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. Shucks

    Israel is not the little innocent country that it would like the rest of the world to beleive. They have added to the conflict on many occaisions over the years, and at times were outright arrogant in their actions. Carter only spoke the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. He need not apoligize.

    December 24, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Carter is an embarrassment to the Democratic party. Heck, he's an embarrassment to anything he supports.

    December 24, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. HP

    It is refreshing to hear someone actually apologize for being hurtful, whether the comments were justified or not.

    December 24, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. American Airman

    There is an old adage that I am reminded of when I read this article. It goes:

    Too Little Too Late.

    December 24, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. A Jew in Canada

    Carter should take his Al Het and shove it up his Al Tuchus. His stupidity has set the prospects for Middle East Peace back to the Middle Ages.

    December 24, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Phil

    President Carter does not owe Israel

    December 24, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. proud conservative

    Carter has always been an anti-Semite and this phony mea culpa does fool me one bit.

    December 24, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Solid_Snake3656

    APOLOGY! For What!!! They deserve all the criticism they get. They've killed thousands of innocent people, similar to what Hitler did to them.

    December 24, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. michael jordan

    Gob bless Jimmy Carter. If only the world including Israel would follow his example and repent for their sins.

    December 24, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Jasper

    Jimmy, you're a class act.

    December 24, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. Jerry

    Carter still can't open his mouth without making a fool out of himself. It won't stop either! Dumbest president we ever had.

    December 24, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. JR

    So who will apologize for this article's premise that all Jews think the same, have the same "leaders" and support Israel's actions against Palestinians?

    December 24, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. James Hosen

    It does not sound like a sincere apology as it does not specify what
    he is apologizing for. Does he still think the word " apartheid"
    is appropriate? Will he explain why the change or is this
    the end of his statement? He spent years coming down hard on
    the only free and democratic country in the middle east.
    The way it stands should we accept his apology? No!

    December 24, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Herschel Budlow

    President Carter's statement is a little late in the game. His many
    previous opinions relating to the issue of his overtly biased stand regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are certainly evidence of his
    true feelings. He quite simply has not spoke to the issue of civilian-targeted terrorist acts from the Palestinians as the prompter for the necessary Israeli responses over the years. His opinions have given
    motivation to terrorist groups to use public propaganda to justify their
    horrendous targeting of civilians. In his many previous statements,
    he has not been at all critical of the Palestinian actions to the extent
    he has criticized the Israelis.

    Herschel Budlow

    December 24, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. fred

    May God have mercy on each one of us !

    December 24, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Mike in NYC

    Craven rear-kissing to help his grandson's career.

    The younger Carter's district may only be 2 percent Jewish, but that's also the proportion for the nation as a whole. And even politicos from 100% gentile districts have to be careful about crossing the tribe.

    Jimmy's also a Baptist, so he probably figured he needed to mend fences with God's pets before shedding his mortal coil.

    Note: when you haven’t done anything wrong - and Carter simply spoke the truth - apologizing accomplishes nothing. It tags you as spineless, and it certainly doesn’t earn you any respect from the other side.

    December 24, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  17. jeff jackson, alabama

    Carter, like so many overly intelligent people,
    has always had a deficiancy in common sense.
    He also ignored the Iraelis when they advised
    him against his failed rescue in Iran to free the
    His lack of common sense may only be outdone
    by his arrogance.

    December 24, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. Dan

    He thought he is out of politics forever, and rather than facing his mistakes with Iran, found it easier to blame Israel for all things bad, ignoring his major policy mistakes was easy to go after "Israel" which only gave him his only achievement in Camp David. This is obvious psychological pathology of Mr. Carter whose legacy will always include naivity and allowing evil powers in Iran and elsewhere to take over.

    Now, suddenly his family members are in politics, so it is time to ask forgiveness for obvious political exploitation of the middle east situation and his "blame Israel" psychology. What a pathetic little man!!!!!

    December 24, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  19. Kevin in Ohio

    All democrats need to apologize to the Jews....they have NOT supported Israel one iota, and their appeasement policies to nations like Iran will only deepen the crisis Israel faces.

    December 24, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  20. James

    I have never figured Jimmy out. Is he really stupid or totally evil? He is directly responsible for the genocide, starvation, and political turmoil across the land of Africa. Now he is condemning a countries right to defend it's self.

    December 24, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Larry Norman

    Now, how about apologizing to the rest of us, Jimmy: you know, the ones that believed your "Peace Not Apartheid" perspective. What, were you just kidding? Or, is this just a case where you believe the meek shall inherit the Georgia Statehouse?

    December 24, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. Paine's Sense

    Former President Carter remains a class act and a voice of reason in a unreasonable world.

    December 24, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  23. Nick San Diego

    I do believe that Carter did not have to apologize for his comments in his book. For me, his views in the book were right on target.
    What it does show, is Carter's humbleness and kind nature.
    History will show his Presidency in better light than at present.

    December 24, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  24. jerseylou

    Wow these people got the american people over a barrel.The more money and weapons you give them the more they want, with an apology.

    December 24, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. Scott Price

    For someone that stood up to both sides and held them accountable for the "process" I am dismayed in the asking for forgiveness. How long will the World be held accountable or pay for someone's injustice. How long are we going to watch the same History shows, Movies, anything media related meant to instill in our brains to never ever think to do anything bad to someone fo the Jewish Faith when the point should be held by all (even Neocons) is to work things out and not do anything bad to anyone for any reason. Trying to shame someone perpetually will only backfire.

    December 24, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
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