Former President Jimmy Carter on Thursday defended using the term "apartheid" in his latest book and disputed that he had ever been asked to debate a Harvard professor who has been critical of the book's premises.
Speaking at George Washington University, Carter addressed the controversy that has erupted over "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid." Many Jewish-Americans and Israel sympathizers have argued that the book is wrongfully biased against Israel and have taken issue with the invocation of apartheid, a term for state-sponsored segregation, to describe the relationship between Israel and Palestine.
Following the book's publication, 14 advisers to the Carter Center, a human rights organization, resigned over what they considered factual errors in the book. All were Jewish-Americans.
When asked whether using "apartheid" helped his cause, Carter did not equivocate.
"Yes, I do," he said. The term refers to the "forced segregation of one people inside the land of another," he explained. "That's exactly what's happening in the West Bank."
Describing how Palestinians have been forced from their homes and placed on subsidized Israeli settlements, Carter lamented that Palestinians' lives there have become "almost intolerable." The oppression and persecution that Palestinians have endured in these lands comes at the hand of only a "minority of Israelis who desire to confiscate and colonize Arab land," Carter said.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been especially vocal in disputing Carter's apartheid analogy and historical inaccuracies he believes pervade the book, also came up in Carter's remarks.
Carter reportedly had turned down an invitation from Brandeis University to debate Dershowitz about his book, and Dershowitz has been chomping at the bit for Carter to oblige. However, the former President said no such invitation was ever extended.
Never referring to Dershowitz by name, Carter said he had "never received any invitation to debate, contrary to what a Harvard professor has said."
During the question-and-answer session, Carter added that Dershowitz "knows very little, if anything, about the present circumstances in the West Bank."
When asked by an undergraduate student if peace was even still possible between Israel and Palestine, Carter took an indirect swipe at the Bush administration for neglecting to engage dialogue in that regard.
"Since (Bill) Clinton left office, over the last six years, not one single day [has been devoted to] overtures to peace agreements," Carter said. "The current policy is leading to an immoral outcome."
By Jennifer Hoar