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Carter Center advisers resign over book

Story Highlights

• Concerns of 14 advisers reflect uproar in the U.S. Jewish community
• Letters express concern over Carter's book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid"
• Advisers say book confused "opinion with fact, subjectivity with objectivity"
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Former President Jimmy Carter's controversial book and subsequent remarks about the Israel-Palestinian conflict have prompted the resignations of 14 people from an advisory board of the Carter Center, the 25-year-old Atlanta-based humanitarian organization.

The 14 explained their concerns, which reflect an uproar in the U.S. Jewish community over Carter's Mideast stance, in letters sent Thursday to fellow Board of Councilors members and Carter.

"We can no longer endorse your strident and uncompromising position," the letter to Carter said. "This is not the Carter Center or the Jimmy Carter we came to respect and support."

The letter to the fellow Board of Councilors, with more than 200 members, was brief and less detailed but expressed concern about Carter's book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."

"We are deeply troubled by the president's comments and writings and are submitting the following letter of resignation to the Carter Center," the letter said.

The letters were signed by Alan Abrams, Steve Berman, Michael Coles, Jon Golden, Doug Hertz, Barbara Babbit Kaufman, Liane Levetan, Jeff Levy, Leon Novak, Ambassador William B. Schwartz Jr., William B. Schwartz III, Steve Selig, Cathey Steinberg, and Gail Solomon. (Watch Carter defend his stance Video)

The letter to Carter said while each person "has been proud to be associated" with the center and its work, "we can no longer in good conscience continue to serve the center as members of the Board of Councilors."

The Board of Councilors is separate from the center's board of trustees, which is its governing body, the center says.

The Board of Councilors "is an advisory body of community leaders and business people who are briefed quarterly on the center's work and serve as emissaries of the center to the greater community," the center said. "They are not engaged in implementing work of the center and are not a governing board."

The letter to Carter accused him of abandoning his "historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side." Carter's book confused "opinion with fact, subjectivity with objectivity and force for change with partisan advocacy," the letter said.

"Israelis, through deed and public comment, have consistently spoken of a desire to live in peace and make territorial compromise to achieve this status. The Palestinian side has consistently resorted to acts of terror as a national expression and elected parties endorsing the use of terror, the rejection of territorial compromise and of Israel's right to exist. Palestinian leaders have had chances since 1947 to have their own state, including during your own presidency when they snubbed your efforts."

The center's initial response to the departures expressed appreciation for the members' efforts but did not address the concerns.

"We are grateful to these Board of Councilors members for their years of service and support for The Carter Center in advancing peace and health around the world," the center said.

Many Jewish groups say it is unfair to equate Israel or its policies in occupied territories with the old South African apartheid system that divided the races.

Carter has said the term refers to Israeli policies in occupied territories, not to Israel itself.

The former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner has been busy speaking out on the issue since the book was published.

Brandeis University in Massachusetts -- a nonsectarian school with a Jewish heritage and a large Jewish student body -- said Thursday that Carter will speak there and take questions.

The school said he "has accepted an invitation from a student and faculty committee" there "to speak on campus, perhaps as soon as January 23, although the date may be subject to change."

A letter accuses former President Jimmy Carter of abandoning his "historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side."

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