Former President James (Jimmy) Carter has the ability to appear almost out of thin air, landing in the midst of some of the most complex international crises. He has done it again, this time in going to meet with the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas. For reaching out to this significant section of the Palestinian movement, he is being demonized by both the Bush administration and the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.
Former President Carter has crossed a line that Bush and his Israeli allies have set, aimed at isolating and destroying Hamas. Despite the fact that Hamas won internationally recognized elections in Palestine in 2006, Bush and the Israelis have been doing all they can to void the elections, isolate Hamas and destroy them. In fact, a blockbuster article in Vanity Fair revealed details of a plan hatched by the Bush administration along with an anti-Hamas Palestinian leader to carry out a coup against Hamas. The plot failed, leading to a Hamas preemptive strike against the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with the result being a Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Carter concluded, and this is entirely consistent with his best-selling book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, that all significant forces involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict must be brought to the table if there is to be a permanent and just settlement of outstanding matters. Bush and Olmert have a very different vision. Their objective is to turn the Abbas government into a puppet regime that operates akin to a subcontractor, in this case a subcontractor to manage the Palestinian people. Carter, on the other hand, recognizes that such an approach is not only undesirable - even from the standpoint of the ruling circles in the USA - but is also untenable. For this reason, he has insisted on meeting with Hamas as well as the Syrian government.
The preliminary results of these meetings are very intriguing. Hamas has offered to accept Israel - though not recognize it - as long as Israel withdraws to the pre-June 1967 borders. Specifically, they would call for a 10 year truce. What Hamas is offering, in fact, is a de facto recognition of Israel as long as this is the will of the Palestinian people. This last point is of particular importance, however. Hamas is stating that they will not accept any deal IMPOSED upon the Palestinian people, either by an external power or through undemocratic means internal to the Palestinian people. They are, additionally, calling for the democratic participation of the Palestinian Diaspora in decisions regarding the future of the Palestinian people. Some commentators have claimed that this is unrealistic, but it is no more unrealistic than the Iraqi elections that included the Iraqi Diaspora.
The attacks on Carter are not only aimed at undermining any good will that he has secured with Hamas and the Syrians, but also at blocking efforts at any route to peace not dictated by Bush and the Israeli government. As became clear in the aftermath of the Palestinian elections and the Hamas victory, elections and self- determination are perfectly acceptable for Bush and the Israeli government as long as the results are those that Bush and the Israelis have approved.
It is critically important that we in Black America add our voices to those, internationally, who are and have been supporting President Carter's peace efforts (and other legitimate peace efforts) aimed at securing a just settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and specifically, justice for the Palestinian people. Actions aimed at intimidating pro-Palestinian and pro- peace forces must be halted, but, as with any bully, will only be halted when people of good will stand firm and insist that this will not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, being anti-Palestinian seems to be a litmus test for many politicians in the USA and it will continue to be so until and unless those who support justice for the Palestinian people become a much better organized constituency, capable of supporting our friends and punishing our opponents. Given the tremendous response to President Carter's book, as well as growing sentiment particularly in religious quarters, that the Israeli Occupation must end, it appears that we have a good chance of success.
[Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.]