Commentary Magazine


What Kind of Anti-Semite Is He?

Poor Jimmy Carter! “This is the first time that I’ve ever been called a liar and a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward and a plagiarist. This is hurting me.”

This plaint, issuing from a podium at Brandeis University (where else?) and from a man who won election to the presidency of the United States and oversaw the Iran hostage crisis, seems somewhat disingenuous. The “first time?” But you have to attend to the middle term, “anti-Semite,” inserted so casually among the others. Lying, bigotry, cowardice, and plagiarism speak to the deeds and character of the accused. Casting oneself as the victim of charges of anti-Semitism involves a third party, and can be a way of reinforcing the original attack against them.

Good people weep for the hardships of troubled populations. It was noble—and Christian—to feel sorry for the starving children in Europe in the 1930′s, and no less so to sympathize with the Palestinians today.

But there are those who, through “lying and bigotry and cowardice,” turn those sympathies into blaming Jews for failing to alleviate hardships that Jews did not cause in the first place and are powerless to prevent.

It was not Jimmy Carter who formed the Arab League to prevent the emergence of Israel and who then dedicated the work of the League to Israel’s destruction. It was not Jimmy Carter who refused partition and insisted on maintaining generations of Palestinians as refugees. Neither was it Carter who instituted the economic boycott of Israel, introduced the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, or sponsored terrorism as an “unsponsored” weapon against Israel. Carter did not translate, disseminate, and dramatize the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for audiences in the multi-millions. He did not generate the anti-Semitism that sweeps and informs the Arab world. He is not an active anti-Semite. But he became its apologist, he echoes its accusations, using its terminology and advancing its cause.

Let us then make the distinction between anti-Semites who generate anti-Semitism and those who sustain it. And let him whom the shoe fits wear it.