LAST WORD: JIMMY CARTER
Dec. 25, 2006 - Jan. 1, 2007 issue - Former president Jimmy Carter has long been regarded as an elder statesman, using his political muscle to address issues like democracy and human rights. But he's also been a prolific author. Since leaving office in January 1981, he has written 23 books, on subjects ranging from American moral values to his childhood on a Georgia farm. His latest—and perhaps most controversial—offering, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," reflects his long interest in the Middle East. (As president, he personally negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt.)
But it has also drawn fire for its use of the word apartheid to describe the current circumstances of the Palestinian people. While the book has shot up the best-seller list, the former president has been denounced for his criticism of Israel. He's also come under fire from former Carter Center associate Kenneth Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Emory University, who has raised questions about the book's accuracy.
(Disclosure: NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey was one of the people asked to comment on an early draft of the book.) President Carter spoke to NEWSWEEK's Eleanor Clift. Excerpts:
Clift: You've created quite a stir. I suspect it was partly intentional.
Carter: Well, it was. One of the purposes of the book was to provoke discussion, which is very rarely heard in this country, and to open up some possibility that we could rejuvenate or restart the peace talks in Israel that have been absent for six years—so that was the purpose of the book.
The word apartheid—did you agonize about that?
Not really, I didn't agonize because I knew that's an accurate description of what's going on in Palestine. I would say that the plight of the Palestinians now—the confiscation of their land, that they're being suppressed completely against voicing their disapproval of what's happening, the building of the wall that intrudes deep within their territory, the complete separation of Israelis from the Palestinians—all of those things in many ways are worse than some of the aspects of apartheid in South Africa. There is no doubt about it, and no one can go there and visit the different cities in Palestine without agreeing with what I have said.