Juan Cole calls attention to the unusually concerted effort to defame Jimmy Carter and discredit his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. While Carter has been criticized for going too far, Cole contends that “the conditions under which Palestinians beyond the green line under Israeli occupation live are actually much worse than what most black South Africans suffered under Apartheid.”

I haven’t read the book and probably won’t — untangling the nonsense involved when religious people kill one another over land God deeded away two or three times is just too taxing.

But someone has to deal with it, and this level of animus against someone who merely calls for the U.S. to take an evenhanded approach in the Middle East makes me suspect that Carter — for my money the closest thing to a decent president we’ve had in my lifetime — may well be telling uncomfortable truths, just as he was when he urged that we conserve energy in the late 70s and got laughed at for his pains.

Amitabh Pal at the Progressive has another take on the controversy, with links to Carter’s critics as well as his own critique of the book. An update on the ongoing controversy from Joshua Holland at Alternet.