized that British mandatory Palestine, in its entirety, was exclusively allocated to the Jewish nation by international law and that “no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power” (Art. 5). It is a bit disconcerting that Taylor would consider a mere “claim” by the PLO raised 66 years later as legally valid. 

Taylor’s comments do not meet the lowest analytical standards. His merit, however, is to demonstrate that any attempt to rescue Jimmy Carter’s dismal account can only rely on fraudulent sources, on factual distortions and on avoiding any reference to historic documents. If I were Jimmy Carter, I would gently urge Taylor to withdraw his praising evaluation, lest the former President’s credibility is further tarnished. 


Rachel Neuwirth is a Los Angeles resident.