Latest update: August 10th, 2012
Imagine this: two Jews, one opinion!
And not only two Jews, but two Jewish organizations, one representing Jewish Democrats and one representing Jewish Republicans, and there is still only one opinion.
Who accomplished this miracle? None other than former US president Jimmy Carter.
In what may be a first, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council agree on something, and it is something important. They agree that former US president Jimmy Carter should not be speaking at the upcoming Democratic Convention which will take place September 3 – 6 at the Time-Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Democratic National Committee announced this week that Carter will be appearing via videolink in a prime time slot during the upcoming convention. The announcement included a quote from Carter who expressed his “steadfast” support for President Obama and who looks forward to “the progress he will make in the next four years.”
Given President Obama’s recent outreach efforts to assure Jews they still have a comfortable berth in the Democratic party, it is hard to understand why a platform would be given to Carter. Jimmy Carter is the only Democrat to have garnered fewer than fifty percent of the American Jewish vote in any presidential election since 1924. In 1980, when Carter ran against Ronald Reagan, Carter received only 45 percent of the Jewish vote.
In the press release announcing Carter’s participation in the convention, the 2012 Democratic National Convention Chair, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, described Carter as “one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of our time and a champion of democracy around the globe,” and a “lifelong champion of human rights.” However, not everyone — even within the Democratic party — was quite so enthusiastic.
NJDC chair and CEO David Harris called Carter’s record on Israel and the Middle East an embarrassment. Harris also described former President Carter as “harmful to the peace process.”
Speaking from the same page as his Democrat Party colleague, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, responded to the news of Carter being headlined at the Democratic convention in only a slightly more hostile tone. In an email to Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, Brooks described Carter as “openly hostile to Israel,” and having publicly equated the Jewish Homeland to the South African Apartheid regime. In 2006 Carter published a book about the Middle East peace process which largely blamed Israel for the conflict. The title of Carter’s book is Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
The Jewish Republicans also took the opportunity to blast the Democratic party for showcasing someone who is widely seen as anti-Israel.
But the NJDC’s Harris was still hoping to minimize the fallout from Carter being showcased at the Democratic convention. While clearly distancing himself from Carter, Harris said he was “confident” that the former president would not be using his speech to talk about Middle East policy.
Perhaps Harris has not read the Democratic National Committee press release announcing Carter’s slot at the convention. It promises Carter will be providing “his unique insights about President Obama as a global leader,” and lauds Carter for being “a champion of democracy around the globe.” It is hard to imagine that Carter will not devote at least some air time to promoting his version of peace in the Middle East.
Nonetheless, perhaps Jimmy Carter deserves another peace prize – forget about the enmity between Israel and Egypt, now he is the impetus for two sets of many Jews to have the same opinion. That opinion: Jimmy Carter should not be speaking at the Democratic Convention.
Carter will give his videolinked convention speech on Tuesday night, September 4th.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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