NEW YORK — Harsh allegations over President Carter's new book on Israel and the Palestinians came into sharper focus Thursday when a former top aide to Carter said the book appeared to contain maps that were "unusually similar" to those in an earlier book.
Kenneth W. Stein had sent a blistering letter of resignation Monday to officials at the Carter Center in Atlanta charging that the former president's book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," had factual errors, invented segments and, most seriously, "copied materials not cited."
But, in a telephone interview Thursday evening, Stein offered a narrower criticism. "It appears that at least two maps that came out of the Carter book were or are very closely similar, or unusually similar, to maps that were produced and published in Dennis Ross' book 'The Missing Peace,' " Stein said.
That book, published in 2004, is also about the search for peace in the Middle East. "This could be incredibly coincidental, or it could not," Stein said. "But it goes to the way history books should be written, and the way citations should be made when material is borrowed."
The maps in question appear on Page 148 of Carter's book, detailing the differing Israeli and Palestinian interpretations of President Clinton's peace proposal made in 2000.
Ross, who was U.S. Middle East envoy under Clinton and President George H.W. Bush, could not be reached for comment Thursday night; Stein declined to discuss the matter in any greater detail.
Carter's book, which calls Israel's refusal to give back occupied Arab lands the greatest stumbling block to peace in the Middle East, has attracted criticism from prominent academics.
But officials at Simon & Schuster, which published the book, have directed their most pointed criticism at Stein. "We haven't seen these allegations, we haven't seen any specifics," Publisher David Rosenthal said of Stein's earlier letter. "And I have no way of assessing anything he [Stein] has said…. This is all about nothing. We stand behind the book fully, and the fact that there has been a divided reaction to it is not surprising."
Stein was executive director of the Carter Center, a nonprofit that monitors democratic elections and healthcare initiatives in Third World countries. The center has sponsored many of Carter's peacekeeping missions in recent years to such hot spots as North Korea, Haiti and the Middle East.
As the debate continued over the book, attention shifted to Carter's next scheduled public appearance, at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena on Monday evening. In an interview last week, Carter said he realized his book could ignite passions on both sides. Deanna Congileo, his spokeswoman, said he had no intention of canceling the Southern California appearance, which is part of a national book tour.
"I wanted to stimulate a debate on this issue because we don't have a real national debate on this in the United States," said Carter, who brokered the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt. The former president, seeking to deflect criticism that his book is biased against Israel and the United States, said he "deplores" the terrorist violence against Israel.
Carter has declined to comment on Stein's accusations, except to say that his book is not about Israel, "where democracy prevails and citizens live together and are legally guaranteed equal status."
Rather, he said, the book is about the occupied Palestinian territories, where, he said, Israel's construction of an "imprisonment wall" has encircled Palestinians and constitutes an "economic form" of apartheid.