Last week Jimmy Carter wrote another breathtakingly silly op-ed titled “The Elder’s View of the Middle East.” As Elliot Abrams summarized it in an response titled, “What Carter Missed in the Middle East.” The former President “described a rapacious Israel facing long-suffering, blameless Palestinians, who are contemplating a ‘nonviolent civil rights struggle’ in which ‘their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.’” Here’s how Carter put it:
A majority of the Palestinian leaders with whom we met are seriously considering acceptance of one state, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. By renouncing the dream of an independent Palestine, they would become fellow citizens with their Jewish neighbors and then demand equal rights within a democracy. In this nonviolent civil rights struggle, their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
Which brings to mind the British historian Michael Burleigh’s warning on the first page of his massive new book Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism (my review of which you can find here). Beware, says Burleigh, of clichés such as “yesterday’s terrorist is tomorrow’s statesman. . . . If you imagine that Osama bin Laden is going to evolve into Nelson Mandela, you need a psychiatrist rather than a historian.”
To which I would simply add, “If you imagine that the leaders of Hamas are going to evolve into Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela, you need a psychiatrist rather than a historian.”