ATLANTA, Feb. 22 -- Former president Jimmy Carter suggested Thursday that critics of his book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should visit the occupied territories to see for themselves whether his account is on target.
Carter, 82, spoke at Emory University, where he is a professor. More than 600 Emory students and staff members attended his lecture on the book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid." The book has been attacked as biased against Israel.
He said he realized that the book's title, alluding to South Africa's former system of racial division, would cause criticism. He said that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, icons of the freedom struggle in South Africa, have seen the conditions of the occupied land and have "used the same language" to describe the situation as he did in the book.
"The title makes it clear the book is about conditions and events in the Palestinian territories and not in Israel and the text makes it clear the forced segregation and domination of Arabs by Israelis is not based on race," Carter said.
Instead, he said the conditions stem from the desire of some Israelis to acquire choice land -- hilltop properties, farmland and sites controlling water access -- in the occupied territories.
He invited his audience, some of whom protested against his book this week, to visit the occupied areas to see for themselves.
"Few people on Earth have had a greater opportunity than I have to understand the complex relationship from personal observation," said Carter, whose efforts produced the Camp David accords in 1978 that led to a treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Israelis, he said, can reduce threats against their country by withdrawing the occupation forces.
"I believe what I advocate in this book -- whether you agree or disagree -- is the best chance for the future," Carter said.