Tevet 23, 5767
BOSTON - Former U.S. president Jimmy
Carter should face "very hard questions" over his controversial book on
Israel, civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz said on Thursday, as Carter
faced a revolt from some of his own supporters.
Jewish groups have expressed outrage at "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," arguing its comparison of Israel's treatment of Palestinians with South Africa's former system of racial segregation could undermine perceptions of Israel's legitimacy.
Fourteen of the Carter Center advisory group's 200 members resigned on Thursday, saying they were "deeply troubled" by the book and public comments by Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for helping mediate global conflicts.
"The book departs from the president's traditional position of mediator and honest broker," said Atlanta businessman Steve Berman, one of the 14 who left. "He has embraced one side."
The group said the book, now No. 5 on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, portrayed tension between Israel and its neighbors as one-sided, with Israel "holding all of the responsibility for resolving the conflict."
Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor who has successfully defended O.J. Simpson and other unpopular figures, said he would take Carter to task when the former president addresses a forum at Brandeis University near Boston on January 23.
"I will have my hand up the minute he finishes. It will be polite. It will be dignified but it will be tough," Dershowitz told Reuters. "There are some very, very hard questions that have to be asked to him. "
Dershowitz said he wanted to ask Carter why he had accepted money from Saudi Arabia and why the Carter Center, an Atlanta-based humanitarian organization, had criticized Israel while not looking into human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
"He claims that Jewish money buys the silence of politicians and the media, and yet he denies that Arab money has bought his silence," said Dershowitz.
Carter's spokeswoman was not available to comment. Carter has said he was "completely at ease' with the book and that its title was deliberately provocative.
In the book, Carter traces the history of the Middle East from the 19th century to the present via the Camp David Accords in 1978, a year into his presidency.
Carter, 82, has been dogged by protests during a promotional tour. Ken Stein, a longtime advisor on Middle East issues who was also the first executive director at the Carter Center, resigned over the book's content.
Last month, Carter told the Boston Globe he previously declined an invitation to speak at Brandeis because it came with the suggestion he debate Dershowitz.
More than 100 students and faculty signed a petition that said Carter should be invited to speak without debating Dershowitz. But many questioned whether a ban on Dershowitz would contradict the school's free-speech principles.
"We wouldn't bar him from coming here. But whether or not people other than university community members are going to be admitted to the event itself, that still remains to be decided," said Brandeis spokesman Dennis Nealon.