In early April, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller (photo courtesy of the New York Times) discussed his recent book "The Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela," a children's book on the life of the South African leader Nelson, on the Times' "Ask A Reporter" site. The project is aimed at schoolchildren, who submit questions to selected Times reporters about the job of reporting. The reporters generally respond with bland, follow-your-dreams stuff to the audience of aspiring journalists or curious students, but Keller's response to one student's question might raise some eyebrows.A New York City 12th grader asked Keller:
"What do you think of the analogy between apartheid South Africa and Israel-Palestine? I remember hearing about a lot of controversy last year regarding Jimmy Carter's book, 'Peace Not Apartheid.'"
Keller responded in a post dated April 4 by saying that one has to be careful with analogies, but also suggested that that one had some validity:
"How you feel about Jimmy Carter's book, I guess, depends on whether you think it is a way to shed light on a complicated situation, or just a way to insult Israel. Was he trying, as he says, to provoke a legitimate discussion of the imbalance of power between relatively rich and powerful Israel and the relatively poor and weak Palestinians? Because it is not wrong to see some resemblance to South Africa in the way Israelis drew up Palestinian homelands that serve Israeli interests while leaving the Palestinians poor and divided. Or was he trying to portray the Israelis as evil racists and the Palestinians as innocent victims? Because most experts would say that distorts the reality in Israel."