Carter defends book on Palestinian 'apartheid'
WALTHAM, Mass. -- In his first major public speech about his controversial book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," former President Carter told an audience at Brandeis University on Tuesday that he stood by the book and its title, that he apologi...
WALTHAM, Mass. -- In his first major public speech about his controversial book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," former President Carter told an audience at Brandeis University on Tuesday that he stood by the book and its title, that he apologized for what he called an "improper and stupid" sentence in the book, and that he had been disturbed by accusations that he was anti-Semitic.
Although controversy had preceded his visit here, Carter was greeted with a standing ovation and treated with obvious respect by the audience, even as students asked questions that were critical of his assertions.
"This is the first time that I've ever been called a liar and a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward and a plagiarist," Carter told the crowd of about 1,700 at Brandeis, a university founded by the American Jewish community where about half the students are Jewish. "This is hurting me."
Carter said he had chosen to use the word apartheid to refer to conditions Israel was imposing in the occupied Palestinian territories "knowing that it would be provocative." His intent, he said, was to point out "that this cruel oppression is contrary to the tenets of the Jewish religious faith and contrary to the basic principles of the state of Israel."
But he said a sentence in which he seemed to suggest that Palestinians would not have to end their suicide bombings and acts of terrorism until Israel withdraws from the territories "was worded in a completely improper and stupid way."
Carter initially rejected an invitation to speak at Brandeis because it suggested that he debate Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor who has sharply criticized the book. Wanting the university to welcome contrary views, more than100 students and faculty members signed a petition contending that Carter should be invited without conditions.
After Carter left, Dershowitz spoke in the same gymnasium, saying that the former president oversimplified the situation and that his conciliatory and sensible-sounding speech at Brandeis belied his words in some other interviews.
"There are two different Jimmy Carters," Dershowitz said. "You heard the Brandeis Jimmy Carter today and he was terrific. I support almost everything he said. But if you listen to the al-Jazeera Jimmy Carter, you'll hear a very different perspective."