The Trouble With ‘Preventing Palestine’

Seth Anziska’s new book on the Arab-Israeli “peace process” is a useful primer on the conflict, but it does not fully examine the paradox of the Carter administration’s solution that we are still living with, argues As’ad AbuKhalil.

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

A new book by Seth Anziska, titled “Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo” created quite a buzz before its official release a few weeks ago. The writer had mentioned it in press articles and noted that he had unearthed important documents. The book, however, is not as firm in its Palestinian advocacy as has been assumed by supporters of the cause who have praised it on social media and in reviews.  

Anziska, a lecturer in Jewish-Muslim Relations at University College London, seeks to trace the origins of the current stalemate in the American-formulated “peace process” to the Carter administration and its Camp David accords. But there are several political and scholarly problems with the book: 

  • The title “Preventing Palestine” and the book’s treatment seems to deny agency to the Palestinian people. It treats the project of establishing a Palestinian state as if it is merely a United States initiative which, alone, can determine the fate of the Palestinians. This approach is also reflected in the research where English-language sources (and some Hebrew) are consulted, but no Arabic sources are cited. Referring to the memoirs of Shafiq Al-Hout, a founder of the PLO,  and interviewing Palestinian journalist Bayan Nuwayhid al-Hut is not enough to write the Palestinian people into this narrative.
  • The author’s treatment of the Carter administration is way too charitable. It puts too much emphasis on human rights when the view of the administration was the result of a complex process.

View Inside the Carter Administration

There were different currents within the administration:

  • The Arabists believed that U.S. interests in the region were best served by responding to Gulf regimes’ appeal for U.S. intervention in the Middle East peace process in order to impose a more equitable and fair settlement than what was being dictated by Israel or the U.S. However, the views of Gulf regimes were not entirely due to their interest in Palestinian justice—they were revenge for firm opposition by the Israel lobby to arms sales to Gulf countries. As the Israel lobby reconciled with Gulf regimes and supported U.S. arms to the region by 1990, Gulf advocacy for a “fair” U.S. settlement diminished and later disappeared.  

Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, left, and U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski play chess at Camp David. (CIA)

  • Anziska also never mentions that the domestic policy advisers to Carter came up, cynically, with the idea of “the Holocaust museum” not so much as a moral remembrance of the victims of the historical crime but as a way to appease Jewish voters (which is insulting to Jewish voters and to the victims of the Holocaust).  
  • The domestic policy advisers believed that Carter’s interest in a Middle East settlement would reduce Jewish support for Carter in the re-election.  This explains the cynical statement made by Hamilton Jordan (Carter’s chief of staff) to the effect that Carter would become president of the West Bank.  
  • The national security team headed by Zbigniew Brzezinski believed that a U.S. settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict would enhance the strategic posture of the U.S. vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.
  • There was also a strong Zionist camp within the administration which lobbied on behalf of Israeli intransigence. Vice President Walter Mondale (who harbored early presidential ambition) sought to obstruct Carter’s peace efforts. 
  • Despite Carter’s human rights rhetoric, the book mentions how the same Jimmy Carter hosted and praised the likes of the Shah of Iran and Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia, among other pro-U.S. despots.

Re-Examining Arab-Israeli History

The author should have started his chronicle in the Nixon administration and the Rogers Plan.  His periodization seems to put a special humanitarian cast on Carter’s policies, when they were a continuation of previous U.S. policies that were intended to save Israel in the wake of the 1967 war. This continuity can be seen in the book in names like Dennis Ross, Mideast point man for both the Reagan and Clinton administrations and as a special assissant to Obama; Martin Indyk, a Mideast envoy for Clinton and Obama and Douglas Feith, who worked on Mideast issues in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

One of the biggest failings of the author is his inability to transcend Zionist  sensibilities in the rendering of judgment about acts of political violence. His tone and language of outrage and revulsion against acts of Palestinian political violence contrast starkly with his lack of judgment on a long history of Israeli war crimes, massacres and invasions.  

He applies the word “terrorist” casually to Palestinian acts of political violence but does not apply it to the long record of Israeli-backed terrorism and war crimes. For example, he refers to “genuine Israeli concern over terror attacks in the 1970s.” Is the author of the opinion that the Palestinians in the refugee camps who were regularly bombarded from air, land, and sea by successive Israeli governments harbored no such concerns over Israeli acts of terror?  

Anziska lumps all acts of Palestinian armed struggle under the same rubric of terrorism, without exploring the Palestinian people’s elementary right to self-defense.    

The author only lists “at least” 5,000 victims (mostly civilians, of course) of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when even the right-wing Lebanese newspaper, An-Nahar, gave an estimate of 20,000. Anziska lists the number of 20,000 in the endnote section but settles in the text on 5,000.  

Bashir Gemayel (Georges Hayek / Wikimedia)

The book is a useful and informative account of the peace process, but is rarely original. For example, the Sabra and Shatila document that he talks about in the chapter on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is not (contrary to what he claims) the full secret classified appendix of the Kahan Commission report. My own judgment is that it is, in fact, not even the full appendix.  

What the author obtained from William Quandt, a Mideast scholar at the University of Virginia, is what the Israeli government voluntarily submitted to the defense team of Time magazine in the famous case of Sharon’s lawsuit against the publication. Israeli censorship is notoriously strict and political, and what the author obtained was a section (most likely redacted) from the unpublished classified appendix of the Kahan Commission report. But the originality of the findings in the report is less than the author assumes perhaps because he can’t read Arabic.  

In 2017, George Freiha, the former chief of staff of the late Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel, published a book titled “With Bashir” in which he published minutes of meetings between Gemayel and Ariel Sharon.

The minutes of those meetings make it clear that both sides discussed in detail a plan for the Phalanges’s henchmen to invade the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and engage in the massacres on behalf of the Israeli occupation army and its surrogate militias in Beirut. Freiha claims he was present when both leaders mentioned invading the camps. 

That was not cited in Anziska’s book.

The Contradiction With Carter’s ‘Peace Efforts’

“Preventing Palestine” is so intent on putting a positive light on Carter’s “peace efforts” that Anziska accepts the notion that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s easy surrender to Israeli conditions in the negotiations undercut U.S. efforts at promoting Palestinian interests. He cites Carter officials to show they wanted Sadat to push for meaningful Palestinian self-autonomy. But it is not believable that the superpower needed Sadat to pressure Israel on behalf of the U.S. to further Palestinian rights when the U.S. has far more leverage over Israel.  

Just as Sadat did not care about Palestinian rights, the U.S. was willing to retract statements and issue rhetorical readjustments in order to appease the Israeli government.  

Camp David in September 1978. (Wikimedia)

This book will serve as a useful introduction for courses on the Arab-Israeli conflict on college campuses. It provides an interesting and comprehensive chronicle of the peace process since Carter’s administration.

But the paradox of the Carter administration (and of this book) is that the administration that did the most (in theory) to find a comprehensive solution (on terms that are far more agreeable to the Israeli side than to the Palestinian side) is the same administration paved the way for greater Israeli occupation and aggression by taking Egypt out of the equation so Israel could fight on one front for the first time. 

The desire to lure Egypt away from the “Arab fold” on Israel was too tempting for the Carter administration to really care about the people who have never mattered to any U.S. president. 

Camp David wound up being the single most important factor in enabling, even encouraging Israel to engage in successive invasions of Lebanon and of the Palestinian territories. The U.S. sold the Palestinians out to achieve a strategic benefit for Israeli occupation.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service.

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21 comments for “The Trouble With ‘Preventing Palestine’

  1. R Davis
    October 12, 2018 at 03:59

    I play chess:
    That there was an audience – watching Begin & Blezinsky play chess & who cares where.
    Do people really watch other people play chess ??
    It is about as interesting as watching snails race.
    The pic was a set up to show these 2 characters to be chic … please.

  2. Mild - ly - Facetious
    October 10, 2018 at 11:21

    All attempts toward a “peace process” came to a decisive and abrupt end with the assassination of Israeli President Yidzak Rabin.
    The now Twenty Year Israeli dictator, Bibi Netanyahu is thought to be a lead conspirator in the plot to murder Rabin.

    The ongoing slaughter of and vicious maltreatment of the Palestinian People is a humanitarian disgrace.
    Shame shame on Trump for lauding Nikki Hayley by praising her work on the human tragedy they call the “Israeli Peace Process”.

    Israeli law vis-a-vis citizen rights now only apply to Jewish citizens despite the fact that Arabs have lived in the land for decades.
    Over 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been wounded and over 500 murdered since the day Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem. The Israeli Defense Force malicious/murderous, disrespectful treatment of Human Beings in Gaza is a real life morbid and decrepit ongoing 21st century human horror story !!!

    As Trump and Hayley gloat over the sham “peace process” the Palestinian People are looked upon as caged animals; blockaded on all sides and rationed food stuffs, water and power and other necessary elements of basic human survival/existence.

    Bigotry leads the defamation of Palestinian People. From Zionist bigots to wrong-headed “evangelical christians”, the deadly persecution and dehumanization of Palestinians is not far removed from, for example, the dehumanization of the slave trade – wherein lives are not valued and human beings are “accounted as sheep for the slaughter”. —
    Or to put it in terms of the SECT of the “ORIGINALIST” Judges, a Specific Group of people(?) can legally be classified as ‘3/5 human’ as well as legally termed “savages”.

    In terms of our treatment of Yemenis or Palestinians or Australian “Aborigines” or Native Americans — WHO OR WHOM ARE THE REAL SAVAGES! ?

    • Mild - ly - Facetious
      October 13, 2018 at 12:19

      QUESTION —-^—-

      In terms of our treatment of Yemenis or Palestinians or Australian “Aborigines” or Native Americans — WHO OR WHOM ARE THE REAL SAVAGES ! ?

      ANSWER —-^—-

      Unbridled Power in Palestine
      by Jafar M Ramini
      October 13, 2018


      The power I am speaking of is that of the Zionist occupiers of our land who will not stop at anything to wipe every Palestinian off the
      face of this earth and erase every semblance of Palestinian life and culture of our ancestral home.

      This savage power has been enabled and empowered throughout the last century by various western powers, mainly Britain closely followed by the United States of America. Britain did all in its power through the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to facilitate the establishment of the Jewish state on land that Britain did not own, nor have title to or was even managing. At a whim, British Zionists in the cabinet of Lloyd George championed the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and, as they say, the rest is history. Except it’s not history. It is still going on today.

      Meet Lara Alqasem, a 22 year-old American student of Palestinian origin. Lara applied to do her Masters degree at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was accepted. She then applied for a student visa from the Israeli Consulate in Miami and was granted that as well. She arrived in Israel, as planned, to assume her studies only to be met at Ben Gurion Airport with the reality that is the unbridled power of the Apartheid regime ruling over Palestine. Despite producing all the necessary paper-work she was denied entry, detained and put under order to be deported. Her crime? Her name, Alqasem. The Israeli border authorities demanded to know her father’s name, her grandfather’s name, everything about her and finally refused her entry, because at one stage of her youthful existence in Florida she ticked ‘attending’ to a student union function on the Palestinian BDS movement. As we all know, Israel does not tolerate any resistance to its crimes nor any criticism of its Apartheid regime in Palestine.

    • Mild - ly - Facetious
      October 13, 2018 at 12:22


    • Israeli
      October 18, 2018 at 03:42

      Ongoing slaughter? How many Palestinians have been killed by Israelis this year? The answer is 168 and most of them killed in the border riots trying to cross the border illegally,
      How many people died in Syria this year? About 15,000 !!!!
      Now that is a slaughter.

    October 7, 2018 at 11:13

    PS: You informed me that my comment has been posted.
    It never was.

    October 7, 2018 at 11:11

    Do you have special rules for comments?

    I wrote a comment (references to two vital books)
    Filled in required information. (There were 9 comments
    at the time.)

    Nothing happened so, since the references are in my
    view key to understanding, I wrote the comment again and
    resubmitted it.

    It has yet to be printed.

    Is it because both works seriously question the given
    mainstream understanding? I hope not. (They are in different

    —Peter Loeb, Boston , MA, USA

  5. JWalters
    October 6, 2018 at 20:13

    In Carter’s White House Diary he describes a steady stream of disappointments as he was repeatedly betrayed by Begin. This led to his realization that Israel wanted all of Palestine, and its participation in peace negotiations were merely a cover. He eventually stated publicly that Israel had no interest in peace, and was an apartheid nation. For this he was banned from the MSM along with other highly knowledgeable critics of Israel’s acts and policies.

    Carter’s limited achievements must be seen in the context of the overwhelming power the Zionists wield in America. For new CN readers, a compact history of that control is given in

    October 6, 2018 at 15:07


    Any analyses which do not address the accurately documented
    facts in Thomas Suarez’ STATE OF TERROR: HOW TERRORISM
    CREATED MODERN ISRAEL must fail to comprehend the subject.
    (Olive Branch Press, in the US 2017).

    The history of Palestine is in Thomas L. Thompson’s THE MYTHIC
    Random House, 1999; otherwise Basic Books, A Member of
    Perseus Books Group).

    Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  7. October 6, 2018 at 13:18

    An excellent, thoughtful criticism of the book.

    The points made are valid and important.

    I’ll just mention another consideration, often overlooked, but I believe at the heart of the problem.

    Israel really is an American colony, a pied-a-terre in the Middle East.

    Its history has nothing to, for successive American governments, with sympathy for the Jews or the horrors of the Holocaust.

    America’s establishment was always quite biased against Jews at home, and it didn’t lift a finger to help the situation in 1930s Germany. It even turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees Hitler allowed to leave.

    Men like Henry Ford were admired by Hitler, his picture was on the wall near Hitler’s Chancellery desk. As he admired America’s laws supporting sterilizing “the unfit,” under which tens of thousands were involuntarily sterilized before Germany ever did the same.

    The great journalist and chronicler of the Nazis, William Shire, remarked in the 1930s that he believed it quite possible America might be the first nation to go fascist voluntarily, such were the realties he observed.

    But once Washington establishment interests, bent after WWII on world domination, were sold on the notion of Israel providing a great American wedge into the Middle East, the picture changed greatly.

    Now, we have hypocritical scenes of American politicians – the very kinds of people in many cases who would have embraced restrictions on Jews in the 1930s – wearing yarmulkes and pretending to reverently touch the so-called Wailing Wall. Irreligious men, brutal men, ruthless men – such reverence.

    All for the sake of the raw drives of imperial power, and absolutely nothing else.

    American politicians even get to pat themselves on the back today for supposedly having done something worthwhile and humane for Jews so hurt in Europe.

    And there’s an extra bonus, besides having that colony in a strategic and economically important place, under America’s “money is free speech” notion of democracy, a major money-distributing and influence-distributing lobby has grown up, almost into a political industry in America.

    America’s hypocritical politicians, supporting Israel invariably and without question no matter what abuses it is guilty of, get not only get to feel good about what they do for Jews abroad but assure themselves of comfortable support from the country’s best-organized lobby. It’s a good day’s work.

    But the intractable and shameful problem of millions of Palestinians living in oppression and with no rights and no future and receiving endless abuse cannot be solved ever under such a basic political structure.

    And those millions are not going away, no matter how much brutal killers like Netanyahu and Lieberman try to make them. Israel has greedily created a problem it cannot solve.

    America is, quite simply under this political structure, totally unfit for solving the world’s greatest suppurating human-rights wound.

    Something is going to explode one day. That’s why Israel literally has rows of snipers behind fences shooting people by the thousands, unarmed demonstrators at Gaza, right now. It’s like a savage big-game hunt, only with humans, and not one American politician speaks out, except to praise Israel for “restraint.”

    You simply cannot go on like that indefinitely.

    You might think that Israelis, of all people, would appreciate that injustice and brutality have terrible consequences.

  8. Don Bacon
    October 6, 2018 at 12:03

    It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic that Israel-controlled USA is the self-appointed supervisor of a “peace process” in Palestine, where the situation (by design) only worsens every year as Israel strengthens its occupation and kills more natives. Perhaps the USA serves as a good (or bad) model for Israel, thinking of the European takeover of what is now the USA which included many of the same factors we see in Palestine including grabbing territory and genocide. The US Army established outposts in the West with a primary mission of exterminating native Americans. Now in Gaza we have IDF snipers whose primary mission is to kill native Palestinians. To Israel its “secure and recognized borders” in INSCR 242 are the borders of Palestine.

  9. October 6, 2018 at 09:10

    The author:

    “The desire to lure Egypt away from the “Arab fold” on Israel was too tempting for the Carter administration to really care about the people who have never mattered to any U.S. president.

    Camp David wound up being the single most important factor in enabling, even encouraging Israel to engage in successive invasions of Lebanon and of the Palestinian territories. The U.S. sold the Palestinians out to achieve a strategic benefit for Israeli occupation.”

    President Carter got the Nobel Peace prize for accomplishing little other than on behalf of Israel and Egypt. We continue to pay Egypt for its betrayal of the Palestinian people. My impression is that Carter, when no longer President came to understand that he had betrayed the Palestinian people. The reward for that was not another Nobel Peace prize but a form of media shunning.

    He did get some favorable attention when he stated that Bolton was a jerk, my word. Of course he was right as he was when he declared Israel and apartheid state.

  10. jeff montanye
    October 5, 2018 at 23:35

    the only realistic hope for this widening catastrophe is the one state solution: israel recognized as sovereign in all of palestine, from gaza to the golan, and one person one vote in this eretz israel. we can then figure out what to do with the next five trillion dollars not spent on “seven countries in five years” and the world’s goodwill from the next two million people we don’t kill.

    after all, the israelis control all of palestine. it is theirs, they conquered it, and they can defend it with hydrogen bombs (initially armed with u.s. triggers stolen by mossad hollywood producer arnon milchan whose third production, the medusa touch, featured a plane flown into a new york skyscraper.

    the two state solution is a chimera; it’s opposed at the highest levels in israel and would be a recipe for further conflict if it occurred. only the one state solution can ever improve the lives of the palestinians who then will become israelis. it will be far different than the blacks and whites in south africa. in eretz israel, most everybody’s got fairly big noses, brown skin’s common, and black curly hair too. the only foreskins in the bunch are on (some of) the christians. really all it takes to become indistinguishable is to learn another (very similar) language, get a new haircut and wear a different hat. with such radically changed motivations, these new israelis will surprise many with their loyalty to a country they are finally part of and can help control to some degree, rather than being attacked and dispossessed by it.

    so the palestinians would be immediately vastly better off. the rest of the world, particularly the u.s., would be wonderfully lightened of an excruciating burden. and for those israelis who don’t want to wait for the next slap, stab, body or suitcase bomb, as good a chance as any and better than most.

    • Odelbert
      October 6, 2018 at 20:59

      Jeff Berg, your zionist fascism is showing.
      Sure, make them submit to zionist fascism, all will be better.
      No one is fooled here: you will have to pay others to pretend to agree.
      Or threaten them with false accusations.
      Why not go to Israel to sell your trash?
      Happy fascism.

    • David Smith
      October 6, 2018 at 23:36

      Jeff, 137 nations recognize the State Of Palestine, so your proposal is a dead letter. 137 nations is 71% of the 193 nations in the general assembly, so a Uniting For Peace resolution bringing the State Of Palestine into the general assembly is within reach, and overdue. Regarding “uti possidetis” by conquest, you can forget about it.

      • October 7, 2018 at 15:21

        Have you seen the latest map of what’s left of «Palestine»? Unless you can persuade Israeli leaders to give back what they have illegally stolen over 50 years, the two state solution is defacto dead, no matter how many countries think they can defy gravity.

  11. dick Spencer
    October 5, 2018 at 22:07

    Jimmy Carter wrote a book titled–PALESTINE -PEACE NOT APARTHEID published in 2006 giving his position on this subject..–He said his goal has been to help ensure a lasting peace for Israelis and others in the middle east–

  12. Sally Snyder
    October 5, 2018 at 21:09

    As shown in this article, there is a significant difference in how American Jews and non-Jews view the state of Israel:

    White evangelical Christians’ support for the Jewish possession of Israel is higher than for any other religious group other than modern orthodox Jews and is nearly twice the level of religious Jewish support for the concept of a God-given promise of a Jewish homeland.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    October 5, 2018 at 17:57

    No surprise here.

    • Ltichfield
      October 5, 2018 at 21:22

      But Carters’s current position might be interesting.
      I believe that he has spoken out for Palestinian human rights.

      Has Carter spoken out to advocate for Pal civil rights and a Palestinian state and/or equal status within Israel?
      Has Carter criticized Israel?
      Does anyone here know what Carter’s current position is?

      • christina r garcia
        October 5, 2018 at 21:29

        I do not know how to do links, todays Guardian reported 3 Palestinians killed by the Israeli Army one was a child.

Comments are closed.