Jimmy Carter, who has long sought to achieve his rightful position in the pantheon of U.S. presidents, has finally achieved his goal. His embrace Friday of Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal puts the former leader on par with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who dealt similarly with Adolf Hitler. Both "peace" missions were ill-conceived and actually accomplished harm, legitimizing — for the moment — evil incarnate. Hitler's Nazi Germany plunged the world into the most horrific war of our time; Hamas is an avowed enemy of the United States ("the Great Satan") and Israel, the only long-standing democratic ally the U.S. has in a region of autocracies.
That Carter would defy the wishes of both Congress and the president in meeting with a group the U.S. has defined as "foreign terrorist organization" since 1995 demonstrates, at best, a tremendous lack of judgment and, at worst, something far more sinister. He says he went as a representative of the Carter Center, his charitable foundation, and not as a former president or representative of the U.S. government. The proposition is absurd on its face, since Carter's ex-president status is not something he can take off and put on as he chooses. He further justifies the foray as an effort to promote peace in the region, portraying himself as a conduit of peace between Israel and Hamas, harkening back to his 1978 role in forging a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. But Carter forgets the cardinal rule of negotiations — willing parties on both sides must come to the bargaining table. Israel has proven its bona fides in this regard; unfortunately, Hamas has done just the opposite.
Hamas is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel and has no qualms about murdering innocent women and children to achieve this end. The day before Carter met with Meshaal, Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar cited Hamas's goal of "redressing the material crimes of 1948," the year Israel declared statehood, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. After Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, the U.S., United Nations, European Union, and Russia jointly called on Hamas to renounce terror, recognize Israel's right to exist, and affirm the previous agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Hamas has categorically rejected all three conditions and continues to plot terrorist attacks and enable other groups to launch rockets at Israeli civilians. Carter trumpeted the success of his mission on Monday by claiming that Hamas had agreed to a two-state solution, only to have Hamas reaffirm later that same day that they did not recognize Israel's right to exist and that the side-by-side co-existence of a Palestinian state with a Jewish state would be "transitional." How can Israel negotiate with such an organization?
If he was hoping to rekindle a flagging peace process, Carter is doomed to failure. But is that really what he was attempting to accomplish? A hint lies in the very organization he said he was representing on this trip, the Carter Center. His not-for-profit research and activist organization has prospered as a direct result of Arab largesse. Saudi Arabia, the source of 15 of the 19 plane hijackers on 9/11, and whose royal family has funded terrorism outside the kingdom, has channeled tens of millions of dollars into the Carter Center. In 1993 alone, the late King Fahd gifted $7.6 million. More recently, the King's nephew, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, donated at least $5 million. The Saudi Fund for Development is a recurring supporter, as is the family of Osama bin Laden.
The list doesn't stop with Saudis. Another million-dollar-plus backer is Sultan Qaboos sin Said, absolute monarch of Oman. Considerable financial support comes from the United Arab Emirates, and in 2001, Carter traveled there to receive the $500,000 Zayed International Prize for the Environment. In 2002, Carter praised the efforts of the Abu Dhabi-based Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow Up, which has repeatedly hosted anti-Semitic speakers — these speakers have denied the Holocaust, supported terrorism, and asserted that there is an international conspiracy of Jews and Zionists for world domination. The center has made the outlandish assertion that Zionists, rather than the Nazis, "were the people who killed the Jews in Europe" during the Holocaust and that a Jewish-American conspiracy perpetrated the atrocities of 9/11.
The long list also includes Pakistani Agha Hasan Abedi, founder of the Bank of Credit and Commerce (BCCI), which in the late 1970s bailed out the National Bank of Georgia (NBG). NBG's largest borrower at the time was the Carter-family peanut business (of which Jimmy Carter was a 62 percent shareholder), and NBG's chairman was a Carter friend and future director of the Office of Management and Budget, Bert Lance. In 1982, Abedi gave Carter $500,000 to establish the Carter Center at Emory University and has contributed more than $10 million to the center since, including $1.5 million after BCCI was convicted for laundering drug money — which didn't deter Carter from accepting the gift from his "good friend."
It would seem that all of this money is not without its influence. Carter appears to have become increasingly pro-Arab, pro-Islamist, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic in both his actions and his words. For example, look at his likening of Israel — the most modern and democratic country in the Middle East — to apartheid South Africa in his inflammatory book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Compare that to his fawning appreciation of such authoritarian countries as the UAE, which he described as an "almost completely open and free society" despite its hand-picked electorate, lack of a free press, and strict application of sharia law. Carter's book deserves a place of shame among such discredited frauds as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and yet he decries critics of the book as "representatives of Jewish organizations" in the media and cites "university campuses with high Jewish enrollment" as obstacles to acceptance of his book among American research institutions.
While in Gaza this past week, Carter laid a wreath on the grave of PLO chieftain Yasser Arafat, a man who siphoned billions of dollars from his own people and was widely regarded as the chief obstacle to the Middle East peace process throughout most of his life — above and beyond his orchestration of murderous terrorist attacks against Israelis after he signed the Oslo Accords. Finally recognized as the corrupt, deceitful pariah he was, Arafat was shunted aside by both the U.S. and Israel in the final years of his reign over the Palestinian people.
Carter seems quite at home making nice to despots on President Bush's Axis of Evil. Having just visited with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism which provides tens of thousands of missiles to Hezbollah in addition to assassinating Lebanese leaders, one can only surmise that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is next up on Carter's list of tourist destinations.
Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R., Mich.) estimates that the Carter Center received $19 million in federal funding since 2001, and he has encouraged passage of H.R. 5816, the CARTER (Coordinated American Response To Extreme Radicals) Act, which calls for the immediate cessation of all federal financing for the center. Rep. Sue Myrick (R., N.C.) has called for the Bush administration to revoke Carter's U.S. passport on the grounds that he is consorting with our enemies — Hamas is directly responsible for murdering dozens of American citizens.
It would seem Carter is acting as a lobbyist for foreign interests and should be required to register as such. At the very least, he should come clean and disclose the amounts and sources all foreign of funding for his center. It is indeed a sad day in American history when a former president lowers himself to becoming a propaganda tool for terrorists bent on harming our country and the democratic principles by which we live.
— Lloyd Greif is president & CEO of Greif & Co. and benefactor of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Southern California. He is also a director of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, the Los Angeles Police Foundation, and the Los Angeles Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.