Former President Jimmy Carter is urging Iowans to hold presidential candidates accountable in focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Carter’s plea was made during a speech before some 7,500 people Wednesday night at the University of Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Drawing from his controversial book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” Carter accuses Israel of creating an apartheid system in the West Bank and Gaza. He also criticizes the United States for squandering international goodwill by unofficially condoning Israeli colonization of Palestinian territories.

Carter says, “The growth of Islamic extremism and the unprecedented hostility toward America and the Islamic world, is directly related to the continuing bloodshed between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” Carter also illustrated what he calls the on-going control of Israel over Palestinian land, and he criticized the United States for neglecting the West Bank and Gaza.

Carter says: “We must always make clear our commitment to the security of Israel but we cannot be peacemakers if American government leaders are seen as knee-jerk supporters of every action or policy of whatever Israeli government happens to be in power at the moment.” Carter has been deeply involved in Middle East peace for the past three decades. His controversial book has drawn criticism from the Jewish Community.

The Jewish community has criticized Carter’s book. U-of-I Hillel director Jerry Sorokin says he was concerned about questions solicited prior to Carter’s speech, not allowing controversial viewpoints to be heard. Sorokin says the book is impressionistic with no attempt to look at the history and politics of the region.