To understand what feeds former president Jimmy Carter's anti-Israeli frenzy, look at his early links to Arab business.
Between 1976-1977, the Carter family peanut business received a bailout in the form of a $4.6 million, "poorly managed" and highly irregular loan from the National Bank of Georgia (NBG). According to a July 29, 1980 Jack Anderson expose in The Washington Post, the bank's biggest borrower was Mr. Carter, and its chairman at that time was Mr. Carter's confidant, and later his director of the Office of Management and Budget, Bert Lance.
At that time, Mr. Lance's mismanagement of the NBG got him and the bank into trouble. Agha Hasan Abedi, the Pakistani founder of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), known as the bank "which would bribe God," came to Mr. Lance's rescue making him a $100,000-a-year consultant. Abedi then declared: "we would never talk about exploiting his relationship with the president." Next, he introduced Mr. Lance to Saudi billionaire Gaith Pharaon, who fronted for BCCI and the Saudi royal family. In January 1978, Abedi paid off Mr. Lance's $3.5 million debt to the NBG, and Pharaon secretly gained control over the bank.
Mr. Anderson wrote: "Of course, the Saudis remained discretely silent... kept quiet about Carter's irregularities... [and] renegotiated the loan to Carter's advantage."
There is no evidence that the former president received direct payment from the Saudis. But "according to... the bank files, [it] renegotiated the repayment terms... savings... $60,000 for the Carter family... The President owned 62% of the business and therefore was the largest beneficiary." Pharaon later contributed generously to the former president's library and center.
When Mr. Lance introduced Mr. Carter to Abedi, the latter gave $500,000 to help the former president establish his center at Emory University. Later, Abedi contributed more than $10 million to Mr. Carter's different projects. Even after BCCI was indicted — and convicted -— for drug money laundering, Mr. Carter accepted $1.5 million from Abedi, his "good friend."
A quick survey of the major contributors to the Carter Center reveals hundreds of millions of dollars from Saudi and Gulf contributors. But it was BCCI that helped Mr. Carter established his center.
BCCI's origins were primarily ideological. Abedi wanted the bank to reflect the supra-national Muslim credo and "the best bridge to help the world of Islam, and the best way to fight the evil influence of the Zionists."
Shortly after assuming office, in March 1977, Mr. Carter made his first public statement regarding a Palestinian "homeland." Since then, he has devoted much of his time to denouncing Israel's self-defense against Palestinian terrorism, which he claims is not only "abominable oppression and persecution" of the Palestinians, but also damages U.S. interests in the region.
By the time BCCI was shut down in July1991, it operated in 73 countries with a deficit of $12 billion, which it had managed to hide with wealthy Arab shareholders and Western luminaries. Among them Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan of Abu Dhabi, who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Yasser Arafat and Palestinian terrorist groups, and who branded the United States: "our enemy number one"; Former head of Saudi foreign intelligence service, and King Faisal's brother-in-law, Kamal Adham — who with another Saudi, the banker of the royal family, Khaled bin Mahfouz, staged BCCI's attempt to illegally purchase the Washington-based First American bank, in the early 1980s.
True to its agenda, BCCI assisted in spreading and strengthening the Islamic message; they enabled Pakistan's nuclear ambitions, and helped the Palestinian leadership to amass a $10 billion-plus fortune, used to further terrorist activities and to buy more influence in the West.
BCCI founders also supported the Islamic fundamentalist opposition to the Shah of Iran, and saw it as an opportunity to undermine Western influence in the Gulf. They assisted the revolution financially, reinforcing their position within the leadership of the Iranian revolution. Ironically, the success of that revolution cost Mr. Carter his presidency.
BCCI's money also facilitated the Saudi agenda to force Israel to recognize Palestinians "rights," convincing Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to sign the Camp David Accords in September 1978. Since then, Mr. Carter repeatedly provided legitimacy to Arafat's corrupt regime, and now, like the Saudis, he even sides with homicidal Hamas as the "legitimate" representative of the Palestinian people.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Carter again laid responsibility for U.S. bias against the destitute, depressed and (consequently) violent Palestinians on American policy makers' helplessness, over the last 30 years, against the menacing tactics of the powerful American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC).
However, it seems that AIPAC's real fault was its failure to outdo the Saudi's purchases of the former president's loyalty. "There has not been any nation in the world that has been more cooperative than Saudi Arabia," the New York Times quoted Mr. Carter June 1977, thus making the Saudis a major factor in U. S. foreign policy.
Evidently, the millions in Arab petrodollars feeding Mr. Carter's global endeavors, often in conflict with U.S. government policies, also ensure his loyalty.
Rachel Ehrenfeld is the director of the American Center for Democracy.