Amazon.com joins the lynching of President Carter

There’s an online petition to get Amazon to change how it has listed Jimmy Carter’s controversial book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

The petition ("Tell Amazon to Treat Carter’s Book Fairly") points out that Amazon has taken the highly unsual step of prominently featuring an exceedingly partisan and hostile review of the book by Jeffrey Goldberg originally published in The Washington Post the "Editorial Reviews" section normally dedicated to excerpts from the book’s blurb or short and generally favorable reviews.  What’s more, Amazon has reproduced the 20-paragraph, 1,636-word jeremiad in its entirety.   Yes, they re-published a lengthy article in the middle of a product listing in a catalog.  In short, they’re doing all they can to kill it.

Goldberg’s scathing "review" is admittedly preceded by a mildly positive review from Publishers Weekly, but this additional review is very brief (198 words, or 1/8 the length of the Washington Post tirade) and quite ambivalent.  Before concluding Carter’s book to be a "fine overview for those unfamiliar with the history of the conflict", this tepid endorsement  implicitly  accuses Carter of  being a shill for the Arabs (emphasis added):

Throughout his work, Carter assigns ultimate blame to Israel, arguing that the country’s leadership has routinely undermined the peace process through its obstinate, aggressive and illegal occupation of territories seized in 1967. He’s decidedly less critical of Arab leaders, accepting their concern for the Palestinian cause at face value, and including their anti-Israel rhetoric as a matter of course, without much in the way of counter-argument.

How often have you seen Israel’s many advocates in the MSM subjected to an equally uncharitable reading of their motives?

So, one long review goes for the jugular and the other gives it a lukewarm endorsement while subliminally implying Carter to be biased.  So much for debate.

Compare Carter’s rough, openly partisan treatment at the hands of Amazon to their studiously neutral presentation of all sorts of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim works, including ones that, unlike Carter’s book, have been widely viewed for years as politically motivated pseudo-scholarship.

For example, Amazon uncritically promotes Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial though it is a highly controversial and by most accounts (e.g., Israeli historian of Palestinian nationalism Yehoshua Porath) definitively discredited work of anti-Arab propaganda.  This is a work comparable in the offense and controversy it raises to The Bell Curve and which even Daniel Pipes–one of its few defenders in academia–must concede "stands out as an appallingly crafted book", yet Amazon features these Pravda-esque excerpts on it:

Barbara Tuchman
"This book is a historical event in itself…"

Washington Post Book World
"A remarkable document in itself. . . . The refugees are not the problem but the excuse."

Hmm…

Then there’s Amazon’s sympathetic presentation of Alan Dershowitz’s controversial The Case for Israel. It has been the object of intense debate in the media, not only on its scholarly merits but even whether it engages in systematic plagiarism (see this and this).  Here’s what Amazon says in the corresponding section:

From Publishers Weekly
Noting that he has been working on versions of these arguments since 1967, famed Harvard law professor Dershowitz offers "a proactive defense of Israel," a kind of amicus brief to "the court of public opinion." Not least among the exhibits are a WWII-era Muslim Palestinian leader who was "a full fledged Nazi war criminal, and he was so declared at Nuremberg"; a "vastly underpopulated" late 19th-century Palestine, to which European Jews began emigrating; and a 75-year-long Arab-Israeli war that features "Arab nations dedicated to genocidal aggression against civilians." Each of the 32 chapters begins with a commonly heard accusation against Israel, with long quotes from reputable "Accusers" (including newspapers and intellectuals), followed by "The Reality" as Dershowitz sees it, and "The Proof," often drawing on the historical record.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist
Dershowitz is one of the nation’s most prominent and visible defense attorneys, and he is also an ardent, eloquent, but not always uncritical defender of Israel. This book is written in the form of a legal brief. He does not seek to defend particular policies of the current Israeli government. In fact, Dershowitz has frequently criticized some Israeli policies toward Palestinians, particularly regarding West Bank settlements. Rather, here he attempts to rebut what he views as the more general and blatantly discriminatory criticisms of Israel as a state and culture. Some of these criticisms deny the "right" of Israel to exist. In response, Dershowitz asserts both the practical and moral justification for the continued existence of Israel as Jewish state. He also convincingly refutes several other oft-repeated myths, including the supposedly benign treatment of Jews in Arab lands and the "cycle of violence" canard that morally equates Palestinian suicide bombings with Israeli efforts to arrest or kill bombers before they act. As usual, Dershowitz is a passionate but generally fair and honest advocate for his position. Jay Freeman

No hint of controversy, much less a long, detailed rebuttal by one of Dershowitz’ critics. 

And one could go on and on.  I’m sure there are many far more damning examples.

Look up the most offensive, polemical and unscholarly screeds against Muslims, Arabs, and Islam in Amazon and you won’t see even the faintest acknowledgement in its summary of of the work’s flaws or detractors, but a book by a former US President, international stateman, and architect of the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt–stop and think about that for a moment–that openly discusses grievances against Israel is subjected to this kind of shameless partisanship and character assasination.  It’s mindblowing.  And incredibly disheartening.

I’ll close with a bit of unintended black humor from the Goldberg review (emphasis added):

The murder of Israelis, however, plays little role in Carter’s understanding of the conflict. He writes of one Hamas bombing campaign: "Unfortunately for the peace process, Palestinian terrorists carried out two lethal suicide bombings in March 1996." That spree of bombings — four, actually — was unfortunate for the peace process, to be sure. It was also unfortunate for the several dozen civilians killed in these attacks. But Israeli deaths seem to be an abstraction for Carter; only the peace process is real, and the peace process would succeed, he claims, if not for Israeli intransigence.

I don’t condone taking any violence lightly, but Israeli deaths are an abstraction?  Even if one accepts this charge–which I don’t–I’d like to see Goldberg voice comparable outrage over the "abstract" suffering of Palestinians.  For many years the deaths and maimings–including a disburbing number of children "accidently" shot in the head with rubber bullets, according to watchdog groups–have barely registered in the MSM while front pages regularly show the anguish of Israeli victims of terrorism.  And we just saw a nation dismembered and hundreds of civlians killed in response to the "provocation" of two kidnappings (we won’t get into all the "provocations" Israel regularly rains down from its gunships), only to be greeted with weasel words about Israel’s right to "self-defense".   Exactly whose suffering is "abstract" again?

I have no doubt that media isn’t always fair with Israel–though I suspect this is more due to a widely diffused malaise of journalistic incompetance than anti-Israeli prejudice–but the idea that a nation whose sufferings are sympathetically chronicled in the media  is the target of dehumanization seems pretty farfetched to me.

I can’t help but wonder what if any chance there is for normal people to particpate in this debate when even a man of President Carter’s stature and accomplishments in the Middle East peace arena can be attacked in this vile manner.  You can be sure that conspiracy theorists everywhere are savoring this disgusting spectacle.

  • http://muslimcultures.blogspot.com Khalid

    Not only that… Goldberg actually served in the Israeli armed forces. You’d think this should be mentioned at the end of his review, but no…
    http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn02282003.html

  • Wellwisher

    Maybe it will be the common folk who will, in the end, bring their fears and disapproval to bear upon their governments. A breaking point will be reached where it will no longer be possible for the West to go on supporting Israel in the incredibly biased way that can be witnessed now.
    That day will no doubt be a sombre one for the State of Israel.
    It was not always a crime to speak openly against Israel on international forums. One remembers the brilliantly sarcastic and stinging speech made by in the United Nations by Zafrullah Khan, then representative of the newly-born Pakistan, in 1947. This was considered the greatest speech ever made on behalf of the Arab nations against the creation of the State of Israel.
    Ch Zafrulla Khan delivered his bombshell on October 7, 1947, when he spoke on the issue of the partition of Palestine. It was a stunning speech, and the Arabs were overjoyed over it. The next day’s issue of the top Indian daily, the Statesman, wrote editorially:
    “For the first time the voice of Pakistan was heard in the United Nations. It was a telling speech which tore into shreds the pleas put forward by advocates of the partition. Ch Zafrulla Khan did not merely indulge in rhetoric, when he described the plan “a physical and geographical monstrosity”, but he proceeded to prove this by his unassailable arguments.
    Answering a question that great many displaced Jews be allowed to go Palestine, he posed the counter question: would the USA agree to take in five million displaced persons of Panjab if they wished to enter USA and settle there?”
    The Statesman concluded:
    “We have little doubt that the Arabs will rejoice to find the voice of Pakistan so powerfully raised in the United Nations.”
    The same paper in its issue of October 11, 1947 quoted an Arab spokesman saying:
    “It was the most brilliant and exhaustive survey of the Arab case regarding Palestine that I ever heard.”
    It has been reproduced in full in “The Review of Religions”, a monthly of the Ahmadiyya, a much-reviled group regarded as heretics by many Muslims. But of course, one must not forget that Zafrullah Khan was himself a follower of the Ahmadiyya. I think that for once in their lives, hard-line fanatics could try to leave aside what the man’s convictions were and rather concentrate on the extraordinary effort he made for the protection of the Arabs. It’s an absolutely brilliant speech and well worth the read. The link is:
    http://www.alislam.org/ror/dec2002.pdf
    His speech left the audience so stunned that had the USA not asked for some delay – in order to be able to dissuade other nations from voting against the creation of Israel – no doubt things would have gone along a very different track.
    Western standards and alliances will have to be drastically redefined as far as their foreign policies go. But in the end, with pressure from the masses, it will be the survival of Israel that will hang in the balance.

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    The medis has been far more fair with Israel than they deserve. Had any other country been doing the things that Israel is doing and our media would be calling for invasion, US troops, carpet bombing.
    Look, the US invaded Iraq, based in part, on Iraqi violations of International Law and UN resolutions. Israel has been in violation o International Law and numerous UN resolutions for years, yet we dont invade Israel, we provide them with the means to continue their transgressions.
    Sooner or later, Israel will have to give into justice, freedom, and if nothing else, demographic demands. This situation cannot, will not, last forever.
    Israel’s own actions are setting the stage for it’s own demise. It is sad, but there you go, and there will be no one to blame but themselves.
    I will be happy the day that Israel goes the way of South Africa, a country ruled by it’s majority, not set up for the exclusive advancement of one people.
    Israel and South Africa(under apartheid) were close states. It is poetic justice that they will end up with the same fate.
    The former “terrorists” will be it’s leaders and these leaders will rightly be feted by the world community.

  • http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/category/mideast-peace/ Richard Silverstein

    Goldberg just wrote a book about his “friendship” with a Palestinian prisoner he guarded at Ketziot Prison. When I first heard about this book I thought: “Cool, an Israeli guard sees the humanity of his Palestinian charges, has a turn of heart, etc.”
    But then I heard a snippet of an NPR interview w. him. Though I didn’t listen long enough to hear the substance in full, Goldberg’s ambivalence toward the prisoner & his relationship with him gave me pause.
    Now, after reading a bit fr. Goldberg’s review, I’d completely cast doubt on the entire premise of Goldberg’s book.
    Your post just gave me an idea. I checked Amazon’s pg. on Goldberg’s own book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-Muslim-Across-Middle-Divide/dp/0375412344/sr=8-1/qid=1169541093/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-5897038-5798804?ie=UTF8&s=books
    and it too contains 2 reviews mostly glowing. But if you read this from one of the reviews, you can see the absolute naivete of Goldberg related to his understanding of the I-P conflict. Here he talks about what he expected in his relationship with the Palestinian:
    “I wanted to… have it all,” he writes, “my parochialism, my universalism, a clean conscience, and a friendship with my enemy.”
    How can anyone credit such a twit w. the ability to analyze & understand Carter’s book??


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