Correction to This Article
A Dec. 10 Style article about former president Jimmy Carter incorrectly said that the nation was introduced to gas lines during his administration. A few years earlier, there were gasoline shortages during the Nixon administration.

Peace Provocateur

"Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," the latest book from the former president and Habitat for Humanity booster, has triggered angry reactions in some quarters for the title alone. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
By Bob Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's not your run-of-the-mill author event, this post-Thanksgiving gathering at Bailey's Crossroads.

Top PR honchos from Simon & Schuster and Borders don't fly in from New York and Ann Arbor, Mich., for the average book signing, but here they are, standing by their man.

Ordinary authors don't get Secret Service protection, but as this one approaches the lectern, the dark-suit-and-earpiece boys take up positions on either side.

And what about that scruffy-looking guy with the hand-held video camera? Humble wordsmiths rarely draw Hollywood royalty. Yet here's Jonathan Demme -- the director of "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Stop Making Sense" -- marshaling a team of documentarians while doing a little shooting himself.

Then again, James Earl Carter has never been run-of-the-mill, average or ordinary. Or especially humble, truth be told.

Carter is here to talk about his 21st book, the latest effort from the most out-there former president of modern times. As the introduction he gets makes clear -- "Nobel peace laureate, the heart and soul of Habitat for Humanity, tireless advocate for peace and fairness in the world" -- he's set a daunting standard for post-Oval Office marathoners.

Bill Clinton may catch him yet, but he'd better lay off the Big Macs and stay on task -- because Carter, at 82, is still running hard.

Take the book he's here to sell tonight. He gave it a title -- "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" -- that was, he tells his audience, "provocative" by design.

This is an understatement.

Before the book was even published, angry supporters of Israel denounced his use of the word "apartheid" and Democratic politicians, among them soon-to-be House speaker Nancy Pelosi, scrambled to distance themselves from Carter's views. A week after Carter's Borders appearance, Emory University scholar Kenneth Stein resigned his position as a Carter Center Fellow, charging that the book is biased and replete with errors and omissions.

At his bookstore talk, however, Carter sounds unconcerned by negative reactions -- as long as attention to his basic point gets paid.

"I don't consider the word provocative to be a negative description," he says, "because it's designed to provoke discussion and analysis and debate in a country where debate and discussion is almost completely absent if it involves any criticism at all of the policies of Israel."


CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company