Monday, December 07, 2015

Jimmy Carter as a Role Model

Ex-President Jimmy Carter
I voted for him. I admit it. I voted for the worst President in my lifetime, Jimmy Carter, back in 1976 when he ran against Gerald Ford.  (I voted for Reagan the 2nd time in 1980.) Not only was he the worst President - he is probably the worst ex-president of my lifetime too. At least as far as his attitude about Israel is concerned.

He has compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of blacks in its Apartheid days. Which - even if we were to stretch the truth all the way to the moon - is a blatant, virulent lie. Although it’s possible Carter believes it, and maybe exaggerated a bit to make his point – that does not make it true even in the slightest.

Yes, Palestinians are having a rough time on the West Bank relative to Israelis. But that is due to Israel’s security concerns and is the fault of their own leaders who exacerbate the enmity. Given the opportunity many of their people would harm us with bullets and suicide belts; knives and cars.  Actions predicated on decades of indoctrinated hatred. Instilled in them from the earliest periods of their childhood. And reinforced in the classroom; the mosque; and the culture.

But as bad as Palestinians might have it, Apartheid - it is not. In case one has any doubts about that, let them ask any black South African who experienced it what that was really like. They will laugh out loud at the suggestion that what Palestinians are going through now in Israel is anywhere near what Apartheid was.

I don’t entirely blame Carter for his extremely biased views. He was - and probably still is heavily influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security adviser at the time of his Presidency. I can’t think of anyone more anti Israel than this fellow. Combine that with Carter’s natural tendency to always see the underdog as the victim and you get an Israel that practices Apartheid.

Sadat, Carter, and Begin at the signing of Camp David Peace Accords
To say that Jimmy Carter is anti-Israel, however, is a mistake – hard as that may be to swallow. For the following reason. In my view the Camp David Accords signed by both Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Answar Sadat which led to a peace treaty and an exchange of ambassadors - is the direct result of Jimmy Carter’s hard work. That cannot be a denied. It is perhaps the most significant contribution any President has ever made toward peace between the Arabs and Israel.

That does not absolve Jimmy Carter of his current attitude which is a sea change from his role as an honest broker back then. But his achievement was real and he deserves credit for it.

Which leads me to comment on the following. Earlier this year Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Tumors were found in various parts of his body including his brain. The prognosis was not good. Especially for someone as advanced in age as he is. His reaction to that can only be described as that of role model quality. He expressed thanks to his dedicated doctors, love of his family, and said that he remained hopeful. He expressed his full faith in God and said the future is in His hands. 

One usually hears such stories from our own faithful. I can recall reading stories about husbands or wives describing the faith a terminally ill spouse would show in the face of their dreaded illness. They expressed great wonder and admiration at the pure faith in God expressed by their spouse at such a time.  Hoping for a cure, they nevertheless had an attitude of peace and resignation about the will of God. This is what Jimmy Carter expressed. I remember having mixed feelings about that – resenting the fact that it took this perceived anti Semite to teach us how to react to bad news about our heath.

Last Sunday, he announced that he is in full remission. No Tumors were detected after his last scan. Although he had undergone treatment, which included radiation and some experimental drugs the prognosis for surviving this type of cancer was not good. But survive he has. Those tumors seem to have miraculously disappeared.

Despite what one’s feelings are about this man, I can’t help but think that there is a lesson in Emunah for us, here. Sure, it was probably the drug, the radiation, or both that got rid of the tumors. But it was the hand of God, the ultimate Healer that guided it. And the fact that it happened to an individual that most Jews consider an antisemite is what got us (or at least me) to pay attention to it. Everything that happens in the world is guided by God. That is surely something to think about at this time where savage butchery is increasingly becoming the order of the day.