ATLANTA (AP) - Former President Jimmy Carter apologized for any words or deeds that may have upset the Jewish community in an open letter meant to improve an often-tense relationship.
He said he was offering an Al Het, a prayer said on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It signifies a plea for forgiveness.
"We must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel," Carter said in the letter, which was first sent to JTA, a wire service for Jewish newspapers, and provided Wednesday to The Associated Press. "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."
Carter, who during his presidency brokered the first Israeli-Arab peace treaty, outraged many Jews with his 2006 book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Critics contend he unfairly compared Israeli treatment of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza to the legalized racial oppression that once existed in South Africa.
Israeli leaders have also shunned him over his journey to Gaza to meet with Hamas, considered a terror group by the U.S., the European Union and Israel.
Carter's apology was welcomed by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a vocal critic of Carter's views on Israel.
"When a former president reaches out to the Jewish community and asks for forgiveness, it's incumbent of us to accept it," he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. "To what extent this is an epiphany, only time will tell. There certainly was a lot of hurt, a lot of angry words that need to be repaired. But this is a good start."
7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.In other words if Jimmah doesn't want to be an anti-Semite any more he needs to prove that he has changed his heart through consistent action over the long term.
A note saying "I'm sorry if you misunderstood my attempts to make you better people" doesn't come anywhere close to cutting it.
If Carter really wants to be believed he can start by telling us how his former attacks on Israel were wrong headed and harmful.
Now that would be a good start.