Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ex US President Carter defends book - 'Palestine: Peace, Not (Israeli) Apartheid!'

By Jason Szep

WALTHAM, Mass., Jan 23 (Reuters) - Jimmy Carter defended his controversial book on Tuesday, telling a predominantly Jewish university that his goal was revive Middle East peace talks and that attacks on his character had hurt him and his family.

Jewish groups have expressed outrage at "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," arguing that its comparison of Israel's treatment of Palestinians with South Africa's reviled apartheid system of racial segregation could undermine perceptions of Israel's legitimacy.

The former U.S. president, in his first direct address to Jewish Americans on his book, said the title referred to human rights in the Palestinian territories, not in Israel.

He said the word "apartheid" was intended to provoke debate on the rights of Palestinians, who he said were being treated unfairly by Israel.

He said he never asserted that Jewish money was controlling the U.S. media, as some critics have charged, but only that the pro-Israel lobby was strong.

"I've been hurt and so has my family by some of the reaction," Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, told about 1,700 students at Brandeis University, a secular school founded by the American-Jewish community, outside Boston.

"I've been through political campaigns for state senator, governor and president, and I've been stigmatized and condemned by my political opponents. But this is the first time that I have ever been called a liar. And a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward, and a plagiarist. This is hurtful," he said.

"I can take it," he added, joking that he could handle the attacks because as a former U.S. president he still had Secret Service protection.

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