Latest update: April 9th, 2013
Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law is scheduled to present former U.S. president Jimmy Carter with the “International Advocate for Peace” Award this Wednesday, April 10.
Since leaving the presidency, former president Carter has been present in many places around the globe where tremendous conflict has taken – and continues to take – place. With respect to the conflicts foremost in the minds of pro-Israel Jews and other Zionists, the role Carter has played has been wildly unpopular.
The award is being presented by the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution. The law school administration has insisted – through a statement issued by a public relations firm – it was a choice made by the students. Sources have suggested the opposite is the case.
In what appeared to be an effort to distance themselves from the award and the event, at least to those complaining, some concerned individuals were told “on good assurance” that neither Cardozo’s Dean Diller nor YU’s President Joel would be present at the award ceremony, and that they were completely uninvolved.
As a letter obtained by The Jewish Press that was sent by Dean Diller to certain “high roller” alumni inviting them to the event made clear, however, Diller plans to be front and center at the event.
“Today, I am particularly pleased and honored to invite you,” wrote Dean Diller, “to a very special afternoon with President Jimmy Carter on April 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm.” Diller closed the letter by telling the big givers he hoped they would “plan to join me in welcoming the 39th President of the United States to the law school.”
The Jewish Press sent repeated queries to find out why and how Cardozo, of all law schools – it is the only one connected to an officially Jewish institution – chose to honor Jimmy Carter.
The Cardozo statement explained that Jimmy Carter was being honored specifically for his “lifetime of work, from the historic Camp David Peace Accord between Israel and Egypt, to monitoring some 90 elections around the world and supporting fledgling democracies to resolve conflicts without violence.”
When he found out about the award, Cardozo alumnus Gary Emmanuel decided to act. He gathered other alumni and concerned individuals to form the group “The Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni.” When they looked at Carter’s “lifetime of work,” they saw something very different from what was expressed in Cardozo’s official statement. The CCCA also created a website, Shame On Cardozo for Honoring Jimmy Carter, on which Carter is described as having a history of “anti-Israel bigotry”:
He is responsible for helping to mainstream the antisemitic notion that Israel is an apartheid state with his provocatively titled book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”, the publication of which prompted mass resignations from the Carter Center. He has met numerous times with leaders of the terror group Hamas whitewashing their genocidal goals and undermining US efforts to isolate Hamas. And Carter’s record of slandering Israel is so voluminous that both CAMERA and Alan Dershowitz have written books refuting his lies.
The Shame on Cardozo website links to a litany of Carter’s anti-Israel activities, including his stating on national television in 2006 that Hamas had observed an 18-month truce – not true – and in 2007 using a faked Nelson Mandela letter to “prove” Israel is an Apartheid state.
Perhaps most troublesome is that just over a year ago Jimmy Carter said in an interview with Time magazine that he didn’t think it was such a big deal if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. Here’s the full quote, with no characterizations:
Well, of course, the religious leaders of Iran have sworn on their word of honor that they’re not going to manufacture nuclear weapons. If they are lying, then I don’t see that as a major catastrophe because they’ll only have one or two military weapons. Israel probably has 300 or so.
In the four days since Carter’s Cardozo award became public, on April 4, emails and Twitter blasts have been ricocheting around the Internet. Most have been highly critical of the pending honor. In addition, alumni and others interested have sent letters of protest to Richard Joel, the President of Yeshiva University, and to Matthew Diller, the Dean of Cardozo School of Law.
A 1991 Cardozo graduate who practices in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, Seth Goodman Park, said he responded immediately upon hearing about the Carter award presentation. Park wrote to his alma mater that Carter was “undeserving of the honor.” He acknowledged that the former president had achieved some progress in the 1970′s, but since then Carter has been “counterproductive and divisive.” In his letter to Dean Diller, Park also wrote:
I believe that there is no greater living enemy to progress in achieving further peace in the Middle East than Mr. Carter whose work, particularly over the past two decades, to demonize one of the parties to the conflict while coddling and martyring the other has led to hate and misunderstanding. His work is the very antithesis of proper diplomacy.
Another alumnus who was the 2007 executive editor of the Journal of Conflict Resolution, thinks the choice of Carter as an honoree to be an “inappropriate, offensive” one.
“If he was simply left-wing, I could fully support, or at least not object to the decision to honor Mr. Carter, Ari Davis wrote to Dean Diller and President Joel. “However, because his idea of ‘peace’ is the evisceration of Israel as a Jewish state and the elevation of the terrorist organization Hamas, I can not see how Cardozo and YU can support this decision.”
Davis wrote that if he were still executive editor of the Journal he would have objected to the decision to honor Carter, and if that failed to change it, “I would have resigned my position.”
The ire ignited by a Jewish institution honoring Jimmy Carter was not limited to Cardozo graduates, but extended to the broader Jewish community.
David Steinmann, a New York businessman, has been a well-established and respected pro-Israel voice for many years. In a sternly worded letter, Steinmann wrote the two heads of the institutions that giving such an award to Jimmy Carter was an “ill-considered decision,” one which “will bring shame to your doorstep.”
Steinmann characterized Carter as a “driving force behind the now coordinated and concerted efforts by anti-Semites and anti-Israel haters to defame and delegitimize the State of Israel and its Jewish citizens.” In Steinmann’s view, Carter’s characterization of Israel as an Apartheid state alone should be enough “to make President Carter persona non grata amongst Jewish institutions.”
The Jewish Press asked Steinmann why he decided to speak out so forcefully about this choice. He said that he was disappointed that Cardozo, “one of the pre-eminent Jewish institutions in America,” was giving undeserved recognition to Jimmy Carter.
“American Jews who care about Israel, and Jews everywhere, need to be vigilant and outspoken about these kinds of matters,” said Steinmann. He went on to explain why, especially when an issue plays out in a place in which many young Jews are being educated, displaying a stiff neck is essential to the survival of our people. “We will win some and lose some, but in the process of letting our voices be heard we will help to educate the generation which follows ours as well as influence a wider discussion about what Jewish organizations ought to be doing.”
Another Jewish New Yorker incensed by the decision of a Jewish institution to honor Jimmy Carter is Irwin Hochberg, past chairman of the board of the UJA Federation of New York. When Hochberg found out that Cardozo was about to honor Jimmy Carter, he was aghast, calling the decision “unconscionable.”
The emails of support echoed Emmanuel’s own response upon learning about Cardozo’s award to Jimmy Carter. “I simply could not believe that a law school affiliated with Yeshiva University could honor a man who has gone to such great lengths to harm the Jewish people,” Emmanuel told The Jewish Press.
Perhaps the best judge of Carter’s honesty with respect to his public statements about Israel, and his treatment of Israel’s enemies, comes from a former protegé, Kenneth Stein.
Stein met President Carter in 1982, and shortly thereafter Carter asked Stein to become the first executive director of the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Center, based at Emory University. In a lengthy article which appeared in the Middle East Quarterly in 2007, Stein described his relationship with Carter and the many collaborations, trips and publications they worked on during the three years he served as the Carter Center’s executive director, and over the course of the next 20 years, while Stein was the Carter Center’s Middle East Fellow.
The MEQ article came out within a year after Stein resigned his position over what he described as the “inaccuracies” in Carter’s 2007 book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”
This is how Stein described that book.
But Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter’s twenty-first book and his second to focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, is deficient. He does what no non-fiction author should ever do: He allows ideology or opinion to get in the way of facts. While Carter says that he wrote the book to educate and provoke debate, the narrative aims its attack toward Israel, Israeli politicians, and Israel’s supporters. It contains egregious errors of both commission and omission. To suit his desired ends, he manipulates information, redefines facts, and exaggerates conclusions. Falsehoods, when repeated and backed by the prestige of Carter’s credentials, can comprise an erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and policymaking. Rather than bring peace, they can further fuel hostilities, encourage retrenchment, and hamper peacemaking.
Reading Stein’s opus it becomes clear why so many believe Jimmy Carter was not, and is not, an honest broker when it comes to dealing with the Jewish State.
In the book, Carter does not mention the counterproductive judgments made by Palestinian leaders or their embrace of terrorism over the last many years. While nineteenth- and twentieth-century European, Ottoman, Arab, and Zionist leaders all sought at various times to stifle Palestinian self-determination, the claim that the establishment of a Palestinian state rests only in the hands of Jerusalem and Washington is rubbish. By adopting so completely the Palestinian historical narrative, Carter may hamper diplomatic efforts enshrined in the “Road Map” and elsewhere that attempt to compel the Palestinian leadership to accept accountability for its actions.
Finally, and frighteningly, Stein addresses the unspoken question. Maybe Carter didn’t care for Israel, but surely that doesn’t mean he is an anti-Semite. In his seminal on-the-record statement about his former boss, Stein had this to say: “Carter’s distrust of the U.S. Jewish community and other supporters of Israel runs deep.”
Anti-Semitic or not, Richard Allen of the seemingly ubiquitous JCC Watch, and someone who has been actively working to spread the news about the YU law school’s award to Carter, was voluble on the topic.
“This is a perfect example of Jewish donations going to efforts that work to delegitimize Israel,” Richard Allen told The Jewish Press. “Why would anyone contribute money to a law school that honors an enemy of the Jewish people?”
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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