April 16, 2007
59, Number 27
April 16, 2007
Emory professor details his
criticisms of Carter’s book
by carol clark
After 25 years of a close, and often intense, association with former President Jimmy Carter, Emory Professor Kenneth Stein said he felt “betrayed” when he first saw Carter’s bestseller “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” in a bookstore last November. As he flipped through the pages, Stein said he found items “that were false, that were invented and that just were not true.”
Before a packed audience at White Hall and a Web cast linking in viewers from more than a dozen other universities around the country, Stein detailed his criticisms of the book that led him to resign as a Middle East Fellow for The Carter Center.
Stein, the William Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies, served as executive director of The Carter Center from 1984 to 1986, and as Middle East Fellow from 1986 to November 2006.
His talk was part of a lecture series titled “Inquiry, Conflict and Peacebuilding in the Middle East,” sparked by Carter’s campus Town Hall in February. A distinguished professor at Emory, Carter spoke about his long efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and the reason he wrote “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.”
“We are fortunate at Emory to enjoy on our faculty folks who regularly contribute to, and often take responsibility to direct, important national and even international discussions,” said President Jim Wagner in introductory remarks for Stein’s lecture. “Professor Ken Stein is one such leader who, in his case, has helped shaped discussion on the quest for Arab-Israeli peace.”
Carter’s book, Wagner said, “has broadened the interest and participation and visibility of this discussion, and presents an argument that concludes with the assertion that Israeli policies and practices represent the principal barriers to Palestinian and Israeli peace. Professor Stein and others have taken issue with that argument, which brings us to today’s presentation.”
In his lecture, Stein described how he began his friendship with Carter in 1982, when he was invited to a retreat at the Reynolds Mansion on Sapelo Island, Ga., to discuss the formation of The Carter Center. The other guests included Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s former national security adviser, and Warren Christopher, Carter’s deputy secretary of state.
As a young professor, Stein recalled feeling overwhelmed by the company and noted that Carter went out of his way to make him feel comfortable. When the two of them walked past a huge mound of ice piled with shrimp on the buffet table, Carter turned to Stein and said, “Ken, don’t worry. I got you a kosher steak from Atlanta.”
Stein went on to become a key adviser to Carter for his post-presidential involvement in the Middle East. He accompanied the former president on lengthy Middle East trips and took notes during the meetings Carter held with political leaders. He also collaborated on “The Blood of Abraham,” Carter’s first book about the Middle East.
“When you write a book with someone, you get to know that person pretty well,” said Stein. “You argue over words, you argue over phrases. We did that more than once.”
Their relationship was “symbiotic,” and each learned a great deal from the other, said Stein. “I think he benefited from it. He enjoyed the give and take that we had. At times we were brutally honest with each other.”
Stein said that in “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid,” Carter described events that occurred during meetings with Middle East leaders in a way that conflicts with notes taken by Stein, who was at the same meetings.
In the book, Carter also suggested that Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories to help jump-start peace negotiations, which Stein said violates what he called “the gold standard” of Israel-Palestinian negotiations described in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242.
While Stein acknowledged that “plenty of responsibility falls on Israel’s shoulders” for the ongoing conflict, he said that Carter omitted from his book all of the errors and bad policies of the Palestinians that contributed to the tension. “As an historian, I’m interested in telling the whole story, not the partial story,” he said.
Stein said he believes that a two-state solution is the only viable one, giving Palestinians and Israelis the ability to “get out of each others’ lives.” He added that he believes that solution is closer to reality than ever before.
During the Q&A session following the talk, a Palestinian woman from Jerusalem told Stein that she has no passport, only an Israeli-issued travel document that identifies her as Arab, not as a Palestinian. “I’m troubled by that,” she said. “I want to have an identity. I want to have peace. The overwhelming majority on both sides want this.”
She said she worried that 100 more years could pass before ordinary Palestinians have full human rights.
Stein reiterated his optimism for a two-state solution. “I believe it’s going to happen in my lifetime, and I’m 61,” he said.
The next event in the “Inquiry, Conflict and Peacebuilding in the Middle East” series will be a talk by Dennis Ross, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, set for
4:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 1, at Glenn Memorial