Queen's University — Since 1873
16th November 2012

Critical eye on Jimmy Carter

Alumnus writes on why ex-president shouldn’t receive an honorary degree from Queen’s

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Michael Shafron, MBA ’87

Next Wednesday, on Nov. 21, the reputation of Queen’s will be tarnished. The odd thing is that this will occur by granting a prestigious honorary degree to Jimmy Carter at Fall Convocation.

Upon receiving an alumni email that proudly announced the fall 2012 recipients of honorary degrees, I asked myself: who made this decision and why did they believe this to be a benefit to the Queen’s community?

While I believe that Jimmy Carter’s creation and participation in Habitat for Humanity is commendable, that’s where people should end their accolades for the ex-president.

Jimmy Carter, by almost all measures, was a failed president. The overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979 has led to the march of Islamic extremism that we will deal with for generations.

His failed foreign policy allowed the Ayatollah Khomeini to leave France and lead the Islamic Revolution that turned Iran into an American and Israeli hating camp.

Now the world faces a real threat due to Iran’s quest for nuclear materials.

After he left office, Carter founded the Carter Center in Atlanta that was to promote human rights, yet it has ironically accepted donations from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, even though these countries lack certain freedoms like freedom of the press.

The Carter Center has described the United Arab Emirates as “almost completely free and open” yet prominent research-based NGO, Freedom House lists the two countries as “not free.”

In another example of his wrong-headedness, Carter has met repeatedly with the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that both Canada and the US have declared a terrorist organization.

This week we’re witnessing the launching of over 200 unguided rockets into Israel by none other than Hamas.

To top it off, Jimmy Carter has been in North Korea and Cuba meeting with declared enemies of the country he was once president of. Given his peacemaking role with the signing of the Camp David Accords it’s bewildering that he has constantly criticized Israel disproportionately in comparison with the non-free Middle Eastern countries.

It’s inconceivable that a former president would criticize a longstanding friend and ally in favour of despotic regimes that offer their citizens virtually no freedoms whatsoever.

Carter has even remarked that Hugo Chavez’s electoral process this year is “the best in the world” despite numerous reports to the contrary.

Jimmy Carter, who claims to be knowledgeable on the Middle East and other topics, wrote and published a book in 2006 titled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Being that Carter had been to Israel many times during his term, I wonder if he ever saw bathrooms, water fountains and lunch counters labeled “Jew” and “Arab?” Has he forgotten that Georgia, the state where he grew up and served as Governor in the 1970s, practiced this form of segregation and institutionalized racism for at least 80 years?

I believe that Jimmy Carter is partially responsible for the budding movement known as “Israel Apartheid Week,” whose goal is to delegitimize the State of Israel.

As a result, there have been numerous physical confrontations, on North American campuses, between pro-Israel students and those whose goal is to delegitimize Israel. One has to look no further than York, Carleton and Concordia Universities.

I am, of course, a believer in free speech as it applies to the marketplace of ideas. It’s the physical threats and violence that I truly abhor.

I have urged the Principal of Queen’s to withdraw the offer previously made to Jimmy Carter by the honorary degree committee.

In an email response, the Principal stated that “he regrets that the committee’s decision displeases me.” It’s not about being displeased; it’s about honouring and protecting the Queen’s brand and its reputation by taking a stand against those who give comfort to radical organizations.

Nothing less than the school’s reputation is on the line.

Michael Shafron currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

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