December 24th, 2009
11:19 AM ET
8 months ago

Carter asks Jewish community for forgiveness

 Jimmy Carter's comments on Israel over the years have proven controversial.
Jimmy Carter's comments on Israel over the years have proven controversial.

(CNN) – Former President Jimmy Carter – whose comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have drawn criticism from many Jewish leaders over the years - has written an open letter asking the Jewish community for forgiveness

"We must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel," Carter wrote in a letter provided to Jewish news service JTA. "As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so."

In Hebrew, "Al Het" is a plea for forgiveness. Traditionally, the term referred to the prayer offered on Yom Kippur asking God to forgive any sins committed against Him.

Carter’s book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid” drew criticism from some in the Jewish community for language that seemed to place most of the blame for the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel, and to compare the country’s settlement activities with South Africa’s historic apartheid policy.

In a JTA interview, the former president dismissed charges that the letter was released to coincide with his grandson Jason Carter’s prospective plan to enter politics.

The younger Carter is reportedly weighing a bid for the Georgia state Senate, to fill a seat that would open if incumbent David Adelman is confirmed as the new U.S. ambassador to Singapore.

"Jason has a district, the number of Jewish voters in it is only 2 percent," said the former president.

The title of his controversial book was not an assessment of the current situation, said Carter. It was, rather, his view of what might happen in the future if Israel’s policies were not altered. “I never intended or wanted to stigmatize the nation of Israel, even though I have disagreed with the settlement policy all the way back to the White House," he noted.


Filed under: Jimmy Carter
soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. Scott, Tucson

    Of course his grandson getting ready to run for office has nothing to do with Jimmy's remarkable change of heart...right.

    December 24, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Donna

    President Carter is a good man who has worked long and hard for peace. He's right about Israel, bit gracious enough to apologize if his words have unintended hurtful effect. And he's certainly not the first or only one to use the word 'apartheid' to describe Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. Bishop Desmond Tutu used it before him, and if anyone would recognize apartheid when he saw it, it would be the Bishop.

    December 24, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. Fan of Common Sense

    When is he going to apologize for being such a lousy president?

    December 24, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  4. Bill from CA

    Wow, and only three years too late. I'm a Democrat, and until January of this year, I felt as though Carter was our worst ex-president. Now that Bush is finally retired, Carter will take his place behind him. How much longer until Carter apologizes to the American people for his disastrous presidency? Sadly, we probably have a better chance of getting an apology from him than any recognition from Bush or Cheney that any of their policies were even remotely flawed.

    December 24, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. Chad

    This guy is pathetic. Surprised Obama hasn't hired him as a Czar.

    December 24, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  6. Keeth in California

    Nicely done, Jimmy.

    December 24, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. Lucullus

    Yes, yes, God forbid anyone should critisize poor, tiny, surrounded Israel. How dare the Palestinians not accept the fact that the Western world decided they should pay for the holocaust with the partitioning of their country. What's wrong with claiming a piece of someone elses land by declaring that your magic man in the sky gave it to you? So what if the Palestinians have been ghettoized and brutalized for the last 60 years? It's not like they're human beings. They don't have real feelings or feel pain the way Israelies do. As a child I was a supporter of the state of Israel. As I got older I watched the news, listend to their leaders and read. Anyone who can support these thugs should hang their heads in shame

    December 24, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  8. southerncousin

    He needs to apologize to everyone for everything. Obama I and Obama II are very similar. Of course this is all just for political expediency (getting his grandson elected), just like Obama II. All democrats are lying, cheating phonies.

    December 24, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  9. YadVashem

    I don't believe you, so I don't forgive you.

    December 24, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. Jake

    A little too late Jimuh! You have caused the death of thousands of innocent people including Muslims. This man should be jailed. The FBI should look into his finances to determine how much of the money that he was given from "arab" leaders were terror funded and take this money back!

    He is one of the most dangerous and pathetic presidents in history....

    December 24, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  11. sharp2

    Of course he is now apologizing because his grandson is running for congress in a large Jewish populated community. Carter is by far the worst President ever. Now he needs the Jewish people so my, my, how sorry I am.

    December 24, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  12. Laurie

    What Carter needs to ask Al Het for is his continuing insistence that Israel not do anything to defend itself, not take steps to protect itself and allow its enemies–who have sworn to destroy it–to have free reign to do whatever they want.

    According to Carter, Israel should turn the other cheek at every provocation and every attack and simply give the Arabs whatever they want to appease them.

    According to Jewish Law the act of repentance is only valid if the penitent changes his or her actions along with the words. Let's see if Carter is prepared to start traveling around and holding the Arabs to the same impossible standards that he expects of the Jews.

    December 24, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  13. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    As thousands of Orthodox Jews and rabbis have pointed out repeatedly for many years now, Israel, despite its best efforts to promote itself as such, is NOT synonous with Judaism, and its actions against the Palestians for six decades have perennially violated the spirit and letters of the Jewish faith. It is Israel who owes an apology to Jews, not Jimmy Carter for his holding up a mirror that Israel refuses to look into. Israel has brainwashed and strong-armed America into believing the falsehood that to criticize its policies is "anti-Semitic".

    December 24, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. Bryan

    I'm not Jewish, so I cannot speak for the Jewish people. But, as an American Christian this former president has done an enormous amount of damage in the name of what?.... It's really too bad he couldn't just stay at home and keep his mouth shut!!! I realize he is trying to salvage his legacy, but, he will be remembered alright, but not in the way he would like.

    December 24, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  15. Rauwsdower

    Shut up Carter. What are you scared of ?

    December 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. To Add....

    Jimmuh invented "apartheid" and used it to whip the DEMOCRATIC LEFT WING COMMUNIST LOVERS into a frenzy against South Africa. He personally waged international financial war against South Africa and helped establish a regime with Nelson Mandela, a socialist who was a buddy of Libya's terrorist head of state, Muhmmar Quadafi, that has destroyed the economy there. South Africa now is the rape and murder capitol of the world thanks to "Jimmuh". Jimmuh's use of trumped up charges and "apharteid" destroyed the jobs of the Africans he thought needed "Liberation". You can read the results of Jimmuh's insane war on civilization in the article 'Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer'. Jimmuh's DESTRUCTION OF THE ONLY FREE CAPITALIST SOCIETY ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT IS NOW RESULTING IN THE STARVATION OF MILLIONS. Jimmuh is a RACIST: his policies specifically favored one race over another.

    December 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. johnmac

    It's about time that Jimmy Carter apologized to the American people for his existence. He is by far the worst thing that ever happened to the American Presidency, and frankly, I am growing very tired of him apologizing to everything that moves.

    December 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. T'SAH from Virginia

    EVERYBODY in this world said something about every race in this world – wheter it was positive or negative – it was said. The apology should be accepted and the issue should be resolved......... Case and Point!!!

    December 24, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  19. Dan

    Jimmy, just go away and stick to peanut farming.

    December 24, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  20. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    As thousands of Orthodox Jews and rabbis have pointed out repeatedly for many years now, Israel, despite its best efforts to promote itself as such, is NOT synonymous with Judaism, and its actions against the Palestians for six decades have perennially violated the spirit and letters of the Jewish faith. It is Israel who owes an apology to Jews, not Jimmy Carter for his holding up a mirror that Israel refuses to look into. Israel has brainwashed and strong-armed America into believing the falsehood that to criticize its policies is "anti-Semitic

    December 24, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. Ken in NC

    I was a young man when former President Carter was in office and not that much into politics and even now I will not pass judgement on him as a President because I firmly beleive that every President faces challenges, while simular to previous Presidents, each one is different. I will say that now as an older citizen and having had years to view him in his private life, I am convienced that he was probably one of the most honest Presidents we have ever had. That honesty also probably garnered him some not so grand ratings from the American public. I think that he is a man to be respected.

    December 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. Larry

    Israel is a terrorist organization that refuses to see it's own crimes against humanity

    Israel is the one that should be apologizing to the Palestinians and the world

    Israel should give back all of the land they have stolen from the Palestinians over the past 40 years and remove the cages they have put the Palestinian people in. They should then take time to look very deeply into their souls and find the strength to become better humans.

    December 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  23. Joe Fattal

    Last people on earth that needs an apology from anyone after their cruel treatement of Palestinians in occupied land.

    December 24, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  24. Ernesto Reyes

    What a great man! I am so proud of President Carter. He is truly a blessing to our country. May God grant him many more years of good health with Rosalyn at his side to continue his work for peace and justice in the world.

    December 24, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. JusticeForAll

    While there's a lot of good to be said about the accomplishments about Israel, one can not condone the excesses perpetrated by the Israelis. President Carter needs to be hailed for speaking his mind not assailed. Unfortunately, the lobby in our country is so strong that anyone who has the courage to speak out is labeled an "anti-semite". Israel has without a doubt committed a number of wrongs and must come work on righting that. My Israeli friends will be surprised how much magnanimity and humbleness can accomplish.

    December 24, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
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