Palestine – Jimmy Carter Caught in Court Disaster

February 6, 2011 by David Singer
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Former US president Jimmy Carter faces the prospect of paying damages exceeding five million dollars if he is unsuccessful in defending legal proceedings against himself and his publisher Simon & Schuster Inc resulting from the publication of Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid – which had an initial print run of 300,000 copies.

A class action instituted by five disgruntled readers of Carter’s controversial book commenced this week in the United States District Court. The law suit appears set to attract more readers of the book to add their names to the litigation. The complainants have requested a jury to hear the case.

The Complainants are very clear in declaring what the case is – and is not – about:

“Plaintiffs wish to be clear about what this lawsuit is not about. It is not in any way an attempt to challenge Defendant JIMMY CARTER’S right to write a book, or Defendant SIMON & SCHUSTER’S right to publish a book which serves as a forum for Carter to put forward his virulently ant-Israeli bias or any other agenda he or his financial backers wish to put forward. Nor do Plaintiffs challenge his right to use falsehood, misrepresentations and omissions, misleading statements, or outright lies, all of which characterize this book, to further his agenda. Indeed, Plaintiffs fully recognize that, such an agenda from Defendant JIMMY CARTER should come as no surprise, given his well known bias against Israel and the interests of Israel’s sworn enemies who have given millions of dollars to support the Carter Center and Defendant JIMMY CARTER’S work.

Rather, Plaintiffs bring this action to challenge Defendants’ actions in deceiving the public by promoting and selling this Book as a factually accurate account in all regards of the events its purports to depict, rather than truthfully and accurately promoting and selling it as the anti-Israel screed that it is, intentionally presenting untrue and inaccurate accounts of historically recorded events, as witnesses to and participants in such events pointedly have come forward to declare. This lawsuit challenges the Defendants actions in attempting to capitalize on Carter’s status as a former President of the United States to mislead unsuspecting members of the reading public who thought they could trust their former President to tell the truth”

Factual Accuracy Under Legal Challenge

The Complainants allege several representations were made by Carter as to the accuracy of the book including:

  • the “Larry King Live” program on CNN on December 8, 2006, when Carter declared: “Everything in the book, I might say, is completely accurate.”
  • the same day, December 8, 2006, when Carter wrote in the Los Angeles Times that: “I used maps, text and documents to describe the situation accurately …
  • an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on December 13, 2006 when Carter insisted: “I know what I’m talking about and the book is completely accurate.”

A number of factual inaccuracies in Carter’s book  are specified in the Complaint including claims that:

  • U.N. Security Resolution 242 – enacted on November 22, 1967, – requires Israel to completely withdraw from all territories acquired in the 1967 war.
  • Israel’s eastern border with the Palestinian Territories has been established and internationally recognized.
  • a map represented as “the Palestinian interpretation of Clinton’s 2000 proposal”  in December 2000 is in fact a map presented by Israel during the Camp David Summit in July 2000
  • The Israelis have never granted any appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians.
  • The security barrier has been erected entirely within Palestinian territory and is at least three and a half times longer than Israel’s internationally recognized border
  • Hamas offered to exchange the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for the release of 95 women and 313 children who are among some 8,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons

The Complaint foreshadows many more inaccuracies will be presented at the hearing.

A former close aide and adviser to  Carter – Professor Kenneth Stein – has been very outspoken in his criticism of the book:

“ It contains egregious errors of both commission and omission. To suit his desired ends, he manipulates information, redefines facts, and exaggerates conclusions. Falsehoods, when repeated and backed by the prestige of Carter’s credentials, can comprise an erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and policymaking. Rather than bring peace, they can further fuel hostilities, encourage retrenchment, and hamper peacemaking.”

Professor Alan Dershowitz has been as equally scathing claiming:

“Mr. Carter’s book is so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omissions that were it a brief filed in a court of law, it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court. Mr. Carter too is guilty of misleading the court of public opinion. A mere listing of all of Mr. Carter’s mistakes and omissions would fill a volume the size of his book.”

The Complainants do not appear to base their claim on any omissions of fact from the book – relying only on inaccuracies in the facts allegedly appearing in the book.

Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster, issued a statement calling the action :

“frivolous [and] without merit”

Rothberg said that the suit

“is a transparent attempt by the plaintiffs, despite their contentions, to punish the author, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and world-renowned statesman, and his publisher, for writing and publishing a book with which the plaintiffs simply disagree, It is a chilling attack on free speech that we intend to defend vigorously.”

Rothberg apparently has failed to grasp that the case is not about free speech – but rather that it is about representing a work as factually accurate and non-fiction when it is not.

The Complainants allege:

“SIMON & SCHUSTER, Inc. steadfastly has refused to make any corrections of such false, misleading, and deceptive provisions in the book and both Defendants continue unabashedly to promote the sale of this deceptive product as a work of non-fiction filled only with a truthful account all matters depicted in it, denying all claims by those well respected officials that Carter has fabricated things in the book which he claims to be true.”

Those interested in ensuring the unquestionable accuracy of  facts published in relation to the Jewish – Arab conflict – indeed any conflict – will certainly watch the progress of this case with great interest.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


Comments

8 Responses to “Palestine – Jimmy Carter Caught in Court Disaster”
  1. david singer says:

    To Stewart Mills

    You continue to fail to express your opinion as to the accuracy of five of the six Carter statements of fact detailed in my article.

    You fail to discuss whether B”Tselem and Jimmy Carter are at odds on two of these misstatements.

    When you choose to do so then we can discuss any further issues you might have concerning my article.

  2. David, thank you for your response. In relation to your question does silence constitute acceptance? Again, I repeat silence on the party of any one party does not necessarily constitute acceptance of a point. Acceptance of a point is best identified through express words. Assumptions to the contrary are liable to misinterpret another party’s position. Comments made in these exchanges reflect our immediate priorities which may or may not include giving a complete response to all points made by the other party.

    I am glad you looked at the B’Tselem report. B’Tselem does fantastic work in encouraging Israelis to understand the implications of occupation. In terms of illegality of settlements. I would choose to say that settlements are illegal under international law, principally as established by the 4th Geneva Convention; and repeated by the UN Security Council over the past 4 decades. There is a minority position, principally, taken by the State of Israel to assert settlements are legal. There are obvious vested interests in this assertion, just as Iraq asserted the legality of its occupation of Kuwait, Indonesia asserted the legality of its occupation of East Timor and West Papua; and China assets the legality of its occupation of Tibet.

    A better legal view would be to acknowledge the illegality. This was the position taken by Theodor Meron, legal counsel to the Israeli Foreign Affairs in 1967. However, in the ultimate decision of where the eventual border between Israel and Palestine lies will be based on negotiation, using the premise that the 1949 demarcation line as the base line.

    Your assertion of the legitimacy for settlements based on article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the UN Charter is misplaced and flies in the face of the Fourth Geneva Convention and settled international opinion – ranging from the International Red Cross, the International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, Amnesty International, B’Tselem the list goes on. With the effective end of the Mandate on 14 May 1948 and the resulting international conflict, West Bank and Gaza came under the control of Jordan and Egypt respectively. As a consequence of the June 67 conflict WB and Gaza came under the control of Israel. The laws of armed conflict, relying on the Fourth Geneva Convention , would hold Israel as the occupying power responsible for the welfare of the occupied people. Further the “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” (Article 49(6)).

    Even Israel’s strongest supporter is critical of Israel’s settlements policy. Whilst US administrations now shy away from calling settlements illegal as was done in the 70’s. The message is still clear. Israel’s policy of settlement expansion undermines the possibility for a two state solution and jeopardizes any future peace agreement.

    Statements on American Policy toward Settlements by U.S. Government Officials – 1968-2009
    http://www.fmep.org/analysis/analysis/israeli-settlements-in-the-occupied-territories

    “The Israeli people also must understand that . . . the settlement enterprise and building bypass roads in the heart of what they already know will one day be part of a Palestinian state is inconsistent with the Oslo commitment that both sides negotiate a compromise.”
    President Clinton’s farewell address to the Middle East — January 7, 2001
    Churches for Middle East Peace Website, http://www.cmep.org/documents/settlements.htm, September 11, 2006

    “During the half-century of its existence, Israel has had the strong support of the United States. In international forums, the United States has at times cast the only vote on Israel’s behalf. Yet, even in such a close relationship there are some difficulties. Prominent among those differences is the U.S. government’s long-standing opposition to the Government of Israel’s policies and practices regarding settlements.” …“The GOI should freeze all settlement activity, including the “natural growth” of existing settlements. The kind of security cooperation desired by the GOI cannot for long co-exist with settlement activity described very recently by the European Union as causing “great concern” and by the United States as “provocative.”
    The Mitchell Report, April 30, 2001

    “With respect to settlements, the President was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interests of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point.”
    Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton in a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/05/124009.htm.
    June 1, 2009

    “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”
    President Barack Obama in an address at the Cairo University, Egypt, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Cairo-University-6-04-09/.

  3. david singer says:

    To Stewart Mills

    Your long post fails to disclose your opinion on the accuracy of the five statements of fact alleged in the Complaint filed in Court . Still choosing to remain silent on confirming the accuracy or otherwise of those five statements can only be interpreted as acknowledgment by you that they are inaccurate.

    Perhaps you are reluctant to answer because the B”Tselem Report quoted by you confirms the possible inaccuracy of two of those Carter stated facts.

    The B’Tselem Report states:

    “Some 85 percent of the Barrier runs inside the West Bank,”

    Carter wrote that the barrier runs entirely within the Palestinian territories.

    The Complainants allege that UN maps show that 45% of the barrier adheres to the 1949 armistice lines

    Someone has got it wrong.

    The B’Tselem Report quoted by you also confirms what I pointed out to you in my last post.and also exposes another possible inaccurate statement made by Carter that Israel has never granted any appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians.

    It states:
    ““In the West Bank, there are now more than 200 settlements that are connected to one another, and to Israel, by an elaborate network of roads. This network cuts across the areas that were handed over to Palestinian control, creating territorial islands of Areas A, which are under full Palestinian control, and Areas B, whose civil affairs are under Palestinian control” (p. 12).”

    Areas A and B contain 95% of the West Bank Arab population as I previously pointed out.

    How can you, Tutu, B’Tselem or Carter claim the granting to the Palestinian Authority of full civilian autonomy over 95% of the West Bank Arab population and full military protection over 55% of West Bank Arabs constitutes “apartheid”? That is what the Arabs agreed should happen at Oslo and that is what was granted to them. Is Israel to now be hung drawn and quartered as practicing “apartheid” for having transferred this civil and security control to the Palestinian Authority?

    Of course terms such as “apartheid” slip easily off the tongue and as Goebbels showed – if a statement is made over and over again people will believe it to be true. Just because you, Tutu or Carter mouth this remark does not make it true or accurate. It just shows how successful Arab propaganda has been and how gullible so many have become in swallowing these baseless claims hook line and sinker. That is your perfect choice to make. It certainly is not mine.

    Similarly the oft repeated claim in the B”Tselem Report that the Jewish settlements are illegal in international law is also a matter of dispute among lawyers. Jews have the right to settle in the West Bank under article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the UN Charter. These two bits of international law were never presented to the International Court of Justice when it gave its non-binding advice. Perhaps the man who prepared the brief to the ICJ – Kofi Annan – will one day disclose why he chose to omit these two crucial pieces of legislation. If you only present half of the material you will only get half an answer.

    Again a glib statement has taken on a life of its own by virtue of its constant repetition. Would it not be fairer to say that the settlements may be illegal in international law and that such claim is a matter of dispute between lawyers?.

  4. David, B’Tselem offers a more sobering account of the situation in the West Bank and does so by using the terms occupation, illegality of settlements and separate laws based on national identity [this reality of separateness has been named by Bishop Demond Tutu amongst numerous others specifically as apartheid] .

    In B’Tselem’s July 2010 report on settlements B’Tselem found Israel had declared 75.2% of the West Bank as “State Land” (p. 35). “Some half a million Israelis are now living over the Green Line: more than 300,000 in 121 settlements and about one hundred outposts, which control 42 percent (2,399,824 dunams = 2,400 km2) of the land area of the West Bank, and the rest in twelve neighborhoods that Israel established on land it annexed to the Jerusalem Municipality” (West Bank figures include annexed Jerusalem = 5,602,951 dunam = 5,063 km2)).

    “In the West Bank, there are now more than 200 settlements that are connected to one another, and to Israel, by an elaborate network of roads. This network cuts across the areas that were handed over to Palestinian control, creating territorial islands of Areas A, which are under full Palestinian control, and Areas B, whose civil affairs are under Palestinian control” (p. 12).

    Since 1993, when the Oslo process began, the settler population in the West Bank, not
    counting those living in East Jerusalem, has almost tripled, rising from 110,900 to 301,200. The entire settler population, including those in East Jerusalem, has grown from 241,000 to more than half a million persons (p. 14).

    “In 2002, Israel again made extensive use of military requisition orders to build the Separation Barrier, appropriating tens of thousands of dunams of private Palestinian land. Some 85 percent of the Barrier runs inside the West Bank, leaving 60 settlements between the Barrier and the Green Line.” (p. 23).

    B’Tselem’s report concludes on p. 56:
    “The establishment of settlements is illegal. In spite of this, over the last 43 years, more than 42 percent of West Bank land has been allocated to the establishment of over 200 settlements, in addition to 12 neighborhoods in the areas annexed to Jerusalem’s municipal borders. At the same time, Israel encouraged some half a million Israelis to relocate to these settlements by offering them a long list of generous benefits and incentives. This process has led to significant changes in the landscape of the West Bank.

    Throughout the years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the settlement enterprise has been promoted under every government. Its main objective is to gain control of as much land as possible in the West Bank for the purpose of establishing and expanding settlements. The settlement enterprise has divided and separated the areas under Palestinian control, turning them into disconnected enclaves and blurring the border between Israel and the West Bank.

    While developing the settlement enterprise, Israel also established and institutionalized two separate legal systems in the West Bank: one for settlers, which de facto annexes the settlements and grants their residents all the rights accorded to citizens of a democratic country; and the other, a military judicial system that systematically violates the rights of Palestinians and denies them any real power in shaping the policies that influence their lives. These separate systems entrench a regime in the protection of a person’s rights is based on his or her national identity.”

    http://www.btselem.org/Download/201007_By_Hook_and_by_Crook_Eng.pdf

  5. david singer says:

    To Stewart Mills

    I have not made the 5 claims you have omitted to deal with. They were made by the Complainants in the Complaint filed in Court. Perhaps you might now like to express your opinion on the merits of those 5 claims as you have done on the other one.

    Courts have a record of dealing with issues of fact and making determinations. You obviously don’t relish such a system. I don’t agree that writing a counter book goes anywhere near being as definitive as a court ruling.

    Your use of the word “occupation” masks the fact that the daily lives of 95% of the West Bank Arab population is under the exclusive administrative control of the Palestinian Authority as a result of the Oslo Accords. Are you suggesting this be ended?

    Your claim that such separate rule and separate laws in those factual circumstances constitute “apartheid” is nonsense. It is the use of such pejorative language that makes it more difficut to resolve the conflict.

    Readers might also like to know that 55% of the West Bank Arab population are also presently under the full security control of the Palestinian Authority.

    I wonder why these statistics are rarely mentioned in the media toanswer the “apartheid” claim. I can only assume you have followed others in making such claim without the benefit of knowledge of these facts.

  6. Thanks David for your reply. Silence on my part in response to claims that you make cannot be construed as acceptance. In the same way that silence that you show on claims made by others is not necessarily a sign of your acceptance.

    My point was I disagreed with the premise for initiating a civil suit regardless of any inaccuracies that may or may not be in Carter’s book. The most appropriate fora for this is through writing a counter book; as Alan Dershowitz does.

    On the flip side the litigation will be a benefit to Carter’s work as it will promote his book and it will remind people that the longer occupation occurs of Palestinians the worse the system of separate rule and separate laws (apartheid) will be; unless drastic measures are taken to end the occupation.

  7. david singer says:

    # To Stewart Mills

    This is not a case about whether one agrees or disagrees with Jimmy Carter’s views nor is it an attempt to stifle Jimmy Carter expressing those views..

    It is a case alleging Jimmy Carter publicly represented on at least the three occasions detailed in my article that certain facts in a book he wrote were completely accurate and non-fictional which induced people to buy the book in the belief that those representations were true.

    Consumer laws in America as in Australia are designed to protect consumers claiming to have been aggrieved as a result of false representations. An adverse finding would seriously undermine the credibility of the maker of those statements.

    The Court will determine whether those consumer laws have been breached in this particular case.

    The Court can also determine whether the claim is frivolous, without merit or vexatious should Mr Carter or his publisher wish to go down that road.

    Given the statement by Simon & Shuster’s spokesman Adam Rothberg one would expect the defendants to seek to argue such a case at the earliest possible date.

    You have sought to address only one out of the six alleged inaccuracies set out in my article. Does your silence indicate that the other five are inaccurate in your opinion?

  8. Jimmy Carter’s book is a an autobiography of his experience in relation to the tragic situation confronting the people of Palestine and Israel. It is a compelling read from a key figure in the brokering of peace between Egypt and Israel; which subsequently set the precedence for peace with Jordan. Carter presents personal accounts and personal views. In a democratic society we can disagree on these views. The claimants in this litigation are vexatious and frivolous. Ironically, Carter could counter sue the litigants for defamation, asserting he has an “anti-Israel agenda”; a claim made in paragraph 40 of the claim. Page 17 of Carter’s autobiography clearly states the right of Israel to exist within recognised borders-and to live in peace [and] must be accepted by Palestinians and all other neighbors”. Carter talks of Israeli casualties from Hamas and Hezbollah and of Islamic extremism.

    Carter’s interpretation of UN Sec Res 242 is another ground for the suit Again this is a vexatious claim. There are good arguments for and against how 242 should be interpreted. The fact that Carter takes a broad interpretation is not grounds for a legal suit. The ICJ’s 2004 judgement and numerous UN Sec Council and Gen Asembly Resolutions have established that settlements built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal.

    All Carter wants is for their to be peace for the people of Palestine and Israel (again p. 17). This litigation rather than helping Israel, continues the occupation which ultimately hurts Israel and the people of Palestine.

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