Jimmy Carter

by: Rabbi Jeremy Rosen

I have never admired Jimmy Carter, but I tended to want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought he might be a decent, if naïve, man who really wanted to try to bring peace to the world. I began to think otherwise when he used the emotive term “Apartheid” to describe Israeli policies. I abhor occupation on principle. I hate the policies of suicidal violence and the blind reactions they cause. I detest violence as a solution to problems, even if almost everywhere else in the universe it is allowed. But to compare Israel to South African Apartheid (and I speak as former president of the Scottish Anti-Apartheid Movement) is to be dishonest, and to use the very terms of abuse that irrational hatred uses. It is not the discourse of genuine solution seeking.

Perhaps he only saw too much of one pain and not enough of the other. Perhaps he confused David with Goliath or Samson with the Philistines. The trouble is now he has blown his cover. Simon and Schuster, the American publishing company, sell a set of CDs by Carter entitled Bringing Peace to a Changing World in which he spews out the most unbelievable and offensive nonsense about Judaism, Jews, and Israel. He regurgitates all the old teaching of contempt for primitive, cruel Pharisaic hypocrites worshipping an angry God of vengeance. There are such basic errors of text and meaning that either he was taught by a fool or misled by a mischief-maker.

Most of the time I laugh and think it pathetic that so many Christians, even media savvy and intelligent ones like Anne Coulter, think we are doomed to hell and need to convert. Who really thinks they are superior I wonder! But I am sad to realize how much hatred of Judaism there still is, that bubbles to the surface when the lid of outward civilization is removed. For all the recent popes have done to try to change things, at Christian grassroots the old animosities clearly remain.

To be fair, no one is immune from religious name-calling. We also have our clichés about non-Jews drinking anti-Semitism in with their mothers’ milk, and all goyim being drunk and/or violent, delighting in burning heretics at the stake, and actually believing in such nonsense as Virgin Birth, all Muslims being homicidal and falling for Mohammad dreaming about God speaking to him. There is still far, far too much rubbishing, and denigrating of others.

The sad thing, of course, is that the media love to focus on the bad and rarely the good. No one seems to talk about all the wonderful things that are being done by individuals, organizations, and charities in Israel to bridge gaps, work with the suffering, and help the distressed of all races, religions, and political creeds. There is so much good that never gets reported.

Here’s an example of people being constructive. It’s called the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. “In an unusual joint appearance,” reported Reuters, “senior Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders declared that they were not a roadblock to peace in the Middle East but a vital part of the process.”

“Dressed in traditional religious garb, the chief rabbis of Israel sat alongside Muslim leaders and Christian patriarchs and said they had agreed on steps to help resolve the conflict.

‘It is our responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace rather than to fight and kill one another,’ the leaders, who make up the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, said in a joint statement.”

According to a news release, “The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land grew out of the Alexandria Declaration of January 21, 2002 in which Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders made a “commitment to ending the violence and bloodshed that denies the right to life and dignity” in the Holy Land. They announced then that they would establish a committee to engage with their respective political leadership to pursue specific steps toward this end. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Supreme Shaaria Courts in the Palestinian Authority and Waqf, and the Christian Ordinaries in Jerusalem (including the three Patriarchates and two bishoprics) formed such a committee.” There is a tendency in certain Orthodox Jewish circles to rubbish interfaith initiatives. But thank goodness there are enough Orthodox rabbis who ignore the ostriches.

Here’s another recent example. There’s a Jewish high school basketball team in Denver, Colorado which was refused permission, last week, to reschedule a game due to be played on Shabbat. You would have thought that in the great and free United States this would be no problem. Sadly, petty officials refused. Now the national Islamic advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in Washington, has come out publicly in support of the Jewish team. Despite all the tensions that exist between Muslims and Jews because of the Middle East, it’s nice and positive that on matters of common interest they can get together.

Religion gets blamed for almost everything, and sadly every religion has its small-minded, closed-minded fanatics. Thank goodness they are not all like Jimmy Carter. Focus on good deeds, Jimmy, and think before you do any more harm. What does it say about the “Road to Hell?”