Rabbi Michael Lerner
Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue, which meets in San Francisco and Berkeley, and national chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. He is the author of Healing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2003) and of the national best-seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (Harper San Francisco, 2006).Jimmy Carter was the best friend the Jews ever had as president of the United States.
He is the only president to have actually delivered for the Jewish people an agreement (the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt) that has stood the test of time. Since the treaty, there have been bad vibes between Israel and Egypt, but never a return to war, once Israel fully withdrew from the territories it conquered in Egypt during the 1967 war.
To get that agreement, Carter had to twist the arms of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. Sometimes that is what real friends do—they push you into a path that is really in your best interest at times when there is an emergency and you are acting self-destructively.
When the U.S. government is following a self-destructive policy, even a policy backed by people in both major political parties, its best friends are those who try to change its direction and are not afraid to offer intense critique. That’s why a majority of Americans, and 86 percent of American Jews, voted in the 2006 midterm elections to reject Bush’s war in Iraq and his policies suspending habeas corpus and legitimating wire-tapping and torture. Not because we were disloyal, but precisely because we love America enough to challenge its policies even when Vice President Cheney questions our loyalty. We know that critique is often an essential part of love and caring.
That is precisely what Jimmy Carter is trying to do for Israel and the Jewish people in his new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.