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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 31st, 2009 - 01:31:47

Israel is expert at getting apologies
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 31, 2009, 00:32

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Are there people as victimised as the Israelis, who see anti-Semites lurking behind every rock? Judging by the amount of apologies the Israeli government demands and receives, just about everyone has it in for those poor, helpless people. Indeed, Israelis collect apologies in the same way numismatists collect coins; some aren�t very precious but, occasionally, along comes a real find.

Israel can now claim a jackpot. In a recent letter to the Jewish community, former US president Jimmy Carter, a man who has spent years championing Palestinian rights, offered up a prayer signifying a plea for forgiveness for any words or deeds that may have stigmatised the Jewish state.

But this doesn�t mean that Carter is off the hook. For that he would have to grovel on his knees for penning �Palestine: Peace not Apartheid,� a book that compares Israel�s treatment of Palestinians to the way black South Africans were once discriminated against. Some Jewish groups have characterised his mea culpa as nothing more than a �publicity stunt.�

Others are making a link between Carter�s apparent turnaround and the bid of his grandson Jason Carter for a Georgia Senate seat. Yet others say that �it�s a legacy thing.� At least one Jewish leader has suggested the former president has experienced �an epiphany.�

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America has called upon Carter to display true repentance by taking �concrete actions to redress troubling false statements� relating to Israel�s �Operation Cast Lead� in Gaza.

For the real victims, the Palestinians, who thought that Carter was a solid friend in Washington, his seeming U-turn is a terrible shock. This is the man who brokered the Camp David Accords and who knows the region like the back of his hand. What has driven him to apologise for saying and writing the truth?

In any event, shouldn�t the Israeli authorities be apologising to Carter for shunning him in April 2008 and refusing to afford him a state security detail that were deliberate insults to his international standing? Shouldn�t Jewish leaders say they�re sorry to Carter for barring him entry to a number of synagogues when he is the only US commander-in-chief who has successfully facilitated partial peace in the Middle East?


Whatever the reasons behind his apparent change of heart, he was wrong to make that apology. Nobody should say they�re sorry for telling it like it is and besides, his credibility with his friends in the Arab world and among the peace camp has been damaged beyond repair. At the same time, his self-flagellation will be used by Israel to vindicate its aggression. Moreover, if the only US leader ever to stand firmly alongside the Palestinian cause has folded, it makes it doubly hard for anyone to rely on the impartiality of any future American president seeking to broker a peace deal.

Perhaps we shouldn�t be too hard on Carter, whom I�ve always respected for his dedication to humanitarian causes and his efforts to ensure free and fair elections in developing countries. Taking Israel to task for its crimes requires broad shoulders and the sort of courageous heart that is lacking in most politicians, let alone the American variety. In the end, he just couldn�t cut it. He isn�t alone.

Earlier this month, the British Foreign Office apologised to Israel on behalf of the Westminster Magistrates Court, which issued an arrest warrant for Israel�s former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in relation to war crimes committed in Gaza. Worse, the British government is now attempting to change the law to ensure that Israeli officials are never similarly embarrassed again.

Waving her victim card, Livni accused the British legal system of �victimising� people �forced to fight terrorism.� Never mind that the UN Goldstone Report advised that Israel be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for those crimes that resulted in a death toll in Gaza that exceeded 1,200, including children under the age of 18.

Britain�s apology echoes that of Cherie Blair in 2002 in response to a backlash over her comment that �young Palestinians feel they have no hope but to blow themselves up.� Likewise, in 2006, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, saw fit to apologise for the Church of England�s decision to review its investments in Israel due to the demolition of Palestinian homes.

Then just last week, the Guardian newspaper apologised to Israel for running the headline �Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs,� calling it a serious editing error. It was promptly changed to �Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent.� Yet earlier allegations of Israeli organ harvesting published in a Swedish newspaper were characterised by Israel as �a blood libel� and became the subject of a diplomatic battle between the two countries. On this rarest of occasions, no apology was forthcoming.

Israel has garnered so many apologies over the decades it could sell a few on eBay without even missing them. But let�s be scrupulously fair: Israel has apologised, too. In January 2008, the state sought to rectify a serious historic injustice by extending an official apology to the surviving Beatles, 43 years after the Fab Four were banned from performing there. Enough said!

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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