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Reading Something Serious

Most of the books that I’ve read recently have been of the mindless, for-entertainment-only variety.  Completely enjoyable and filled with unreal torrid sex, death-defying drug usage, flagrant murder and spies that would put James Bond to shame.  While I thoroughly enjoyed these novels while I read them, not a single one of them is worthy of consuming space in my memory or reliving on this blog.  The last two books I’ve read, though, represent an intentional return to reality or, at least, to politics, politicians and world affairs.  As much as that represents reality.

Barack Obama - The Audacity of HopeThe first, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama is his treatise on who he is and what he believes in.  Of course, it’s the introductory book for his run for the presidency, but I liked it more than most of books of this kind.  I enjoyed his writing thoroughly and his folksy style makes it a pleasant read.  Whether you like his policies and beliefs or not, his point of view on the current state of American society is interesting and his pragmatic viewpoint is refreshing.  He’s a little short on the detail of his solutions, but he does paint a picture of what he believes is wrong and the direction he would take the country if he were in charge fairly well.

Jimmy Carter - Palestine: Peace Not ApartheidThe second, Jimmy Carter’s, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid had a far greater impact on me and I can’t say it was entirely pleasant.  If you strip away Carter’s promotion of the work of the Carter Center and his references to international trips with his wife Rosalynn, you expose his indictment of Israel and the country’s responsibility, in Carter’s view, of being the biggest issue in Middle-Eastern peace.

As I started reading this book, I found I was incredibly defensive.  Having consumed the pro-Israel Kool-Ade my entire life.  But, as the I made it further into the book, I realized how much propaganda I’ve been subject to over time about the state of things in the region and about who’s responsible.  Carter’s arguments certainly are flavored by his personal involvement with peace in the region and are a bit self-aggrandizing, but in general, they are factual and indicate more than just his own views.

I think that Carter could have done a better job presenting both sides of the story in this book.  While he describes the Israeli side of things, he doesn’t do so in a balanced fashion.  In most cases, he spends a chapter describing the problem and how the Israeli’s exacerbate it, then wraps up the section with a brief statement on why Israel is compelled to act the way it does in the particular circumstance.  By writing this way, he ignores a zillion years of history and only does justice to the pain felt in one camp.  Then again, this may be my defensiveness showing . . .

In the end, though, Carter’s argument is compelling.  Both sides need to make compromises in their positions, of course, but Carter shows how, outside of its concessions to Egypt (for which he gives Sadat the most credit), Israel hasn’t given up much since the 1967 war, including any of its gains from that war.  Carter never ignores the complexity of the issue, but boils down the solution to simple terms; there must be two states – Israel and Palestine – that mutually recognize one another; Israel is going to have to give back some land to create a real Palestinian state out of the land it took in the 1967 war; and some international cross-religious group is going to have to broker access to the holy places in the region including, of course, Jerusalem.

Painful but compelling book.  A must read.

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 April 3rd, 2007  
 Will  
 Books  
   
 4 Comments

4 Responses to Reading Something Serious

  1. Will, a common sense says that when two sides are in a conflict each needs to make some concessions to reach a compromise.

    Unfortunately, the Israeli-Arab (not just Palestinian) conflict has seen only compromises from the Israeli side. President Carter is known for his anti-Israel approach in the conflict but numerous fundings of his center and of his library by Arab countries, sheiks, and Arab private patrons make his point of view, mildly speaking, biased.

    There are tons of info in the net on the history of the conflict and the facts are easy to find for one striving for truth so I don’t want to list them here. Just one short reminder from the recent history. Barak in 2000 offered to Arafat return of 97% of the “occupied” territories, split of Jerusalem, and return of some of the “refugees”. Instead Israel got a new intifada. What else should Israel have offered? Return of 6 millions of the “refugees” to its cities? The only concession the Palestinians want is to wipe Israel off the map. The Arab world, with exceptions of even Egypt, Jordan, and Micronesia don’t even recognize Israel! They are not looking for a solution of the problem. They use Palestinians as their own hostages in the war of civilizations and see Israel the frontier of this war.

    “Israel hasn’t given up much since the 1967 war”. What Palestinians have ever given up? Today’s government even doesn’t want to recognize Israel. Why president Carter doesn’t count the fact that there are 1.5 millions of Arabs that Israel’s given citizenship, that don’t serve in army, the majority of them doesn’t pay taxes, and again majority hates Israel?

    No doubt, Palestinians struggle a lot in this conflict and Israel is the evil side to blame. Israel is blamed for not giving Palestinians water, gas, electricity; for not allowing them to work in Israel(!), for locking their borders (see what outbreak of weapons it got after withdrawing from Gaza), for everything possible. Israel has tried. Many times, and every time got a knife in the back.

    Will, I never posted a political topic on my blog and see you did it (not directly though) first time here. Just couldn’t resist to comment; it’s painful. Painful very much to see how the country is shrinking and the entire world urges us to make another concession, another step to nonexistence, another move to a new tragedy.

  2. Will, a common sense says that when two sides are in a conflict each needs to make some concessions to reach a compromise.

    Unfortunately, the Israeli-Arab (not just Palestinian) conflict has seen only compromises from the Israeli side. President Carter is known for his anti-Israel approach in the conflict but numerous fundings of his center and of his library by Arab countries, sheiks, and Arab private patrons make his point of view, mildly speaking, biased.

    There are tons of info in the net on the history of the conflict and the facts are easy to find for one striving for truth so I don’t want to list them here. Just one short reminder from the recent history. Barak in 2000 offered to Arafat return of 97% of the “occupied” territories, split of Jerusalem, and return of some of the “refugees”. Instead Israel got a new intifada. What else should Israel have offered? Return of 6 millions of the “refugees” to its cities? The only concession the Palestinians want is to wipe Israel off the map. The Arab world, with exceptions of even Egypt, Jordan, and Micronesia don’t even recognize Israel! They are not looking for a solution of the problem. They use Palestinians as their own hostages in the war of civilizations and see Israel the frontier of this war.

    “Israel hasn’t given up much since the 1967 war”. What Palestinians have ever given up? Today’s government even doesn’t want to recognize Israel. Why president Carter doesn’t count the fact that there are 1.5 millions of Arabs that Israel’s given citizenship, that don’t serve in army, the majority of them doesn’t pay taxes, and again majority hates Israel?

    No doubt, Palestinians struggle a lot in this conflict and Israel is the evil side to blame. Israel is blamed for not giving Palestinians water, gas, electricity; for not allowing them to work in Israel(!), for locking their borders (see what outbreak of weapons it got after withdrawing from Gaza), for everything possible. Israel has tried. Many times, and every time got a knife in the back.

    Will, I never posted a political topic on my blog and see you did it (not directly though) first time here. Just couldn’t resist to comment; it’s painful. Painful very much to see how the country is shrinking and the entire world urges us to make another concession, another step to nonexistence, another move to a new tragedy.

  3. Roman,

    Well said. I tend not to write about political topics. Not so much that I try to avoid them, but I have a very difficult time encapsulating what I feel and believe and don’t feel any desire to spit totally unprocessed garbage out into the blogoshere.

    The Arab/Israeli thing, of course, is much more than a political topic. It may be the most important thing happening in the world. My comments, though, are more about Carter’s book than they are of the strife in the region.

    If you haven’t, I urge you to read the book. Not that it will change your opinion in any way, but he does bring a load of facts to bear that most people, me included, are not normally made familiar with. As you state, his position may be tainted because of Arab donations to his institute, but it’s hard to deny many, if not most, of his observations.

    Perhaps I myself am biased to accepting some of what Carter says. I have frequently traveled to Israel and I feel that I have several close friends who are Israelis. My familiarity with how they think and act makes it very easy to see how the ever-changing free-for-all that is the Kineset has not held a consistent posture on building in the West Bank, for example, over the decades since 1967.

    I’m not defending Carter’s position nor the Palestinian point of view, but I have always been a bit suspicious of the extreme pro-Israeli view of the situation that we are presented with in the US. In that light, Carter’s logical, although as I mentioned in the post, unbalanced, statement of facts of the situation are a real eye opener and make for a much more logical view of the what is going on than what I have been spoon-fed all my life.

    I hope that makes sense.

  4. Roman,

    Well said. I tend not to write about political topics. Not so much that I try to avoid them, but I have a very difficult time encapsulating what I feel and believe and don’t feel any desire to spit totally unprocessed garbage out into the blogoshere.

    The Arab/Israeli thing, of course, is much more than a political topic. It may be the most important thing happening in the world. My comments, though, are more about Carter’s book than they are of the strife in the region.

    If you haven’t, I urge you to read the book. Not that it will change your opinion in any way, but he does bring a load of facts to bear that most people, me included, are not normally made familiar with. As you state, his position may be tainted because of Arab donations to his institute, but it’s hard to deny many, if not most, of his observations.

    Perhaps I myself am biased to accepting some of what Carter says. I have frequently traveled to Israel and I feel that I have several close friends who are Israelis. My familiarity with how they think and act makes it very easy to see how the ever-changing free-for-all that is the Kineset has not held a consistent posture on building in the West Bank, for example, over the decades since 1967.

    I’m not defending Carter’s position nor the Palestinian point of view, but I have always been a bit suspicious of the extreme pro-Israeli view of the situation that we are presented with in the US. In that light, Carter’s logical, although as I mentioned in the post, unbalanced, statement of facts of the situation are a real eye opener and make for a much more logical view of the what is going on than what I have been spoon-fed all my life.

    I hope that makes sense.