Carter visits Jerusalem Friday
Carter visits Jerusalem Friday Israel news photo: Flash 90

While former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has a perfect right to his anti-Israel opinions – and certainly has the right to publish a book full of those opinions – he does not have the right to fob off a work of fiction as fact. That, says Israeli activist attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, is what has earned him the opprobrium of dozens of people who bought his book, “Palestine: Peace or Apartheid.” And now, says Darshan-Leitner, she is representing those unhappy customers in a class-action lawsuit against Carter, in order to get them a refund.

Of course, Darshan-Leitner tells Israel National News, the issue is not simply one of consumer fraud. “During the trial, we will of course have to examine the facts in question, and we will of course unveil the falsity of much of what he writes. Carter makes numerous claims in the book that he knows to be false, and we know that he knows them to be false.”

According to the complaint, filed in a New York court, Carter, “as a former American president and self-proclaimed Middle East expert ... knew that substantial and material portions of the book were untrue, and has failed to advise the public,” putting him in violation of New York State's Consumer Protection Laws, “specifically New York General Business Law section 349, which makes it unlawful to engage in deceptive acts in the course of conducting business.” The lawsuit also includes Carter's publisher, Simon and Schuster, as a defendant, since it allegedly refused to correct the facts, despite receiving numerous complaints from irate customers.

Among the errors in the book, says Darshan-Leitner, is Carter's misrepresentation of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 336, which he cites as proof that Israel must withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines. “Even a child reading the documents will note that the resolutions say 'withdraw from land,' not 'all the land' captured in 1967,”  Darshan-Leitner says. 

Carter wrote this despite the fact that Lord Caradon (British diplomat Hugh M. Foot), who authored the resolution, specifically stated that this was not the intent of the resolution. In a discussion in the House of Commons in 1969, Caradon said that “it would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” The suit cites this and numerous other quotes by Caradon and others affirming this fact.

In addition, the suit says, Carter falsely depicted the 1949 armistice lines as an international border (they have never been recognized as such), that Israel has never “granted appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians” (thus ignoring the establishment and continued existence of the Palestinian Authority), and that Syria was prepared to accept a demilitarized Golan Heights (Syrian diplomats specifically denied that).

In all, the suit cites over 50 specific facts that Carter got wrong, either out of ignorance or deliberately. Evidence contradicting Carter's assertion is brought from publicly available sources, including newspapers and books, as well as in affidavits from former members of Carter's own inner circle and negotiating teams.

Darshan-Leitner said that neither she nor her partner in the lawsuit, David Schoen of Montgomery, Alabama, contacted Carter, since he has asserted many times, in print and in the media,  that his statements are accurate. “Besides, many readers have contacted him and his publisher, only to be completely ignored. After their pleas for accuracy were not answered, they turned to us, and hence the lawsuit.”

As the readers of the book, which sold about 200,000 copies, can be assumed to be reasonably well informed on Middle East affairs, the insult to their intelligence was all the greater, the attorney says. “Carter continuously portrayed his book as being accurate, and it was on that basis that readers bought the book. Imagine their disappointment, frustration and anger at being presented with a work of fiction.”

Readers spent on average $27 for the book, so Darshan-Leitner is seeking about $5 million in compensatory damages in order to enable all customers to get their money back – plus, of course, punitive damages and court costs.

And she has no fears that a judge will refuse to hear the case because of politics – because, although the context is political, the case is really about misrepresentation, slander, and consumer rights. “The lawsuit will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter's book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public,”  Darshan-Leitner added. “He is entitled to his opinions, but deceptions and lies have no place in works of history.”