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Carter Defends 'Israel Apartheid' Remarks

Carter insists his book presents "facts about the Middle East that are largely unknown in America."

Carter Defends 'Israel Apartheid' Remarks
Standing by his "testimony" in a new book on the Middle East conflict, former US President Jimmy Carter reiterated in an interview broadcast Monday, December 11, that the Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories was worse than South Africa's notorious past apartheid.

"When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa," Carter said in an interview cited by Israel's Haaretz daily.

Carter, a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, released earlier this month his new book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," sparking outrage from Israel and the powerful Jewish lobby in the US.

In his book, Carter blasts "an enormous imprisonment wall" Israel is building in the West Bank.

The separation wall "is snaking through what is left of Palestine to encompass more and more land for Israeli settlers," he wrote.

"In many ways, this is more oppressive than what blacks lived under in South Africa during apartheid."

Israel is building a 700km-long Israeli separation wall, a mix of electronic fences and concrete walls, that will eventually snake some 900 kilometers (540 miles) along the West Bank and leave even larger swathes of its territory on the Israeli side.

Israel has spurned a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice and demand by the UN General Assembly to tear down the barrier and compensate the Palestinians affected.

In the book, Carter maintains that "Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land."

Ferocious Campaign

The book has sparked fierce criticism and prompted a ferocious campaign against Carter basically in the United States.

Democrats, who now dominate both chambers of Congress for the first time in 12 years, were quick to distance themselves from the book.

"On this issue President Carter speaks for himself, the opinions in his book are his own, they are not the views or position of the Democratic Party," Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said in a statement.

Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi agreed that the book does not represent their views on Israel.

"It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously," she said.

"With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel."

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, claimed some of the comments constitute anti-Semitism.

But Carter has rejected the criticism.

"I feel completely at ease," about my comments, Carter told the Atlanta Press Club last week.

"I am not running for office. And I have Secret Service protection."

Carter said the greatest commitment in his life has been trying to bring peace to the region.

"Israel will never have peace until they agree to withdraw [from occupied territories]."

The founder of the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta said his book turns a spotlight on aspects unknown to the Americans about the Israeli-Arab conflict.

"The hope is that my book will at least stimulate a debate, which has not existed in this country. There's never been any debate on this issue, of any significance."

The former president has recently become an outspoken critic of Israel's policies in the occupied territories and the current US foreign policy.

He recently insisted it was a "crime against the people of Palestine" for foreign governments to halt aid to the Palestinian government because the resistance group Hamas was voted into power.

In August, Carter said there will be no genuine and durable peace for any peoples in the volatile Middle East as long as Israel continues to violate UN resolutions by occupying Arab lands

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