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Jimmy Carter To Jews: ‘Al Het’

Former president insists his grandson’s campaign is not his only reason for apologizing for ‘Apartheid’ book.

12/24/09
JTA
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Washington — Jimmy Carter is asking the Jewish community for forgiveness — and insists it’s not simply because his grandson has decided to launch a political career with a run for the Georgia state Senate.

Jason Carter, 34, an Atlanta-area lawyer, is considering a run to fill a seat covering suburban DeKalb County should the incumbent, David Adelman, win confirmation as President Barack Obama’s designated ambassador to Singapore.
The seat has a substantial Jewish community.

Washington — Jimmy Carter is asking the Jewish community for forgiveness — and insists it’s not simply because his grandson has decided to launch a political career with a run for the Georgia state Senate.

Jason Carter, 34, an Atlanta-area lawyer, is considering a run to fill a seat covering suburban DeKalb County should the incumbent, David Adelman, win confirmation as President Barack Obama’s designated ambassador to Singapore.
The seat has a substantial Jewish community.

The senior Carter outraged Jewish leaders with his book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” and they strongly criticized the former U.S. president for what appeared to be his likening of Israel’s settlement practices to apartheid and seeming to place the brunt of the blame for a lack of peace on Israel.
On the subsequent book tour, Carter further enraged many Jews by intimating that the pro-Israel lobby inhibited an evenhanded U.S. policy.
Such bad blood could potentially translate into problems for Carter’s grandson as he considers launching a political career.
But in an interview with JTA, Carter insisted that ethnic electoral considerations were not reason enough to reach out to the Jewish community, although he did not outright deny that it was a factor.

It seemed clear, however, that Jason Carter saw the apology, issued earlier this month through JTA, as a means of outreach. The younger Carter had been trying for days to reach Liane Levetan, a former state senator and CEO of DeKalb County, and as soon as they connected Tuesday, he directed her to the JTA Web site to read the letter.

Jason Carter did not return a call seeking comment.

Levetan is one of 14 Jews who split with the Carter Center in 2006 after the publication of “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” The split with the center, which promotes peace and helps alleviate poverty, clearly pained her.

“I admire the Carter Center; Mrs. Carter did a lot of good things for women,” said Levetan, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. “But first I’m a Jew.”
In his interview with JTA, the elder Carter acknowledged that the negative impressions about his book and book tour had ruptured his relations with the Jewish community. Jewish friends, including Atlanta Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, prominent Atlanta lawyer Miles Alexander and Stuart Eizenstat, who was Carter’s chief White House domestic policy adviser, urged him to reach out to the Jews.

“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 his statement. “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.”

“Al Het” refers to the Yom Kippur prayer asking God forgiveness for sins committed against Him; in Modern Hebrew it means any plea for forgiveness.
Asked what in particular he might have done to stigmatize Israel, Carter referred to the title of his book. The former president said that he had attempted to conflate into a single title his belief that Palestine, not Israel, should control the West Bank, and that apartheid, not peace, would prevail were that not to happen.

“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 said.

Carter said he never meant to convey the impression that the pro-Israel lobby silenced criticism of Israel, only that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was the “most influential lobbying group” and that presidents, including himself, and congresses have historically been “totally committed” to Israel’s security.

“My pre-eminent foreign policy objective,” Carter said, “has been peace in the Middle East,” fueled in part by his affection for Israel. He said he remained committed to helping release Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas since June 2006, and noted that he had helped relay two letters from Shalit’s parents to the captured soldier, and one letter from Shalit to his family. n

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