[Published 3 February 2011]
Former US president Jimmy Carter faces the prospect of paying damages exceeding five million dollars if he is unsuccessful in defending legal proceedings against himself and his publisher Simon & Schuster Inc resulting from the publication of Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid - which had an initial print run of 300,000 copies.
A class action instituted by five disgruntled readers of Carter’s controversial book was commenced this week in the United States District Court. The law suit appears set to attract more readers of the book to add their names to the litigation. The complainants have requested a jury to hear the case.
The Complainants are very clear in declaring what the case is - and is not - about:
“Plaintiffs wish to be clear about what this lawsuit is not about. It is not in any way an attempt to challenge Defendant JIMMY CARTER’S right to write a book, or Defendant SIMON & SCHUSTER’S right to publish a book which serves as a forum for Carter to put forward his virulently ant-Israeli bias or any other agenda he or his financial backers wish to put forward. Nor do Plaintiffs challenge his right to use falsehood, misrepresentations and omissions, misleading statements, or outright lies, all of which characterize this book, to further his agenda. Indeed, Plaintiffs fully recognize that, such an agenda from Defendant JIMMY CARTER should come as no surprise, given his well known bias against Israel and the interests of Israel’s sworn enemies who have given millions of dollars to support the Carter Center and Defendant JIMMY CARTER’S work.
Rather, Plaintiffs bring this action to challenge Defendants’ actions in deceiving the public by promoting and selling this Book as a factually accurate account in all regards of the events its purports to depict, rather than truthfully and accurately promoting and selling it as the anti-Israel screed that it is, intentionally presenting untrue and inaccurate accounts of historically recorded events, as witnesses to and participants in such events pointedly have come forward to declare. This lawsuit challenges the Defendants actions in attempting to capitalize on Carter’s status as a former President of the United States to mislead unsuspecting members of the reading public who thought they could trust their former President to tell the truth”
Factual Accuracy Under Legal Challenge
The Complainants allege several representations were made by Carter as to the accuracy of the book including:
1. the “Larry King Live” program on CNN on December 8, 2006, when Carter declared:
“Everything in the book, I might say, is completely accurate.”
2. the same day, December 8, 2006, when Carter wrote in the Los Angeles Times that:
“I used maps, text and documents to describe the situation accurately…"
3. an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on December 13, 2006 when Carter insisted:
“I know what I’m talking about and the book is completely accurate.”
A number of factual inaccuracies in Carter’s book are specified in the Complaint including claims that:
1. U.N. Security Resolution 242 - enacted on November 22, 1967, - requires Israel to completely withdraw from all territories acquired in the 1967 war.
2. Israel’s eastern border with the Palestinian Territories has been established and internationally recognized.
3. a map represented as “the Palestinian interpretation of Clinton’s 2000 proposal” in December 2000 is in fact a map presented by Israel during the Camp David Summit in July 2000
4. The Israelis have never granted any appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians.
5. The security barrier has been erected entirely within Palestinian territory and is at least three and a half times longer than Israel’s internationally recognized border
6. Hamas offered to exchange the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for the release of 95 women and 313 children who are among some 8,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons
The Complaint foreshadows many more inaccuracies will be presented at the hearing.
A former close aide and adviser to Carter - Professor Kenneth Stein - has been very outspoken in his criticism of the book:
” It contains egregious errors of both commission and omission. To suit his desired ends, he manipulates information, redefines facts, and exaggerates conclusions. Falsehoods, when repeated and backed by the prestige of Carter’s credentials, can comprise an erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and policymaking. Rather than bring peace, they can further fuel hostilities, encourage retrenchment, and hamper peacemaking.”
Professor Alan Dershowitz has been as equally scathing claiming:
“Mr. Carter’s book is so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omissions that were it a brief filed in a court of law, it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court. Mr. Carter too is guilty of misleading the court of public opinion. A mere listing of all of Mr. Carter’s mistakes and omissions would fill a volume the size of his book.”
The Complainants do not appear to base their claim on any omissions of fact from the book - relying only on inaccuracies in the facts allegedly appearing in the book.
Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster, issued a statement calling the action:
“frivolous [and] without merit”
Rothberg said that the suit:
“is a transparent attempt by the plaintiffs, despite their contentions, to punish the author, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and world-renowned statesman, and his publisher, for writing and publishing a book with which the plaintiffs simply disagree, It is a chilling attack on free speech that we intend to defend vigorously.”
Rothberg apparently has failed to grasp that the case is not about free speech - but rather that it is about representing a work as factually accurate and non-fiction when it is not.
The Complainants allege:
“SIMON & SCHUSTER, Inc. steadfastly has refused to make any corrections of such false, misleading, and deceptive provisions in the book and both Defendants continue unabashedly to promote the sale of this deceptive product as a work of non-fiction filled only with a truthful account all matters depicted in it, denying all claims by those well respected officials that Carter has fabricated things in the book which he claims to be true.”
Those interested in ensuring the unquestionable accuracy of facts published in relation to the Jewish-Arab conflict - indeed any conflict - will certainly watch the progress of this case with great interest.