Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Historian Resigns over Carter Screed

I previously referred to Alan Dershowitz's scathing review of former President Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Dershowitz took Carter to task for playing fast and loose--if not outright ignoring--history. Now, Dr. Kenneth Stein, Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science, and Israeli Studies at Emory as well as the Director of the Middle East Research Program and Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel has resigned (via John Podhoretz) as Middle East Fellow of the Carter Center at Emory.
This ends my 23 year association with an institution that in some small way I helped shape and develop. My joint academic position in Emory College in the History and Political Science Departments, and, as Director of the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel remains unchanged.

Many still believe that I have an active association with the Center and, act as an adviser to President Carter, neither is the case. President Carter has intermittently continued to come to the Arab-Israeli Conflict class I teach in Emory College. He gives undergraduate students a fine first hand recollection of the Begin-Sadat negotiations of the late 1970s. Since I left the Center physically thirteen years ago, the Middle East program of the Center has waned as has my status as a Carter Center Fellow. For the record, I had nothing to do with the research, preparation, writing, or review of President Carter's recent publication. Any material which he used from the book we did together in 1984, The Blood of Abraham, he used unilaterally.

President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins.

{emphasis added}

I'm not familiar with Dr. Stein's work, but I would imagine that his c.v. is strong enough to withstand any attacks of him being some sort of neocon hack. I'll be interested to see what he provides as evidence of President Carter's skewed scholarship.

UPDATE (12/7/06): Jake Tapper adds:

Speaking to the NEW YORK TIMES Tulane historian Douglas Brinkley, author of the 1988 Carter biography, "The Unfinished Presidency," paints the dispute as more ideological than ethical.
"They've never been on the same page in the Middle East. They've been in an almost constant state of disagreement. Carter has used him as a sounding board but apparently Carter went too far and the sparring partner decided to bloody him up," Brinkley said. "Ken Stein ... doesn't trust the Palestinians as much as Carter."

As a college student, I interned for Dr. Stein at the Carter Center in 1988. He's a stand-up guy, one committed to trying to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and one certainly open to the Palestinian point of view.

My work for Stein revolved around research about THE BENELUX STATES -- the economic union that allows Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemboug to function together while existing separately. I also researched ways in which Israel and the Palestinians were intertwined infrastructurally -- water supplies, for instance. This is not the work of a man turning a deaf ear to the needs of the Palestinians -- it's the work of a man researching ways to achieve peace.

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