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Mona Charen
Mona Charen
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Does Jimmy Carter Deserve To Be Sued?


In a suit filed in federal court in New York, former president Jimmy Carter, along with his publisher, Simon & Schuster, is being sued by five readers of his 2006 book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." The suit alleges that the defendants violated New York's consumer protection laws by committing "deceptive acts in the conduct of business, trade, or commerce."

The plaintiffs, who hope to be considered a class, were "members of the reading public who thought they could trust a former president of the United States and a well-established book publisher to tell the truth..."

Does Carter deserve this trouble? Oh, yes, he deeply, richly deserves it. Should the suit prevail? More on that in a moment.

Carter has preened that "my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents." Considering that he had four years as leader of the free world, the post-presidency claim sounds more like a bleat than a boast. And even still, it's false.

In fact, no former president including Richard Nixon has behaved as dishonorably as Carter. His post-presidency has been marked by truckling to America's enemies (North Korea, Syria, the PLO, Nicaragua) and actively impeding U.S. foreign policies of which he disapproved. Before the first Gulf War, for example, when President George H. W. Bush was attempting to assemble an international coalition to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, Carter wrote a letter to the U.N. Security Council urging members not to cooperate with the U.S.

Carter's apologies for the United States make Obama's seem chauvinistic. Meeting with Haiti's dictator Raoul Cedras, Carter allowed as how he was "ashamed of what my country has done to your country." And explaining why other Americans took a skeptical view of Syria's Hafez al-Assad and North Korea's Kim II Sung, both of whom, he wrote, "have at times been misunderstood, ridiculed, and totally condemned by the American public," Carter surmises that this is in part because "their names are foreign, not Anglo-Saxon."

And then there is Carter's festering abhorrence of the Jewish state, which reached its fullest expression in "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." The title expresses his sympathies and antipathies succinctly. It's a book about a land — Israel — that Carter would prefer become "Palestine." How else to interpret the latter part of the title — "Peace Not Apartheid"? The leftist/Islamist slur against Israel is that it is a racist, apartheid state akin to South Africa and therefore lacking in legitimacy.

Carter embraces this calumny.

And more. So much more. The book is a skein of falsehoods. Carter repeatedly gets history wrong — as when he suggests that Israel attacked Jordan in the 1967 war. In fact, Israel pleaded with Jordan to remain neutral as it fought off Egypt and Syria. But Jordan elected to join the other Arab states in attempting to obliterate Israel. It lost Jerusalem and the West Bank as a consequence.

The former president surely knew, when he wrote this sentence, that it was completely untrue: "The unwavering official policy of the United States since Israel became a state has been that its borders must coincide with those prevailing from 1949-1967." In fact, no U.S. government, including Carter's, insisted on withdrawal to what Abba Eban called "Auschwitz borders."

Carter also repeatedly insinuates that U.N. Resolution 242 calls for such a withdrawal — another lie. The resolution does speak of withdrawal, but was carefully crafted (against the objections of the Soviets) not to call for such a total pullout.

Carter writes that in the years since the Camp David accords, "The Israelis have never granted any appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians." Obviously, patently false. Concerning the 2000 Camp David/Taba negotiations, Carter suggests that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority rejected a compromise. But as former State Department chief negotiator Dennis Ross has countered, "Their (Israel's) government, meaning the cabinet, actually voted for it ... This is a matter of record, not a matter of interpretation." Carter's good friend Arafat walked away and started the second Intifada.

The former president's sloppiness — or mendacity — shows up on nearly every page of the book. He claims that an Arab document, the so-called "Prisoners Proposal," called for "a unity government with Hamas joining the PLO, the release of all political prisoners, acceptance of Israel as a neighbor within its legal borders... "

Or not. Here is Abdel Rahman Zeidan, a Palestinian minister, on the BBC: "You will not find one word in the document clearly stating the recognition of Israel as a state."

There's more. Carter's distaste not just for Israel but also for Jews is reflected in some of his anecdotes, as is his inexplicable attraction to autocrats and thugs in positions of power.

But a lawsuit is not the way to deal with this. The First Amendment trumps all. The courts cannot police books for accuracy — not in America.

But the rest of us can.

To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at



3 Comments | Post Comment
Dear Ms. Charen:
I am big fan of yours and, as usual, the piece on the Carter law suit is beautifully written and well supported. You are right on with your analysis, right up to the penultimate line. Early on you acknowledge that Carter most assuredly deserves to be sued; but in the end, you conclude that a lawsuit is not appropriate becomes "The First Amendment trumps all." You have, unfortunately fallen for this canard, put out by Simon & Schuster in its phony self-righteous claim (with poor sentence structure) asserting that the lawsuit risks "chilling" free speech. This lawsuit is not in anyway about free speech, nor does it in any way implicate the First Amendment. I very much respect your natural journalistically motivated penchant to defend the First Amendment at every turn; but here there is no need. Let me explain:
First, I have been defending the First Amendment (and other Amendment) rights of private citizens and groups for over 25 years. Although I find their message despicable, my clients have even included the KKK in a well reported march case striking down an Alabama's anti-masking/permitting law. In short, I am a First Amendment absolutist. Indeed, if one were to read the complaint, as I am sure you did, one would find that in the introduction, in addition to writing what the lawsuit is about, I took the extraordinary step of expressly writing what it also is not about. As I wrote, the lawsuit is not in any way a challenge to Carter's right to say or write anything he likes on any subject, whether true, false, hateful, anti-Israel, a function of the bidding of his anti-Israel (and anti-Western) funders, or anything else anytime, anyplace or Simon & Schuster's right to publish all of the same. I defend their right to do so and expressly say so. Moreover, the case does not in any way seek to ban or censor any writing or point of view (you mention a concern about censorship in the version posted on NRO) in any way. No, this lawsuit is about something very different. It is about a man and a company seeking to profit by misleading and misrepresenting as to what the product is that they are hawking and there the First Amendment is not at all implicated and certainly not the right of a Carter to spew whatever substance he wouild like. Here is the case:
Put yourself for the moment in the role of the consumer: You would like to know about historical events in the Middle East and the so-called "peace process" in order to form your own opinion. You want to know what happened when, who offered what, who, from the events, seems to have been reasonable and right and who unreasonable and wrong. With the true facts as they occurred, you feel you can make that evaluation. You have $27 to buy the book that will give you that information. You are not a novel reader; you like non-fiction precisely because it is a true account of historical events. You read an adverstisement for a book by the former President of the United States who actually was involved in the events to be reported and you see in the adverstisement that the former President assures you that this is a "completely accurate" account of the very historic events you have been dying to learn all about exactly as they occurred. You know from these ads, and even from your country's former President, not a late not infomercial salesman, that if you pay your hard-earned $27, you can get the whole true account of these vitally important events of great public interest and of particular interest to you; so you gladly give Simon and Schuster your $27 (and Mr. Carter gets his share).
Now, though, you are shocked at what you read next. Someone tells you about some things others have had to say about this book, so you look further. To your absolute shock, you soon learn that Carter's closest confidantes and aids, the Middle East "experts" from his inncer circle, people whose names you have heard, like Dennis Ross and Professor Ken Stein, have written that this book you book to learn the truth from is, instead, filled with lies, misrepresentations, half-truths, and omits some real facts. You learn next that these closest confidantes feel so strongly that they have written publicly that they find Carter's conduct in this regard to be complete anathema, to such an extent that they publicly disavow the book and renounce any further association with Carter or his Center, expressly because he wrote in this very book complete falsehoods which they knew to be just that from first-hand involvement. They wrote, you soon learned, that they were disgusted by what Carter had done in writing what you thought was your history book, that he was motivated by a horrible bias and an agenda to advocate for the enemies of Israel, even to the degree of being willing to lie and misrepresent. And they wrote of the grave danger such lies, presented in the guise of an historical account, would pose to people just like you who were looking to a former President for the truth and who wanted to know the truth to tell it to someone else, to form opinions, and to help others form opinions. They cited maps which were not at all what Carter wrote that they were, they cited events that they attended that simply did not occur at all like Carter said they occurred and much more. They wrote that the things Carter misrepresented were not matters of opinion open to differences; they were historical facts that occured and that did not occur as Carter claimed or they were events that never occurred which he falsely claimed to have occurred as historical facts.
You rightfully feel disgusted and cheated. You feel you have been swindled out of your $27 by an ad campaign expressly targeting consumers who wanted a true historical account of events and would pay $27 to get it, put out by a man and a company who well knew that is not at all what they convincing you to pay and what they took your $27 to sell you. One would think that upon seeing what these respected experts and close Carter supporters, confidantes, and aids wrote, a reputable publishher would feel so ashamed or contrite that it would devise a system to refund purchase price to all of the buyers who had been tricked and cheated. You might think that when confronted with the unassailable proof from these experts with no other agendas that the book was not an accurate account of these historic events, the publisher would insist that corrections be made and would have made them. Instead, you find out, the publisher ignored the facts, took no corrective steps and went right on marketing the same way, claiming it to be a true account of historic events, a work of non-fiction. Then you learned that Carter's response was to go on a speaking and book signing tour announcing to his audience that the book was "completely accurate" and you cannot understand how a former President can behave so.
You want your money back and rightfully so. You also want someone (in this case a judge) to declare that such false advertising to trick or deceive a consumer into buying a product that simply is not what they claim it to be, violates the law. Finally, you want people and companies who deceive you and other unsuspecting consumers to be punished and deterred from doing this kind of thing again as they continue to write and publish and advertise for sale their products. That, Ms. Charen, is what this lawsuit is all about. The plaintiffs and the class members they represent say right in their complaint that they do not in any way wish to censor or challenge Carter's right to say or write anything at all that he wants and they certainly do not in any way wish to implicate the First Amendment as you fear.
You are right to be ever vigilante of this critically important expressly given constitutional protection I have fought to upheld, along with the other parts of the Bill of Rights, for my whole career. This lawsuit, however, does not reach into that area at all and you are far too bright and insightful to buy into that canard. Your readers look to you for your judgment and guidance and I hope you will make it clear that there is no need for fear and that this lawsuit is, indeed, an appropriate way, to address this marketing trickery. For me a lawsuit is a particularly inefficient way to address a problem; but sometimes, with intransigent transgressors, it is the only possible last resort. Thank you for your valuable work and for your responsible exercise of your First Amendment rights for the readers' enlightenment. David Schoen
Comment: #1
Posted by: David Schoen
Fri Feb 4, 2011 5:21 AM
Wow, Mona ... you're Ms. Mendacity yourself in this column, at least on everything concerning Israel and Palestine from the Six-Day War and Resolution 242 on. Shock me!
Comment: #2
Posted by: SocraticGadfly
Fri Feb 4, 2011 4:37 PM
Ms Charen:
If you will read "Burning Issues," edited by Jane Adas, John Mahoney, and Robert Norberg you will know that you wrote all this nonsense about President Carfter totally ignorant of this subject. You will learn of all the horrible attrocities Israel has committed against Palestinian people while Americans support these crimes with billions of dollars to Israel each year.
Please Ms Charen, get informed about subjests on which you are totally ignorant before you write further. You will do yourself, our country, and the whole world a big favor.
Rev. David S. Harkness
Comment: #3
Posted by: David S. Harkness
Sun Feb 6, 2011 9:06 PM
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