Book Buyers Demand Amazon Repect Carter
- Online retailer revamps web page after thousands sign petition, send
e-mail demanding balance
Amazon.com Customers' Campaign Wins Fairer Treatment
for Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
Henry Norr - henry @ norr.com
January 22, 2007
Berkeley, CA Ten days after shoppers began a campaign to protest
Amazon.com's extraordinarily hostile presentation of former President
Jimmy Carter's book on Palestine, and a day after a petition with more
than 16,000 signatures was delivered to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the
company has responded by revamping the page in a way that puts the
book in a completely different light.
The petition, posted at www.petitiononline.com/Amazon07, complained
that Amazon had abandoned its usual evenhandedness in the presentation
of controversial books by posting the full text of a lengthy attack on
Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid in its "Editorial Reviews"
section - and repeatedly refusing customer requests that it add a more
positive review in the same location for balance. In signing the
petition, customers pledged to stop shopping at Amazon and close their
accounts there if the retailer did not come up with a more balanced
version of the page by Jan. 22. To back up the petition, hundreds if
not thousands of customers also wrote directly to Amazon CEO Jeff
Bezos < jeff@...> to express their concerns.
A copy of the petition, some 16,200 signatures, and supporting
materials were sent to Bezos and his staff on Friday, Jan. 19. The
following morning, the "Editorial Reviews" section of the page listing
Carter's book was completely overhauled for first time in almost a
month: It now begins with a glowing tribute from Amazon to the former
president's achievements and an interview with him about the book,
plus a photo of him and graphic links to some of his other books all
new material, and all of it posted ahead of the negative review.
"This is a huge victory," said Henry Norr, the Berkeley, CA-based
former journalist who initiated the petition. "The whole tone of the
page is different now. Instead of saying, in effect, 'Stay away from
this vile book,' what it now conveys is the truth: that this is an
important and fair-minded, even if controversial, book by a
distinguished American who has unique qualifications to address the
issue of Palestine."
Added Paul Larudee, an El Cerrito, CA, piano technician and activist
who helped organize the protest campaign, "Of course Amazon deserves
credit for responding after initially refusing to make a change.
However, the real credit goes to the thousands of petition signers who
exercised their power - in this case the nonviolent power to take
their business elsewhere. It gives hope that boycotts and other
nonviolent efforts can help to end the larger injustices that Carter
addresses in his book."
"I'm sorry Amazon continues to display the review by Jeffrey Goldberg,
because I think it's horribly unfair and misleading, and I still wish
they would add one of the other reviews we suggested," said Norr.
"Some people who signed the petition have let me know that they still
intend to close their accounts if Amazon doesn't make more changes,
and I understand their feelings. But what the petition was really
demanding was fair and balanced treatment for the book, and on the
whole I think we've come pretty close to that objective."
The change was the second involving Carter's book that Amazon has made
in response to the campaign. Last week, its version of the latest New
York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list initially omitted
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid altogether, even though the book
actually ranked fifth on the list - Amazon's version jumped directly
from number 4 to number 6! This extraordinary "mistake" persisted for
days, until two hours after an earlier version of this press release
was delivered to scores of reporters and publications. (A saved copy
of the original page, missing item number five, is available on request.)
A LETTER TO JIMMY CARTER
December 12, 2006
Dear Mr. Carter,
I read your article in the Guardian of December 12, 2006 "Israel,
Palestine, peace and apartheid."
a "Jew" born in Palestine in 1941 and living in Iceland, I fully
endorse your views expressed in this article and thank you for
bringing these subjects up, even at the risk of being labeled
"antisemitic". I have myself been indoctrinated in my youth by Zionist
propaganda and did not in my young years realize the racist nature of
Zionism, Israel's state ideology. As Zionism - namely the concept of a
"Jewish state" - is contrary to the modern concept of a state which
belongs to all its citizens, I do not believe that there will be peace
as long as Israel remains a "Jewish" state. For the same reason I
agree with the refusal to recognize the "right" of existence of such a
state (which is distinct from the recognition of its physical existence).
There is another point I wish to impress upon you, which is widely
glossed over. It is my conviction that Israel, as a Jewish state,
cannot afford peace. I do not here have in mind its military industry
or the interests of its professional military. What I have in mind is
the attitude of most Jews and the Zionist movement towards
assimilation. As numerous Zionist leaders have openly expressed, they
consider assimilation of Jews, such as mixed marriages, as the main
threat to Judaism, comparable to the Holocaust: Both significantly
reduce the number of Jews. To put at par the love felt by a person of
Jewish descent to another person of gentile descent with mass murder
testifies to the pathologic nature of Zionist thinking. It also
underlines the hysterical approach of Zionists to the phenomenon of
assimilation. A true peace between Israel and its neighbours will
inevitably lead to a cultural intercourse between Jews, Christians and
Muslims, as well as economic cooperation. This will inevitably dilute
the cultural and demographic nature of the Jewish state and with time
lead to a growing rate of mixed marriages, particularly if
fundamentalist ideologies will slowly give way to a secular world view.
This threat to the "Jewish people" is to be resisted by all means by
the Zionists and by all those who strive to maintain the "Jewish
people". The only means to do so is by creating a spiritual and
physical wall between Jews and their neighbours. Historically, Jews
attempted to prevent assimilation by pursuing distinct eating habits,
clothing and other overt distinctions, thus creating a high threshold
for those who would like to integrate into the surrounding
environment. The shedding of such distinct living style, such as by
most Jews in the United States, has inevitably led to a high rate of
assimilation decried regularly by the Zionists who try not only to
"educate" Jewish youth but urge it to move to Israel, where they can
be better controlled and manipulated.
The maintenance of hatred and distrust among Arabs towards Israelis is
useful for Jewish unity. This has not escaped Zionist leaders.
Obviously the Zionists do not trumpet this "usefulness", but it can
easily be inferred from the Zionist dread of assimilation, the
insistence of the Jewish State to designate itself as "European", thus
implying that they do not wish to integrate into their region, and the
long trail of provocative policies pursued by all Israeli governments
since 1948 against its neighbours and the Palestinian people. From an
examination of this process I conclude that Israel, by its very
constitution as a Jewish State, is a threat to the peace. While few in
the West realize this conclusion, most Arabs do. I do not see any hope
for Israel, as a Jewish state, to remain so in a situation of warm peace.
For the above reason, I urge you to reconsider your attitude towards
the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel. Such a
scenario can neither fulfill the rights of the Palestinian people,
including particularly those of the refugees who are entitled under
international law to return to their erstwhile locations located under
Israeli jurisdiction. Nor can this scenario secure the Palestinian
people true sovereignty. The reason for this is at least twofold:
First such a Palestinian "state" would not be territorially contiguous
but divided at best into two distinct areas (Gaza and West Bank),
leaving Palestinians continuously at the mercy of Israeli
non-interference of travel between the two areas. Secondly, Israel has
made it clear that it would not allow a fully sovereign Palestinian
state. Even the most vocal supporters of a Palestinian state in Israel
insist that Palestine should remain a demilitarized state, thus at the
mercy of Israel coercion and invasion. The very concept of equality is
anathema to Israelis, even the most "progressive" ones. I mention
these two points, leaving at this point aside the question of economic
viability and the control of underground water, and the question of
Jerusalem. The only solution which could secure the rights of the
Palestinians and Israeli Jews to human dignity and equality is the
transformation of Israel, including occupied territories, to a modern
democratic state, ensuring all Palestinians and Israelis equal rights
under a modern constitution. I urge you to consider this vision, as
both compatible with human rights, international law and ethics. And
even if this vision is currently not widely supported, it nevertheless
provides the ONLY blueprint for a true peace and continuous Jewish
presence in the Middle East. Your support for such a vision could be
With my sincere greetings,
Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel
The Electronic Intifada
2 January 2007
Israeli bulldozer demolishing Palestinian farmland to make space for
the controversial separation wall in the West Bank village of Wadi
Al-Nees near Bethlehem, December 26, 2006. (MaanImages/Mamoun Wazwaz)
Americans owe a debt to former President Jimmy Carter for speaking
long hidden but vital truths. His book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
breaks the taboo barring criticism in the United States of Israel's
discriminatory treatment of Palestinians. Our government's tacit
acceptance of Israel's unfair policies causes global hostility against us.
Israel's friends have attacked Carter, a Nobel laureate who has worked
tirelessly for Middle East peace, even raising the specter of
anti-Semitism. Genuine anti-Semitism is abhorrent. But exploiting the
term to quash legitimate criticism of another system of racial
oppression, and to tarnish a principled man, is indefensible.
Criticizing Israeli government policies - a staple in Israeli
newspapers - is no more anti-Semitic than criticizing the Bush
administration is anti-American.
The word apartheid typically evokes images of former South Africa, but
it also refers to any institutionalized regime of systematic
oppression and domination by one racial group over another. Carter
applies the term only to Israel's rule of the occupied Palestinian
territories, where it has established more than 200 Jewish-only
settlements and a network of roads and other services to support them.
These settlements violate international law and the rights of
Palestinian property owners. Carter maintains that "greed for land,"
not racism, fuels Israel's settlement drive. He is only partially right.
Israel is seizing land and water from Palestinians for Jews. Resources
are being transferred, under the guns of Israel's military occupation,
from one disempowered group - Palestinian Christians and Muslims - to
another, preferred group - Jews. That is racism, pure and simple.
Moreover, there is abundant evidence that Israel discriminates against
Palestinians elsewhere. The "Israeli Arabs" - about 1.4 million
Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens who live in Israel - vote in
elections. But they are a subordinated and marginalized minority. The
Star of David on Israel's flag symbolically tells Palestinian
citizens: "You do not belong." Israel's Law of Return grants rights of
automatic citizenship to Jews anywhere in the world, while those
rights are denied to 750,000 Palestinian refugees who were forced or
fled in fear from their homes in what became Israel in 1948.
Israel's Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty establishes the state
as a "Jewish democracy" although 24 percent of the population is
non-Jewish. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in
Israel, counted 20 laws that explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews.
The government favors Jews over Palestinians in the allocation of
resources. Palestinian children in Israel attend "separate and
unequal" schools that receive a fraction of the funding awarded to
Jewish schools, according to Human Rights Watch. Many Palestinian
villages, some predating the establishment of Israel, are unrecognized
by the government, do not appear on maps, and thus receive no running
water, electricity, or access roads. Since 1948, scores of new
communities have been founded for Jews, but none for Palestinians,
causing them severe residential overcrowding.
Anti-Arab bigotry is rarely condemned in Israeli public discourse, in
which Palestinians are routinely construed as a "demographic threat."
Palestinians in Israel's soccer league have played to chants of "Death
to Arabs!" Israeli academic Daniel Bar-Tal studied 124 Israeli school
texts, finding that they commonly depicted Arabs as inferior,
backward, violent, and immoral. A 2006 survey revealed that two-thirds
of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in a building with an Arab,
nearly half would not allow a Palestinian in their home, and 40
percent want the government to encourage emigration by Palestinian
citizens. Last March, Israeli voters awarded 11 parliamentary seats to
the Israel Beitenu Party, which advocates drawing Israel's borders to
exclude 500,000 of its current Palestinian citizens.
Some say that Palestinian citizens in Israel enjoy better
circumstances than those in surrounding Arab countries. Ironically,
white South Africans made identical claims to defend their version of
apartheid, as is made clear in books such as Antjie Krog's Country of
Americans are awakening to the costs of our unconditional support of
Israel. We urgently need frank debate to chart policies that honor our
values, advance our interests, and promote a just and lasting peace in
the Middle East. It is telling that it took a former president, immune
from electoral pressures, to show the way.
The debate should now be extended. Are Israel's founding ideals truly
consistent with democracy? Can a state established in a multiethnic
milieu be simultaneously "Jewish" and "democratic"? Isn't strife the
predictable yield of preserving the dominance of Jews in Israel over a
native Palestinian population? Does our unconditional aid merely
enable Israel to continue abusing Palestinian rights with impunity,
deepening regional hostilities and distancing peace? Isn't it time
that Israel lived by rules observed in any democracy - including equal
rights for all?
George Bisharat (bisharat@...) is a professor of law at
University of California Hastings College of the Law. He writes
frequently on law and politics in the Middle East. This article
originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and is reprinted by
permission of the author.
Other assessments of Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid:
Ali Abunimah, "A Palestinian view of Jimmy Carter's book," Wall Street
Journal, Dec. 26, 2006: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6310.shtml
Chris Hedges, "Get Carter," The Nation, Jan. 8, 2007:
Saree Makdisi, "Carter's apartheid charge rings true," San Francisco
Chronicle, Nov. 20, 2006:
Henry Siegman, "Hurricane Carter," The Nation, Jan. 22, 2007:
Norman Finkelstein, "The Ludicrous Attacks on Jimmy Carter's Book,"
CounterPunch, Dec. 28, 2006:
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