Jimmy Carter Meets With Rabbis About Controversial Book on Mideast Conflict
PHOENIX – Former President Jimmy Carter prayed with rabbis who are angered by his new book's reference to apartheid in describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he didn't change their minds.
The Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix said they wouldn't call for a boycott of Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," but they also won't suggest that anyone read it.
"I don't know if he gets the evil that we are facing," said Rabbi Bonnie Koppell of Scottsdale.
Carter, 82, was met by a crowd of protesters as he appeared at a book store in suburban Tempe to autograph copies of the book.
He said he chose the title to shine light on the festering conflict and give Americans a different point of view than what they're used to.
"I wanted to provoke debate," Carter said. "I wanted to provoke discussion."
Carter's book follows the peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians during his presidency in 1977-1980. He's critical of all players in not reaching a better accord, but he's especially critical of the Israelis. He previously told The Associated Press that Americans are rarely exposed to anything other than pro-Israeli views in the news media.
Koppell said Carter's word choice was "gratuitously provocative" and meant to add fuel to an already incendiary subject and sell more books.
"I don't really see the book as helpful," said Koppell, who has read it.
Carter met Tuesday with the rabbis' group for almost an hour, prayed with them and invited them to help him teach Sunday school.
Koppell said she was surprised that he spent so much time with them and felt he would try to be more balanced in the future.
Rabbi Ayla Grafstein of Scottsdale said it didn't matter what promises Carter made.
"In the end, he's not going to change what's in his book," Grafstein said.
Simon & Schuster said the book is in fourth printing, with 395,000 copies in print. Most of Carter's books have been best sellers. The latest is on The New York Times best seller list.