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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is no longer relevant
The great French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy (BHL), has published an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) on the fall of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter:
I copy the full article below.
The Sad End of Jimmy Carter
The problem is not that he is, or is not, talking to the Syrians – everyone does it to some degree.
It isn't that he went to Damascus to meet with the exiled head of Hamas – everyone, including the Israelis, will one day have to do that too, in accordance with that old rule which says that in the end it is with your enemies not your friends that you have to come to an understanding and make peace.
The problem is how Jimmy Carter went about it.
The problem is the spectacular and useless embrace he exchanged with the senior Hamas dignitary, Nasser Shaer, in Ramallah.
The problem is the wreath he laid piously at the grave of Yasser Arafat, who, as Mr. Carter knows better than anyone else, was a real obstacle to peace.
It is that in Cairo, if we are to believe another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, whose statement has so far not been denied, Mr. Carter apparently described Hamas as a "national liberation movement" – this party which has made a cult of death, a mythology of blood and race, and an anti-Semitism along the lines of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into the linchpin of its ideology.
The problem is also the formidable nose thumbing he got from Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, who, at the very moment he was receiving Mr. Carter, also triggered the first car bombing in several months in Keren Shalom on the Gaza strip – and that this event elicited from poor Mr. Carter, all tangled up in his small-time mediator calculations, not one disapproving or empathetic word.
The former president, it will be recalled, is an old hand at this sort of thing.
Going off track like this is not new for the man who 30 years ago was one of the architects of peace with Egypt, but who since then has not stopped vilifying Israel, comparing its political system to that of South Africa during apartheid, ignoring Israel's desire for peace, which is no less real than its errors, even denying its suffering.
A year ago, he told CBS that for years his beloved Hamas had not committed any terrorist attacks resulting in civilian casualties – this, a few months after the assassination of six people at the Karni Terminal, and the attack on Aug. 30, 2004, which killed 16 passengers in two buses in Beersheba.
And it is one thing to speak to CBS, and another to say these words, which are unofficial but have indisputable moral authority, to the belligerents.
It is one thing to say, in Dublin on June 19, 2007, that the true criminals are not those who proclaim, like Mashaal, that "before dying" Israel must be "humiliated and degraded," but those who would prefer that these charming characters be pushed out of the circles of power, sooner or later, with a distinct preference for "sooner." It is quite another to come over in person and put all one's weight behind the most radical elements, those who are the most hostile to peace, the most profoundly nihilistic in the Palestinian camp.
The truth is, if one wished to discredit the other side, to fully humiliate and ridicule the only Palestinian leader (Mahmoud Abbas) who at the risk of his life continues to believe in the solution of two states – if with a word one wanted to ruin the last dreams of men and women of goodwill who still believe in peace – one would be absolutely on the right track.
So what happened to this man, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate?
Is it the vanity of someone who is no longer so important, who wants a last 15 minutes in the spotlight before he has to leave the stage forever?
Is it the senility of a politician who has lost touch with reality and with his own party? Barack Obama, even more clearly than his rival, has just reminded us that it will not be possible to "sit down" with the leaders of Hamas unless they are prepared to "renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and respect past agreements."
Could he be suffering from a variant of self-hatred, or in this case a hatred of his own past as the Great Peacemaker?
All hypotheses are permitted. Whatever the reason, Mr. Carter has demonstrated an unusual capacity to transform a political error into a disastrous moral mistake.
Mr. Levy's new book, "Left in Dark Times: A Stand against the New Barbarism," will be published by Random House in September. This essay was translated from the French by Sara Sugihara.
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