KINSLEY v. CARTER….Michael Kinsley writes a very strange column today about Jimmy Carter’s new book:

Comes now former president Jimmy Carter with a new best-selling book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” It’s not clear what he means by using the loaded word “apartheid,” since the book makes no attempt to explain it, but the only reasonable interpretation is that Carter is comparing Israel to the former white racist government of South Africa.

Kinsley tries to back this up with several strained paragraphs about the technical underpinnings of South African apartheid, but he so studiously ignores the everyday definition of the word that his effort comes off as little more than disingenous smart aleckiness. What’s more, he seems not to have read the book Carter says he wrote. Here’s Carter:

And let me get to the word “apartheid.” Apartheid doesn’t imply at all, as I made plain in my book, anything that relates to Israel, to the nation. It doesn’t imply anything that relates to racism. This apartheid, which is prevalent throughout the occupied territories, the subjection of the Palestinians to horrible abuse, is caused by a minority of Israelis. We’re not talking about racism, but talking about their desire to acquire, to occupy, to confiscate, and then to colonize Palestinian land.

And this:

The alternative to peace is apartheid, not inside Israel, to repeat myself, but in the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian territory. And there, apartheid exists in its more despicable forms, that Palestinians are deprived of basic human rights. Their land has been occupied and then confiscated and then colonized by the Israeli settlers.

Now, you can agree or disagree with this, but that’s what Carter says he wrote and his meaning seems fairly clear. And in fact, Carter’s book does say this (p. 189):

The driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa ? not racism, but the acquisition of land. There has been a determined and remarkably effective effort to isolate settlers from Palestinians, so that a Jewish family can commute from Jerusalem to their highly subsidized home deep in the West Bank on roads from which others are excluded, without ever coming in contact with any facet of Arab life.

Again, you can agree or disagree with this. But why does Kinsley pretend he doesn’t understand it?