It is fitting that the Nobel Peace Prize committee, two of whose members not long ago called for the revocation of Shimon Peres's 1994 award, has awarded this year's prize to former US president Jimmy Carter. Like that of the Nobel committee members, Carter's record of bias against Israel is a matter of public record.
"The intifada," Carter once told biographer Douglas Brinkley, "exposed the injustice Palestinians suffered, just like Bull Connor's mad dogs in Birmingham."
But comparing Israel to the Jim Crow South was just the tip of the iceberg. In Carter's first meeting with Arafat, in 1990, the former president told the Palestinian strongman, "You should not be concerned that I am biased. I am much more harsh with the Israelis." Shortly thereafter, Carter volunteered his services as an Arafat speech-writing consultant. A sample: "The objective of the speech should be to secure maximum sympathy and support of other world leaders.... A good opening would be to outline the key points of the Save the Children report.... Then ask: 'What would you do, if these were your children and grandchildren? As the Palestinian leader, I share the responsibility for them. Our response has been to urge peace talks, but the Israeli leaders have refused, and our children continue to suffer. Our people, who face Israeli bullets, have no weapons: Only a few stones remaining when our homes are destroyed by the Israeli bulldozers...'"
More recently, in a New York Times op-ed, Carter called on the US to reconsider military and economic aid to Israel. US arms, he wrote, should only be employed by Israelis for "defensive" purposes, purposes he believed Israel had violated in the "recent destruction of Jenin and other towns in the West Bank." Carter also argued that withholding from Israel the $10 million per day of US aid, as the first Bush administration had threatened in 1992, could serve as a "persuasive factor" in bringing the government of Ariel Sharon to heel. At the same time, he suggested no "persuasive factors" against Arafat to help curb terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Yet it would be wrong to say that Carter's sympathy for dictators extends to Arafat alone. As Jay Nordlinger usefully summarizes in National Review, Carter described Yugoslav strongman Marshal Josep Tito as "a man who believes in human rights." Regarding North Korea's dearly departed Kim Il-Sung, Carter found him "vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well-informed about the technical issues, and in charge of the decisions about this country," adding "I don't see that [North Koreans] are an outlaw nation." Ditto for Ethiopia's Mengistu, Poland's Gierek, Syria's [Hafez] Assad, Nicaragua's Ortega, and Romania's Ceausescu.
Nor should it be said that the thrusts of Carter's political animus are concentrated on Israel alone. Far from it. Of the current president (who graciously telephoned Carter to congratulate him on his prize), the former president said: "I don't think that George W. Bush has any particular commitment to preservation of the principles of human rights." As for former president Bush, in 1990 Carter personally lobbied permanent members of the UN Security Council to block that administration's efforts against Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the Gulf War.
All this, as mentioned above, is perfectly in keeping with the mentality of the committee that awards the peace prize. Gunnar Berge, the Nobel committee chairman, expressly said Carter's award "should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken," adding that it was "a kick in the legs." Of this, even the Times commented that while "the peace prize often carries a political message... never before has it been so pointed."
We are, of course, aware of the work Carter and his Atlanta-based Carter Center have done in fighting tropical diseases, improving agricultural methods in the developing world, and monitoring elections. Some of this is worthy of praise, if not quite of a Nobel Prize. Yet in its citation, the Nobel committee focused principally on Carter's political efforts. In the main, these have been a scandal. Then again, so is the Nobel Peace Prize committee. They and Jimmy Carter richly deserve each other.
©2002 - Jerusalem Post