Pro-Israel activists have launched a campaign to prevent a Jewish university from presenting anti-Israel former President Jimmy Carter with the school’s "International Advocate for Peace Award."
Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is scheduled to present Carter with the award on Wednesday, leading former alumni and pro-Israel advocates to galvanize in opposition to what they say is the former president’s anti-Israel views.
"I can’t imagine a worse candidate for any kind of a human rights award," Harvard law professor and pro-Israel author Alan Dershowitz told the Washington Free Beacon Monday. "He has more blood on his hands than practically any other president," Dershowitz said, referring to Carter's silence in the face of Communist leader Pol Pot's slaughter of some 2 million Cambodians.
Carter, author of the controversial book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has met with the terrorist group Hamas and rallied against Israel on the international stage, providing much fodder for the Jewish state’s fiercest critics.
"He has encouraged terrorism and violence by Hamas and Hezbollah," Dershowitz said, who dubbed students' desire to award Carter as "immoral."
Carter "has done more harm to the cause of human rights than anyone I can think of," Dershowitz said. "It’s a terrible, terrible choice."
Opponents of the award have united under the banner of "Shame on Cardozo," a website started by university alumni and others who believe the Jewish school should be held accountable for honoring Carter.
They argue that it is inappropriate for a Jewish institution to honor Carter, a leader who they maintain has an "ignominious history of anti-Israel bigotry" and is "responsible for helping to mainstream the anti-Semitic notion that Israel is an apartheid state."
"For those familiar with Jimmy Carter's recent involvement in the Israel-Arab conflict, they will know that he has an ignominious history of demonizing Israel," said Gary Emmanuel, founder of the Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni. "I simply could not believe that a law school affiliated with Yeshiva University could honor a man who has gone to such great lengths to harm the Jewish people."
Cardozo has maintained that its students are responsible for selecting Carter as the award’s recipient, though some sources close to the matter have cast doubt on this claim.
The anti-Carter activists are urging Cardozo’s donors to pull their financial support of the school and petition its leaders to cancel the event.
"We therefore urge you to condition any continued support of Cardozo, be it financial or otherwise, on the cancellation of this event," activists wrote in an open letter to the school.
Yeshiva University president Richard Joel defended the law school's right to honor Carter in a statement issued late Monday.
President Carter’s invitation to Cardozo represents solely the initiative of this student journal, not of Yeshiva University or the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School," Joel maintained.
"The university recognizes the breadth of impassioned feelings engendered by this appearance, and is mindful of the diversity of expressed opinions on the matter," Joel said, though he went on to criticize Carter's positions on Israel.
"While he has been properly lauded for his role in the Camp David Accords of 1978, I strongly disagree with many of President Carter’s statements and actions in recent years which have mischaracterized the Middle East conflict and have served to alienate those of us who care about Israel," Joel stated. "President Carter’s presence at Cardozo in no way represents a university position on his views, nor does it indicate the slightest change in our steadfastly pro-Israel stance."
The law school publicly announced Carter’s visit just days ahead of the event, leading some to speculate that it was trying to keep the award quiet in an effort to head off criticism.
"Obviously someone is ashamed about this," said Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a New York-based Jewish activist and donor. "It was kept a secret until four or five days before. That tells me no one is more ashamed than the university itself."
A Yeshiva University spokesperson said the event "wasn't really meant for the public," but for students and alumni, which is why it was not heavily publicized.
Other Cardozo alumni expressed shock when they learned that their alma mater would be honoring Carter.
"I was surprised, or shocked is more the word," said Ari Davis, the former executive editor of Cardozo’s Journal of Conflict Resolution, the student body responsible for selecting Carter as the award’s recipient.
Davis said opponents do not intend to stifle free speech, but ensure that Carter is not bestowed an honor he does not deserve.
"To bestow any honor on him, that’s what surprised me," Davis said. "Especially as a Jewish institution, that [Carter] called Israel an apartheid state and cozied up to Hamas, is most offensive."
Wiesenfeld argued that Cardozo is empowering Israel’s enemies.
"Having one of the most important Jewish institutions" honor Carter is "self-defeating," Wiesenfeld said. "It deserves more condemnation that I would give an anti-Semite because I don’t expect much from an anti-Semite."
Carter has a controversial record that includes criticizing Israel and downplaying the impact of a nuclear-armed Iran.
"The religious leaders of Iran have sworn on their word of honor that they're not going to manufacture nuclear weapons," Carter told Time Magazine in a 2012 interview. "If they are lying, then I don't see that as a major catastrophe because they'll only have one or two military weapons."
Carter is also reported to have told a Hamas official that he needs their help "to help Obama to overcome the Zionist lobby," according to reports.
Dershowitz said Carter does not even deserve to be awarded for his efforts to broker the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978 between Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
"He gets too much credit for Camp David," Dershowitz said. "Begin and Sadat risked their lives and careers. He was the ball boy in the dugout and almost ruined it."
"It’s really hard to find a less deserving person that Jimmy Carter," Dershowitz added. "What students should do is walk out on him, turn their backs on him." He also challenged the former president to debate him or another pro-Israel figure about his record regarding human rights.