By Vic Rosenthal
Jewish critics of Jimmy Carter’s book who seek to discredit it by pointing out errors and omissions of fact, incorrect interpretations of UN resolutions, etc. may be missing the point.
The book seems to have two targets: one is the large community of conservative Christians who have until now been strong supporters of Israel, and for whom Carter, as a committed Baptist, has high credibility. Carter attacks Israel as a secular society that it is not a legitimate descendant of the biblical Hebrews that these Christians admire. He also blames Israel for the emigration of a large number of Christian Arabs from such places as Bethlehem (where the real cause is pressure from Muslim Palestinains). This is spelled out clearly in a recent article by Ed Lasky.
This audience is not in general well informed about such things as UN resolutions, etc., but they may be strongly affected by theological arguments and comparisons between present-day Jews and biblical Pharisees.
The other target is the organized Jewish community in the US. This audience is likely to miss or discount the religious allusions while being outraged by misstatements about UN resolutions, maps, etc. The howls of outrage from this group are precisely what Carter and his sponsors want to see, because they are grist for another argument that he makes, particularly now, as he responds in every possible venue: the argument that the organized Jewish community stifles ‘dissent’ about Israel.
So while he doesn’t particularly care to debate Alan Dershowitz, he absolutely loves it when Dershowitz demands that he do so!
Today there is a concerted attack on American support for Israel: on AIPAC, on the organized Jewish community in general, and on Christian Zionists.
The Mearsheimer/Walt paper and forthcoming book provide a veneer of academic justification to the Jewish conspiracy theory, while Carter both strikes directly at Christian suport and incidentally popularizes the theme that the Jews suppress fair discussion about Israel.