Emory Gets an F

Atlanta Jewish Times

Jimmy Carter claims he wants debate, but has refused to debate anyone. What is Carter afraid of?

Emory University seems set to fail a crucial exam Feb. 22, when Jimmy Carter is due to appear with the university's complete official support before a tame audience of ill-informed, adoring students, shielded, at his own insistence, from grown-up criticism.

In a similarly staged and sanitized event at Brandeis, Carter finally apologized, calling a passage in his book that condones terrorism "improper and stupid." It was too little, too late.

His book and media blitz are rife with statements that need apologies. For example – on Al-Jazeera, no less – he baldly stated that rocket barrages against homes in Israel are not terrorist acts.

But his whole vindictive, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish campaign encourages terror. In his book and in many self-serving events propelling it toward the top of the best-seller lists, he absolves Arabs from any responsibility in the tragic impasse, blaming Israel alone, proclaiming that as soon as Israel has made enough one-sided concessions, all will be well not only in Palestine, but throughout the Middle East.

All who know the facts consider this ridiculous. Respected syndicated columnist Tom Teepen wrote recently that "to anathematize Israel," Carter "dodges, ignores or even twists history to serve that agenda."

Dennis Ross, Bill Clinton's chief envoy in the peace talks of 2000 – when Israel offered at least 95 percent of the occupied territories as an opening offer, flatly rejected – wrote that Carter is trying "to rewrite history" and that "peace can never be built on these myths."

Ethan Bronner, the deputy foreign editor of The New York Times, called the book "a distortion."

Even Palestinians are far more fair than Carter. A January poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that 25.6 percent of Palestinians blame Israel for their current crisis, while 54.5 percent blame Palestinian or Arab factions or leaders.

Carter blames Israel, only Israel.

Deborah Lipstadt, Emory's distinguished Holocaust historian, wrote in The Washington Post that Carter "ignores a legacy of mistreatment, expulsion and murder committed against Jews" and that his "minimalization of the Holocaust" gives comfort to deniers and misses the point of Israel's existence.

Veteran Congressman John Conyers, a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Carter's "apartheid" libel "does not serve the cause of peace, and the use of it against the Jewish people in particular, who have been victims of the worst kind of discrimination, discrimination resulting in death, is offensive and wrong."

Also on Al-Jazeera, Carter claimed that "most of the condemnations of my book came from Jewish-American organizations." Is this another "improper and stupid" wording? It is certainly false, as the quotations above and countless others prove, but not all falsehoods are honest mistakes.

Carter invigorates America's worst elements by insinuating that Jews control Congress and the media. Stormfront, the oldest white supremacist Web site, wrote: "I see the whole world beginning to sense the end of Jewish political power. That's why Mel [Gibson] and Jimmy Carter are saying and doing the things they are. … Now who is afraid of the big bad Jew?"

Stormfront added: "We need to encourage Jimmy in any way we can."

Another racist Web site, the Vanguard News Network, quoted one of Carter's insinuations and said, "Translation: 'The United States has a Zionist Occupied Government.' Amen."

Mark Weber, an infamous Holocaust denier, calls Carter's book a great achievement, showing "the growing awareness of Zionist-Jewish power."

We can't blame Carter for his admirers, you say? He has played right into their hands.

To get an idea of what Carter thinks, go to the Simon Wiesenthal Center' s Web site. You will find a brief note to Rabbi Marvin Hier in Carter's handwriting, dated Jan. 26, in response to a petition signed by 25,000 Jews. The Carter response reads in full, "To Rabbi Marvin Hier: I don't believe Simon Wiesenthal would have resorted to falsehood and slander to raise funds. Sincerely, Jimmy Carter."

This astounding smear against one of Jewish Americans' most revered institutions attempts to hijack Wiesenthal's memory and accuses a leading rabbi of lying to get money. That is Carter's response – on the official stationery of the Carter Presidential Center – to the opinions of 25,000 Jews.

Is Jimmy Carter anti-Semitic? His statements certainly fall within many definitions of anti-Semitism, and they strongly encourage hatred of Jews. It has been many decades since an American of Carter's stature has faced this question; it will lie like a long shadow across his legacy.

Emory University may now fall under the same shadow. By Carter's own demand, faithfully followed by Emory's leaders, Carter will have the stage to himself, with pre-picked softball questions, no follow-up questions and no exchange with experts. He shrank from debating Alan Dershowitz at Brandeis, and he has refused to debate Ross or anyone else at Emory.

Yet he will have the university's seal of approval, being introduced by President James Wagner and moderated by Provost Earl Lewis.

In the latest outrage, Gary Hauk, an Emory vice president and deputy to the president, wrote to the entire faculty to ask us to consider excusing students from classes to attend Carter's self-serving political exercise. In other words, Carter's errors, distortions and insinuations about the Jews take precedence over the normal teaching functions performed by hundreds of dedicated professors in every field of knowledge – this at a university whose student body is one-third Jewish and that is constantly trying to raise money from Jewish alumni.

Even at Brandeis, recent reports say major donors have withdrawn support because the university gave Carter an open platform to air his distortions without criticism.

But Brandeis, seen as a Jewish institution, cannot be accused of coddling anti-Semitism. Emory can. A university's central purpose is the search for truth, and Carter has distorted the truth with impunity. If he appears at my university without qualified, expert criticism, Emory will deserve any condemnation it gets.