Yeshiva University’s president, Richard Joel, has issued a statement on his disagreements with Jimmy Carter in response to a student group’s April 10th forum with the ex-president at YU’s Benjamin Cardozo Law School.
“While he has been properly lauded for his role in the Camp David Accords of 1978, I strongly disagree with many of President Carter’s statements and actions in recent years which have mischaracterized the Middle East conflict and have served to alienate those of us who care about Israel,” Joel said in a statement posted on YU’s news blog Monday.
“President Carter’s presence at Cardozo in no way represents a university position on his views, nor does it indicate the slightest change in our steadfastly pro-Israel stance.”
Carter has rankled Israel supporters with his 2006 book, “Israel: Peace Not Apartheid,” in which he argued that government policies toward the Palestinians living under Israeli control were similar to those of South Africa’s notorious racist government. He has also held meetings with leaders of Hamas, in part to relay messages from the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive by the terror group from 2006 to 2011.
Prior to Rosh HaShannah in 2009, Carter issued a public apology to the Jewish community for any words are actions that may have offended them. “We must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel,” he said in an open letter.
In his statement, Joel noted that Carter will be honored by the student-run Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution with its Advocate for Peace Award. “The university recognizes the breadth of impassioned feelings engendered by this appearance, and is mindful of the diversity of expressed opinions on the matter,” he said.
A request for comment from the Journal of Conflict Resolution sent via email to the editor was not answered.
A group calling itself The Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni set up a website called Shame on Cardozo for Honoring Jimmy Carter.
Howard Bressler, a member of Cardozoz’s class of 1991 (who is not involved in the Coalition) told The Jewish Week that while he appreciates Joel’s statement distancing himself from Carter’s positions on Israel, “I am ashamed that my alma mater, a Y.U. school, no less, will play host to someone who has gone out of his way to libel the Jewish state. Cardozo is supposed to espouse the pursuit of justice, whereas, when it comes to Israel, Mr. Carter does just the opposite.”
It is the latest appearance at a venue under Jewish auspices to cause controversy because of a public personality’s views on Israel. Last week rock legend Roger Waters canceled an appearance at the 92nd St. Y amid complaints that the Y was giving a forum to an ardent supporter of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
In November, the Atlanta Jewish Book Fair canceled a talk by author Peter Beinart because he criticizes Israeli policies and has supported boycotts of goods made at Israeli West Bank settlements.