- - Friday, August 8, 2014


Jimmy Carter complains that he “don’t get no respect” from Barack Obama, who never calls him for advice. But why should the former president expect more from Mr. Obama than he gets from everybody else? Last week, Mr. Carter busied himself accusing Israel of “war crimes” for defending itself against the rockets and artillery barrages of Hamas, which the United States officially regards as a terrorist organization.

“There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict,” wrote the former president for Foreign Policy magazine, which was a curious assertion for a man who once boasted of his experience as a “nukular” engineer, since “nukular” weapons by definition are designed to kill mostly civilians. “These are war crimes,” he continued. “This is true for both sides. Hamas‘ indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians.”

Mr. Carter, writing with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, wants to be Mr. Fix-it. He prescribes American and European recognition of Hamas as “not just a military force, but also a political force,” meaning, a legitimate force due the respect that peaceful nations pay to peaceful nations. “Hamas cannot be wished away,” he and Mrs. Robinson write, “nor will it co-operate in its own demise.” Just so. But Mr. Carter is preaching the wrong sermon to the wrong choir. Israel cannot be wished away, either, nor can it be expected to “co-operate in its own demise.”

His comparison of casualties inflicted by both sides on the other reflects a sophomore’s understanding of proportionality, and a deliberate brushing away of the facts. When Hamas shields its rocket launchers with schools, hospitals and thousands of children, what must it expect from an enemy struggling to survive? Men nurtured in the West reserve their fiercest contempt for other men who hide behind women and children, and risk hurting the enemy’s women and children only as a last resort to protect their own. This is a principle that the Palestinians flout with an arrogant pride, and one that Mr. Carter seems not to understand.

Mr. Carter’s enmity toward Israel is consistent and long-standing. He has held a grudge against the friends of the Jews since Ronald Reagan, winning a record percentage of the Jewish vote, defeated him decisively in 1980. Mr. Carter imagined he deserved the credit for peace between Israel and Egypt after the accords reached at Camp David, but the Jewish voter in America recognized the Gipper as the true friend of Israel, and once turned out of office, Mr. Carter made nursing the grudge a full-time job. He collected slurs against the Jewish state and put them in a toxic book in 2007 called “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” Even the title was meant to insult Israel.

Jimmy Carter has become a pariah even in his own party, and no candidate wants his endorsement. He is cited only as a standard of failure to measure other presidents by. Like Barack Obama, he came to office on a sea of discontent and disappointment, chosen by voters desperately hoping for change. Barbara Walters spoke for many of them with her plaintive and naive plea at the end of an interview with him on the eve of his inauguration: “Mr. President, be kind to us.” He cultivated humiliation for the nation and for himself, and the years since have not been kind to him. He continues to infuriate us all. It’s sad.

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