President Carter has done what few American politicians have dared to do: speak frankly about the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has done this nation, and the cause of peace, an enormous service by focusing attention on what he calls “the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine’s citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.”
The 39th president of the United States, the most successful Arab-Israeli peace negotiator to date, has braved a storm of criticism, including the insinuation from the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League that his arguments are anti-Semitic.
Mr. Carter has tried to mollify critics by suggesting that his is not a commentary on Israeli policy inside Israel’s own borders, as compared with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – territories Israel occupied in 1967. He told NPR, “I know that Israel is a wonderful democracy with equal treatment of all citizens whether Arab or Jew. And so I very carefully avoided talking about anything inside Israel.”
Given the pressure he has faced, it may be understandable that Mr. Carter says this, but he is wrong. In addition to nearly four million Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the occupied territories, another one million live inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. These Palestinians are descendants of those who were not forced out or did not flee when Israel was created in 1948.
They have nominal Israeli citizenship, and unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa, they do vote for the country’s parliament. Yet this is where any sense of equality ends. In Israel’s history, no Arab-led party has ever been asked to join a coalition government. And, among scores of Jewish ministers, there has only ever been one Arab minister, of junior rank.