Robert Novak

The film is more assertive than the book, which tends to be prolix in recounting Carter's experiences with Israel. It was the word "apartheid" in the title that spawned instant accusations of anti-Semitism against the former president and led 14 members of the Carter Center's board of counselors to resign. Not until page 215 near the end of the slim book did Carter make it clear that the "policy now being followed" on the West Bank is "a system of apartheid with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic rights."

In the movie, Carter repeatedly declares Israel must end its occupation of Palestine for peace to have a chance. The hecklers at his appearances and confused interviewers only provoke a stubborn Carter, who says chopping up the West Bank is actually worse than apartheid, just as Palestinian peace-seekers told me this year in Jerusalem.

A broader, more detailed analysis can be found in the newly updated American version of "Lords of the Land" by Prof. Idith Zertal and leading Israeli columnist Akiva Eldar. This scathing account of the occupation, first published in Israel in 2005, declares former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for a security wall was intended to "take hold of as much West Bank territory as possible and block the establishment of a viable Palestinian state."

As Israelis, Eldar and Zertal employ language that not even Carter dares use: "Israel's lofty demands that Palestinians strengthen their democracy and impose control on extremist organizations is . . . nothing but deceptive talk covering its own deeds, which are aimed at achieving exactly the opposite -- of eroding Palestinian society."

Carter goes further in this direction than any other prominent American in "Man From Plains," and people who wander into a movie theater to see the film may be shocked. It raises questions that must at least be asked for the contemplated conference at Annapolis to have any chance.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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