joins the lynching of President Carter joins the lynching of President Carter January 12, 2007

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."


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.

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