Jimmy Carter’s Jewish Problem

Oct. 23 2018

Jimmy Carter has publicly cited his knowledge of the Old and New Testaments and his Christian faith as having given him special qualifications for shaping Middle East policy, and he has, in his own words, “a strong religious motivation to try to bring peace to what I call the Holy Land.” In his memoir of his years as a senior aide to President Carter, Stuart Eizenstat breaks from his generally admiring tone in telling of two episodes that revealed much about how his former boss’s reading of the Bible informed his policies. Both incidents occurred when Carter was teaching Sunday school—something he didn’t give up after his inauguration. Meir Soloveichik writes:

The subject of his first class [after assuming the presidency] was the tale of Jesus driving the moneylenders from the Temple. The press soon reported that the president had informed his students that this story was “a turning point” in Christ’s life. “He had directly challenged in a fatal way the existing church, and there was no possible way for the Jewish leaders to avoid the challenge. So they decided to kill Jesus.” Anguished religious leaders involved in interfaith engagement wrote the White House to object to this simplistic gloss on a subject that has inspired persecution, and murder, of Jews for centuries. . . .

He soon spoke at a Sunday-school class again; and, with an Associate Press reporter in attendance, told those assembled that Jesus, in proclaiming himself the messiah, was aware that he was risking death “as quickly as [it] could be arranged by the Jewish leaders, who were very powerful.” . . .

Eizenstat’s book allows us to understand how episodes such as these reveal how Carter’s own insensitivity to the Jewish historical experience, and his understanding of the Bible, colored his attitude toward matters pertaining to the Middle East. The president harbored a deep dislike for Menachem Begin, “with all his obduracy and legalisms,” [a phrase that combines two classic Christian stereotypes of Jews]. Eizenstat further writes that Carter saw American Jewish leaders and Israel “through the filter of the Bible, more the New than the Old Testament.” . . .

At the same time, Eizenstat’s description of Carter’s Christianity, and the impact that it had on his own attitudes, should be a clarion call to all who care about the future. Carter’s story should impress on Jews the fact that American Christian support for Israel is by no means inevitable. Tens of millions of them still love and support the Jewish state, but . . . this is not at all guaranteed to endure in the next generation. . . . [I]nfluenced by the fashionable nature of progressive issues and by biblical criticism, many young evangelicals are predisposed to embrace the Palestinian narrative of Israeli oppression.

Drawing on Robert Nicholson’s 2013 essay for Mosaic, Soloveichik suggests that this problem can be remedied by bringing Christians to Israel and giving them the opportunity to see its realities.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Evangelical Christianity, History & Ideas, Jimmy Carter, New Testament, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

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Read more at FDD

More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy