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"Tear down this wall..."
on 24 May 2013
In 2006 former President Jimmy Carter published this book, which contains a heart-felt plea to all concerned parties: one of the world's most intractable conflicts should finally be brought to a positive resolution. The title is jarring (as it should be, in my opinion), if not provocative. So too is the cover picture, of a tall wall which (nominally) separates Israel from the Palestinian territories (nominally, in the sense that it deters Palestinians from entering Israel, but is no barrier to the continued placement of Israeli "settlements" in an area that goes by numerous names, one of them being the West Bank.) On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and told the then leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to "tear down this wall" that separated West Berlin from East Berlin. It has come to pass. And the provocative word in this book's title is "apartheid," an irrefutable reference to the system whereby a minority of whites in South Africa maintained political and economic control over a much larger black population. That system too has been dropped into the dustbin of history. Unmentioned in the book was another seemingly intractable conflict which led to three savage wars over a 75 year period, between the French and the Germans. A conflict today between those two countries is unthinkable.
Carter deserves much credit for trying to find a successful and peaceful resolution to this conflict. In part, it is his heart-felt adherence to the outlier monotheistic religion that originated in the desert areas of the Middle East: Christianity, which motivates his concerns for bringing true peace between the other two monotheistic religions in the region. His still lasting achievement, accomplished when he was President, was the Camp David accords, and subsequent peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, in 1979. And more than two and a half decades later, as a private American citizen, he is still trying to find that just peace. That alone should give the numerous 1-star reviewers pause. Fortunately, they remain outnumbered, as of this posting, by more than three to one, by the 5-star reviewers.
Fittingly, Carter's first epigraph for his book is drawn from the Bible, in particular from Genesis. He provides a most useful historical chronology of the area, commencing in 1900 B.C. He recounts his first visit to Israel in 1973, and details his subsequent relationships with so many of the Israeli, Palestinian, and other Arab leaders. The author then describes the role of the other countries in the region with this central conflict. He then devotes a chapter each to the role that subsequent American presidents have played, (or not), in attempting to resolve the conflict. There are some excellent maps that graphically portray the continued contentions among the principals. Carter's prose style is straightforward, with the essential elements of the conflict (and proposed resolutions) clearly stated. There is a most useful appendix which contains relevant UN Resolutions, such as 242 and 338, as well as the text of the Camp David accords (for some reason, he omitted the original UN Resolution, 194.)
His summation is most pertinent. He commences, in bold, that "the security of Israel must be guaranteed." And then, what he calls the "internal debate" within Israel must be resolved. And by that he touches on the crux of the problem: the OTHER conflict, between the secular and fundamentalist Jews. Although Carter does not say it explicitly, it certainly is a lot easier to resolve real estate claims when "God" is not involved. I'm now living in an area that was once an integral part of Mexico, and I've never heard what His (Her?) position was on the actions of President James K. Polk. May the gods, in their various forms, be with the Peacemakers. 5-stars, for Carter's efforts.