In particular, some students [in the audience at Carter's talk at Brandeis University] challenged Carter on a sentence that has brought him much grief. On Page 213 of his book, Carter wrote: "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel."
This sentence, the students noted, suggests that suicide bombings are a tactic of war, to be suspended only when peace is achieved. Carter agreed -- and apologized -- and said this sentence was a great mistake on his part.
"The sentence was worded in an absolutely improper and stupid way," Carter said. "I apologize to you and to everyone here . . . it was a mistake on my part."
The apology came during his heavily publicized visit to Brandeis University, a historically Jewish college outside of Boston. There had been previous questions over whether Carter would attend, centering around whether Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz could debate him. The compromise was that Dershowitz would not debate, but would be allowed to give a rebuttal after Carter had left.
More important than the apology, though, to my ears, is the fact that this is the first time I have heard Carter acknowledge the validity and substance of his critics. Up until now, it has been tirade after tirade about how the media isn't giving him a fair shake, how about everyone is too intimidated to say what they really think, and other polemics in that vein. This is a welcome change in tenor, and hopefully a sign that Carter is finally coming to grips with the fact that many fair-minded and knowledgeable people from across the political spectrum have legitimate problems with his work. As Dershowitz ended up saying in his rebuttal, "If Carter had written a book more like his comments, I do not believe there would have been so much controversy."