America is in the midst of a Jimmy Carter nostalgia push. The former president, having celebrated his 99th birthday last week, also announced that he is receiving palliative care. We wish him well and a long life and hope to see him celebrate his centennial.
Perhaps the Carter obsession is a reflection of America’s desire for a more civil political era. And indeed, Carter always comported himself with decency and gentlemanliness.
That is, so long as we weren’t talking about Israel.
In 2016 Carter published an op ed in the New York Times calling for the United States to recognize the country of “Palestine.” Was this the product of a moral imperative that Carter’s beloved America must embrace?
It’s instructive to read the statement Carter released upon the death of Fidel Castro just days earlier. “Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people on the death of Fidel Castro,” he wrote. “We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country. We wish the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.”
Here you have a former leader of the free world speaking warmly of the good times he had with a brutal dictator who murdered 6,000 people in front of a firing squad — in addition to the estimated hundreds of thousands of others who perished under the Cuban strongman. To read of the torture that took place in Castro’s prisons is to be sickened with gut-wrenching tales of abuse.
There is much that can be said of Jimmy Carter and his failed one-term presidency, but nothing more potent than this: few modern American leaders have ever had a more broken moral compass than the man from Plains, Georgia.
Some of Carter’s comments on world leaders have become legend. Of the blood-soaked North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung, Carter said: “I find him to be vigorous, intelligent…and in charge of the decisions about this country.” This is the Korean dictator who, together with the tyrannical son who succeeded him, starved about three million of their own people to death. Carter added, absurdly, “I don’t see that they are an outlaw nation.”
Carter hailed Yugoslavian President-for-life Marshal Josip Tito as “a man who believes in human rights,” and said of the murderous Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, “our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics. … We believe in enhancing human rights.” Carter told Haitian dictator Raul Cédras that he was “ashamed of what my country has done to your country.”
Let us also not forget that the Carter administration tried to seat the exiled Khmer Rouge as the rightful government of Cambodia even though it slaughtered one out of three Cambodians in the 1975-78 genocide.
I grew up in the United States during the 1970s, when we danced to disco music, wore leisure suits, and watched “The Brady Bunch.” But as if that weren’t torture enough, we had Jimmy Carter as president. I can still recall how unsettling it was to watch his taciturn face announcing one catastrophe after another, from the skyrocketing misery index, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to the capture of our hostages in Iran, to the tragically botched rescue attempt to free them. Fortune did not smile on Jimmy Carter and he was, poor thing, hapless at nearly everything he touched.
But Mr. Carter’s biggest failing was to be bereft of a simple ability to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys. To be sure, his heart wished to do good. It’s just that his head was often confused as to what the good was. Throughout his career he invariably found himself defending tyrants and dictators at the expense of their oppressed peoples, not because he was insensitive but because he was confused.
But all this pales in significance when compared to Carter’s special animus for Israel.
In 2006, the former president said that Israel’s policies in the West Bank were actually worse than apartheid South Africa. He followed the libel with his book in the same year, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” in which he claimed that due to “powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the U.S., Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate our media.”
Hmm… I wonder which forces he may be referring to.
But while Israel, the apartheid state, cannot be trusted, Carter told the Today Show that the party that can be trusted is Hamas.
Yes, that Hamas. The one that fires tens of thousands of rockets into Israel’s cities, the terrorist organization that slits the throats of Israeli teenagers, the monsters who engage in honor killings of Palestinian women and slaughter Palestinian homosexuals. Carter’s motto: In Hamas We Trust.
All this needs to be kept in mind as America sees a new Jimmy Carter in his twilight years, even as he continues to insist on the creation of a Palestinian state that he well knows will become a second Hamas terror state like Gaza.
Knowing how things turned out in Gaza and how that Palestinian state today lives in squalor — as Hamas commandeers most monies allotted to it to buy bullets and bombs to murder Israelis, rather than building hospitals and roads with the international aid — the question arises: Why does Jimmy Carter want to see this repeated in Judea and Samaria in the West Bank?
Is he propelled merely by ideology? Is he simply an amoral dreamer who embraces a classic ideology of “underdogma,” choosing to elevate any party that seems to be the weaker one?
Or is he also motivated by cold, hard cash?
It was Professor Alan Dershowitz who detailed, in a series of articles, the millions of dollars of funding that Carter has personally and institutionally taken from leading Arab sources — including former Saudi King Fahd; the now-defunct BCCI bank, which was controlled indirectly by the Saudi royal family, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and Agha Hasan Abedi, among others.
As Dershowitz wrote:
“Recent disclosures of Carter’s extensive financial connections to Arab oil money, particularly from Saudi Arabia, had deeply shaken my belief in his integrity. When I was first told that he received a monetary reward in the name of Shiekh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and kept the money, even after Harvard returned money from the same source because of its anti-Semitic history, I simply did not believe it. How could a man of such apparent integrity enrich himself with dirty money from so dirty a source? … The Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up, a think-tank funded by the Shiekh and run by his son, hosted speakers who called Jews ‘the enemies of all nations,’ attributed the assassination of John Kennedy to Israel and the Mossad, and the 9/11 attacks to the United States’ own military, and stated that the Holocaust was a ‘fable.’ (They also hosted a speech by Jimmy Carter.) To its credit, Harvard turned the money back. To his discredit, Carter did not.”
These millions, some of which even went to bail out the Carter family peanut business in the late 1970s, help us understand how someone so seemingly smart can be so silly, and how someone so pure can be so biased.
As I have long said — and actually believe — Jimmy Carter is not anti-Israel and he is certainly not an antisemite.
Rather, he is simply a man with a price.
That is not to say that we do not wish him well, and I have prayed, and continue to pray, for his full recovery. It is to say that even as America lionizes him in his sunset years, we should never forget why he was so soundly rejected by Americans at the ballot box.
Shmuley Boteach of Englewood is the author of “The Israel Warrior: Standing Up for the Jewish State from Campus to Street Corner.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.