December 24th, 2009
11:19 AM ET
4 years 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. phoenix86

    More hypocracy from the most anti-semetic president. Carter was weak AND a fool. At least Obama is not...oh wait...never mind.

    December 24, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  2. Swishbone

    What is so difficult to understand is the Democrat party, which draws the majority of Jews in the U.S., is also the party of anti-semitism. It makes no sense whatsoever. If Obama's will were done Israel would be wiped off the face of the map. Do my Jewish bretheran not understand ?

    December 24, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  3. Fitz in Texas

    Save it Carter.....we're sick and tired of people like you that do your best to convince people you're the "progressive" party of "tolerance" yet you're insulting, rude, and down right nasty when people don't agree with you. Try reading some of the post on these stories here at CNN and you'll know exactly what I mean, especially if the story is about Palin or Bush or many others that call themselves Republicans. That "progressive" party of "tolerance" is made up of a lot of down right mean angry people.

    December 24, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  4. Glen

    The worst president in the US history so far. What a co-incidence, what a liar that his grandson needs the Jewish voter, Carter ever the opportunist, what a sleaze bag

    December 24, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. SocialismBad

    It's about time this Democratic national embarrassment says something that makes sense! Carter is the benchmark for dismal failures when it comes to Presidents of this country. His Christmas present this year is that Obama will now alleviate him of that notoriety.

    December 24, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  6. Perusing-Through

    President Jimmy Carter is a very honorable man.

    With retrospect to the national catastrophe George Bush Jr. either cause, propagated, or allowed to develop; Bush & Cheney are still too arrogant to even acknowledge their role and accountability for the disaster they left the U.S in when Obama & Biden took over on 20-January-2009.

    December 24, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  7. Reggie

    We didn"t care what Carter said when he was relevant. AND we sure don't care what he says now.

    December 24, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  8. M. Wallach

    He did want to stigmatize Israel, and he succeeded. If he regrets this, he should first of all not deny it, and secondly he should find a way to undo what he has done. There is an anecdote of a man wishing to undo slander and libel he committed, asking a rabbi what to do. He was told to empty a feather pillow out of the window into the wind. Having dione that he asked the rabbi what to do next. "collect up all the feathers" he was told. The feathers represent the people who came to hear your remarks and retain them in their minds.arter's Al Chet, accepting culpability is either a first step in collecting up the feathers, or a cute gimmick.

    December 24, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  9. Montana Red

    Ok, that's taken care how about apologizing to America for those memorable four years as our Prez?

    December 24, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  10. John Rincewind

    God may forgive this schmendrek, but for a half a lifetime of troubles this wimp has caused, better he should never have been born, let alone be given the position of power and responsibility he so cravenly abused.

    December 24, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. Avi Ashman

    An apology without contriteness. It is the modern generic apology that doesn't say what is being apologized for. It is his "end of days" personal cleansing. – an old man trying to find inner peace.

    December 24, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. jason

    Why is this degenerate still running his trap? All he does is travel the globe, bad mouth the US, and obviously write books badmouthing our allies....Go Away!

    December 24, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. DRTomim

    Jimmy Carter is a very very sick man and should be locked up in a padded room. I would encourage the media to stop giving him any face time.

    December 24, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. David

    I think it's time for the Jewish community to look forward and stop looking backward. They are as much to blame for the current problems in the middle east as the Arab counties are for any conflict. To take the country of one people and give nothing in return, this is a no brainier and the solution is so simple. Israel is doing to Palestin, as was done to them, and it is not right in any book or religion. You share equally in land or power, there is no other resolution. The holy land becomes a mecca for all or no one.

    December 24, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Get up off your hands and knees Mr. Carter its improper for any leader to plea for mercy and its counter productive to admit to wrong doing leave the past in the past whats done is done the only thing that matters is you done what your heart told you to do only God holds your score card you made some mistakes its over U.S.S. Texas C.G.N. 39 GONZO station P.S. Im sorry for disrespecting you that fourth of July night after our mission when you and Mrs. Carter were standing on the balcony .

    December 24, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. Ilene

    I do forgive. Mostly because he was the only one to ever bring any peace to the MIddle East. Israel and Egypt still live in peace together and to me that says more than anything else can say. Actions speak louder than words and President Carter's actions were stupendous back in the '70s.

    December 24, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. Steve B

    It will be up to each individual Jewish person to forgive President Carter.
    Personally I think President Carter should spend more of his time on his projects helping people, not entering the national or international policy arena.
    I also remember his out of touch comments about President Obama's critics and comments are race based.

    December 24, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. felixblock

    Usual antiIsraeli method. First say...then apologize. The saying remains the apology is forgotten. Enemies of Israel will quote "Jimmy Carter said Israelis (in other words :jews) are doing apartheid"
    Because of a common inheritage of discrimination, many Afro-Americans are in favour of Jews and Israel . Carter's comments are intended to affect this tendency.

    December 24, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  19. Rob Nuijten, the Netherlands

    Carter: "..., I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so."

    How can one ask for an apology for something, one's not sure one did it? Carter leaves all options open for questions and speculations. He sould say what he did or said wrong. Just like Obama, when he said, in Berlin, the United States foreign policies weren't always perfect. When was it, and when was it not? Why can't presidents be as clear about their own mistakes as they are about those of other foreign leaders?

    December 24, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  20. Bill

    What Mr. Carter and many others have to realize is that the land was given to the Jewish people long ago by God Himself. It came under Arab domination with the advance of Islam. Muslims do not want Israel to exist at all. Why do they continue to demand land in Israel and a homeland when they have Syria, Lebanon, Irag, Iran, Egypt, and Jordan to live in? These are already Arab countries. Mr. Carter needs to closely read the Bible he professes to believe.

    December 24, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  21. Whatever...

    Why does he need forgiveness?

    I had a friend visiting from the UK who remarked, "for such a small percentage of your population Jewish people make up a large part of your power structure in the U.S." I was shocked and said I thought it was anti-semitic to say that. He looked at me incredulously and said, Why is that anti-semitic, it's true."

    There's nothing wrong with Israel being called out for its seperate but equal policy. Concealing one's opinions about Israel and the treatment of the Palestinians because you are afraid you will be branded anti-semitic is anti-semitic.

    December 24, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. Will

    If Carter said something to slight the Armenians, or the Serbs, or Brazilians, or whomever, and then offered an apology, would that have been front page news?

    Then why is this?

    December 24, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. Charlie Bensinger

    Carter's finances are in very poor shape. He has been bailed out more than once by the Saudi's. This tells where his bread is buttered.

    December 24, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. Brian M.

    What exactly is he sorry for? Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid was an important book that needed to be written. Carter provided an unbiased voice and critical eye to the discussion. This complete 180 is a shame.

    December 24, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  25. Carl Abernathy

    Too bad, so sad. Israel is America's close ally and what you have done is to give comfort and aid to Israel's enemies which is adverse to the best interests of the US. You should be tried for treason. You are a shameless democrap who thinks you and only you have the right answers, but as we see in your apology, you do not. Get lost, Carter!

    December 24, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
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