THE SPINE DECEMBER 6, 2006
Jimmy Carter is now embroiled in the kind of controversy that no former president of the United States has ever been embroiled in before. The question is about simple truth. Carter has lied, lied so brazenly that he is not to be trusted about any assertion he makes ever again. I know that he has a big fan club in the Democratic Party, and that is the party's own and particular problem. Either he is in the Michael Moore wing of the party, or Michael Moore is in the Jimmy Carter wing of the party. Either way, that wing is rotten to the core, rotten, dishonest, demagogic, and bigoted. I've read Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, and I've read much of it twice. I've written about it here before. Now, Kenneth Stein, a scrupulous scholar who has published work with which I don't exactly concur, has sent an open letter to friends and colleagues saying that he can no longer be a Fellow of the Carter Center at Emory University. His reason: That Carter is a prevaricator, a phantast, an inventor of tall tales.
Now, Ken Stein is no ordinary academic. He is a distinguished researcher and professor in the field of Middle Eastern studies. His book, The Land Question in Palestine, is a path-breaking book, illuminating matters that had long been lain obscured in the archives of the British Mandate, the Central Zionist Archives, and various Arab depositories. No one who thinks seriously about the conflict between the Zionists and the Arabs of Palestine can speak with any authority without reading this volume and other scholarly articles by Stein. Below is a letter from Stein resigning from the Carter Center of which for a long time he was the luminous intellectual center.
Simon and Schuster is the publisher of the Carter volume. Shame on them. Magazines have fact-checkers. Apparently book publishers don't. Some of them publish any crap that comes.
Hi--This note is to inform you that yesterday, I sent letters to President Jimmy Carter, Emory University President Jim Wagner, and Dr. John Hardman, Executive Director of the Carter Center resigning my position, effectively immediately, as Middle East Fellow of the Carter Center of Emory University. This ends my 23 year association with an institution that in some small way I helped shape and develop. My joint academic position in Emory College in the History and Political Science Departments, and, as Director of the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel remains unchanged. Many still believe that I have an active association with the Center and, act as an adviser to President Carter, neither is the case. President Carter has intermittently continued to come to the Arab-Israeli Conflict class I teach in Emory College. He gives undergraduate students a fine first hand recollection of the Begin-Sadat negotiations of the late 1970s. Since I left the Center physically thirteen years ago, the Middle East program of the Center has waned as has my status as a Carter Center Fellow. For the record, I had nothing to do with the research, preparation, writing, or review of President Carter's recent publication. Any material which he used from the book we did together in 1984, The Blood of Abraham, he used unilaterally. President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; 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. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew
sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins. The decade I spent at the Carter Center (1983-1993) as the first permanent Executive Director and as the first Fellow were intellectually enriching for Emory as an institution, the general public, the interns who learned with us, and for me professionally. Setting standards for rigorous interchange and careful analyses spilled out to the other programs that shaped the Center's early years. There was mutual respect for all views; we carefully avoided polemics or special pleading. This book does not hold to those standards. My continued association with the Center leaves the impression that I am sanctioning a series of egregious errors and polemical conclusions which appeared in President Carter's book. I can not allow that impression to stand. Through Emory College, I have continued my professional commitment to inform students and the general public about the history and politics of Israel, the Middle East, and American policies toward the region. I have tried to remain true to a life-time devotion to scholarly excellence based upon unvarnished analyses and intellectual integrity. I hold fast to the notion that academic settings and those in positions of influence must teach and not preach. Through Emory College, in public lectures, and in OP/ED writings, I have adhered to the strong belief that history must be presented in context, and understood the way it was, not the way we wish it to be. In closing, let me thank you for your friendship, past and continuing support for ISMI, and to Emory College. Let me also wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season, and a healthy and productive new year. As ever,Ken