Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jimmy Carter Target of Malicious Lawsuit for Authoring Palestine: Peace not Apartheid

Jimmy Carter has long been the target of what MJ Rosenberg calls "the Status Quo Lobby" (he's right to deny them the "pro-Israel" label).

Now an enterprising attorney has filed a class-action suit against the former president -- and publisher Simon and Shuster -- that can only be seen as an ideologically-driven nuisance lawsuit.

From Tablet:
Yesterday, a class action (download here) was filed in Manhattan federal court accusing Jimmy Carter and Simon & Schuster of consumer fraud for the former president’s 2006 book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. It alleges that the author and publisher marketed the book as a totally factual account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in part based on the credibility of a former president and key character in the history, but that the book actually contains “demonstrable falsehoods, omissions, and knowing misrepresentations designed to promote Carter’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda.”   

Simon & Schuster, the case alleges, has refused to issue corrections despite “irrefutable proof” that key reporting in the book, which is extremely unpopular with many pro-Israel groups, does not tell the truth about events such as the 1949 and 1967 ceasefires and the 2000 negotiations at Camp David. (The book was controversial when it was published in part because of the title’s deployment of the a-word, which has since become a much more accepted part of the discourse.) 
Tablet's Marc Tracy indulges in some understatement when he writes, "the allegations in the suit remind me most of the debate you and your family likely have every year at Seder. It’s a legitimate debate, but probably not one most successfully or productively litigated in court."

In the heated debate over the Israel-Palestine conflict, there are two wholly separate sets of "facts" at play -- Jenin was or wasn't a massacre; the Palestinians walked away from a great offer at Camp David, or they didn't; either one or the other side has refused to negotiate in good faith -- and the gap between those narratives often drives intense animosity between the two camps.

I can only conclude that the attorneys in this case have embraced the Status Quo Lobby's narratives so completely that they believe they are, in fact, objective truths that can be litigated in an American court. In other words, they believe their own side's spin -- and, let's be honest, both sides do it -- is God's own wisdom.

Back when the controversy about his book first hit, Carter told the Associated Press, "I have been called a liar, I have been called an anti-Semite [and] I have been called a bigot. I have been called a plagiarist. I have been called a coward. Those kind of accusations, they concern me, but they don't detract from the fact the book is accurate and is needed." He added, "Not one of the critics of my book has contradicted any of the basic premises -- that is the horrible persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people and secondly that the formula for finding peace in the Middle East already exists."

The vilification of the former president is ironic. Rabbi Michael Lerner, one of the few voices in the Jewish community who supported Carter, called him "the best friend the Jews ever had as president of the United States." 

Carter does not claim that Israel is an apartheid state. What he does claim is that the West Bank will be a de facto apartheid situation if the current dynamics represented by the construction of the wall, by the passage of discriminatory legislation and by the inclusion of racists in the leadership -- most recently that of pro-ethnic cleansing Israeli Cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman -- continue. The only way to avoid Israel turning into an apartheid state is a genuine peace accord.
Obviously, if the plaintiffs were to prevail, it'd set a horrible precedent. Publishers would have every reason to avoid offering controversial content for fear of litigation, and the chilling effect on our discourse would be significant.

But that's the point -- to muzzle criticism of the Israeli government's policies -- to make such discussion appear beyond the pale.

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