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Professor Describes Carter 'Inaccuracies'

By Rachel Zelkowitz Posted: 12/12/2006
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Matthew Steinberg
Kenneth Stein, director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel, says President Carter misrepresented facts in his book on the Palestinian territories.
Emory's top expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict outlined his criticisms of Jimmy Carter's new book on Monday, charging the former president with distorting the history of Arab-Israeli relations.

Professor Kenneth Stein, who resigned last week from his post at The Carter Center over the book, listed two "egregious and inexcusable errors" and several other inaccuracies in Carter's Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.

Although Carter has insisted in several interviews that his book contains no factual errors, Stein said the president misrepresents the wording of key security council resolutions and negotiated documents, including the Camp David Accords, which Carter himself negotiated.

"History gives no refunds, no do overs," Stein said in his class on the Arab-Israeli conflict, where he presented his criticisms of the Carter book. "You have to take what is and build on it. You can't bend the [facts] to suit a need."

Stein, who worked closely with Carter in the 1980s, said the former president's first error concerns United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. Signed in November 1967, the agreement has been used as the basis for all subsequent Arab-Israeli negotiations.

In his book, Carter writes that the resolution says, "Israel must withdraw from occupied territories" it acquired by force during the Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

But the word "must" never appears in the actual U.N. resolution text.

Stein argued that each word in the resolution was carefully chosen and by inserting the word "must," Carter changed the implications of this key resolution.

Stein said Carter makes a second "inexcusable" error in describing the impact of the 1978 Camp David Accords, which details how Egypt and Israel would normalize relations.

Carter writes that the accords called for "the dismantling of [Israeli] settlements on Egyptian land." But the accords never actually refer to the settlements. In fact, the Israeli leader at the time, Menachem Begin, was so opposed to discussing the issue that he wouldn't have signed any document mentioning them, Stein said.

Stein's third objection to Carter's book is that the former president de-emphasizes the importance of U.N. Resolution 242, he said.

This resolution called for the "territorial integrity, political sovereignty and independence of all states in the region." By emphasizing subsequent resolutions over 242, Stein said, Carter suggests that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict could be imposed on the states by an outside party. That would change the central premise of all Arab-Israeli negotiations, Stein said.

"As soon as [Carter] put the idea out there, he made it an issue of debate," Stein said.

Carter has consistently defended his book's accuracy against Stein and other critics.

Deanna Congileo, Carter's press secretary, wrote in a statement that Carter had his book reviewed for accuracy throughout the writing process.

"As with all of President Carter's previous books, any detected errors will be corrected in later editions," Congileo wrote.

Carter Center Research Director Steven Hochman, who also fact checked Palestine, declined to comment further on Stein's individual criticisms.

Besides his major concerns, Stein pointed out Carter's use of inaccurate dates. For example, Carter said he met with Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad in Switzerland in June 1977 when he actually met Assad in May. Additionally, Stein said Carter mistakenly wrote that Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir resigned in June 1974 when, in fact, she resigned a month earlier.

Stein also took issue with Carter's account of the now-infamous Egyptian Cement Scandal. Carter wrote that "authorities" intercepted humanitarian aid in 2004 and sold it for profit, but he did not specify that it was the Palestinian authorities who intercepted the aid. This could lead readers to believe the Israeli authorities seized the aid, Stein said.

"If he intentionally didn't put 'Israelis' in there, then that's an error of commission, not omission," Stein said.

Finally, the professor contested Carter's description of the West Bank wall that the Israeli government constructed to prevent terrorist attacks.

In his book, Carter says the wall "separates Palestinians from other Palestinians."

But Stein said the wall separates Israelis from Palestinians in all but a few sections. Any comparison to apartheid - in which the South African government forced blacks to live in disparate "homelands" scattered throughout the country - is unfair, Stein said.

The apartheid reference in the book's title has triggered much debate and criticism from prominent figures such as the Anti-Defamation League and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

But Stein said Carter's choice of title was not at issue, just his treatment of the facts.

To achieve last peace, the Israelis and Palestinians must be willing to sit down and negotiate with each other, Stein said.

"[A book can] shape outlooks and cause sides to feel attacked or emboldened," he said. "Rather than shedding light, this [book] sheds heat. That's the essence of it."

- Contact Rachel Zelkowitz at rzelkow@learnlink.emory.edu

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