The January 13th issue of the Economist included an essay titled “Diaspora Blues” with the following byline: “Jews around the world should join the debate about Israel, not defend whatever it does.”

The significance of this statement, in what is the most respected periodical of political analysis in the English speaking world, should not go unnoticed. It represents a shift in the discourse on Israel and the future of the Middle East, and could be a harbinger for tangible and lasting peace in the region. The byline tacitly acknowledges the proposition set forth in recent months that debate on Israel does not exist in certain circles, and that this lack of discussion is as bad for the Israelis as it is for the Palestinians. The fact that similar sentiments are now discussed openly is a testament to the efforts of a few high profile individuals.

The most prominent of them is Jimmy Carter, the former US president and Nobel Peace Prize winner. His recent book, provocatively titled Palestine, Peace not Apartheid, courted enough controversy to remain on several bestseller lists since its release, recently reaching number four on Amazon.

The book is an utter catastrophe for the Israel lobby in the US. To be clear, it is not because of its content, but rather because of its author. None of the observations Carter makes in the book are revelatory. What is ground-breaking is the fact that people are actually listening. Carter has brought his full weight to bear on the issue as a former president and one of the most respected statesmen and advocates for peace in the world. There are few individuals who can match Carter’s credentials and gravitas, so his book simply cannot be ignored or casually dismissed. The Israel lobby did not ignore it, assigning its chief pit bull, Alan Dershowitz, to a full force assault on Carter’s credibility and character. Based on book sales and the appearance of public discussion, as exemplified by the recent Economist article, it seems that assassinating Carter’s character may not be the best strategy.


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