In Jerusalem, Michele Bachmann apologizes for ‘ignorant’ comments on Jews
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In Jerusalem, Michele Bachmann apologizes for ‘ignorant’ comments on Jews

Former US presidential candidate visits Knesset, says she’s sorry for past statements that have ‘brought pain’

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Former US congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) in the Knesset on May 13, 2018 (Times of Israel)
Former US congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) in the Knesset on May 13, 2018 (Times of Israel)

Former US presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who in 2015 appeared to call for intensified efforts to convert Jews to Christianity, on Sunday apologized for her past “ignorant” comments about the Jewish people.

Speaking at a Knesset interfaith Bible study organized by Likud lawmaker Yehudah Glick and the Israel365 organization, the former Minnesota congresswoman spoke generally and declined to acknowledge directly what comments she was apologizing for.

“Personally, I know that in ignorance… myself, I have stated things that I should not have said and I profoundly apologize and repent and ask forgiveness from Almighty God for my statements that, though said in ignorance, have brought pain,” she said.

Bachmann, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, also asked forgiveness for the “horrible and, yes, I would say, the arrogant way that Christians — I would include myself among them — have treated and regarded the Jewish people” throughout history.

Following a visit to Israel in 2015, Bachmann told a right-wing radio station that an intensification of violence in the region signaled the return of Jesus, necessitating mass conversions.

“We recognize the shortness of the hour,” Bachmann told Washington Watch, “and that’s why we as a remnant want to be faithful in these days and do what it is that the Holy Spirit is speaking to each one of us, to be faithful in the Kingdom and to help bring in as many as we can — even among the Jews — share Jesus Christ with everyone that we possibly can because, again, He’s coming soon.”

In 2016, Bachmann also accused American Jewish organizations of having “sold out Israel” in backing the Iran nuclear deal.

Asked by reporters after the Knesset session on Sunday whether her apology was referring to her conversion comments and whether she retracted those statements, Bachmann demurred, saying only, “My statement [of apology] stands for itself.”

“This is a day of joy and a day of recognition that we need to put the past in the past and need to move forward, and to do that sometimes we need to recognize and take responsibility for our actions. That’s what I am doing,” she said.

“I come here as a flawed person, I am not a perfect person. I come here as one who has been forgiven by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and for that purpose I try to walk in that humility to recognize that things that I have done or said haven’t always been right,” added Bachmann, who was on her twentieth visit to the Jewish state.

Glick told The Times of Israel he was unfamiliar with her past comments.

“I don’t know exactly what she was referring to,” Glick said, adding: “I try to forget the bad. I try to remember only the good.”

The Knesset Bible learning session coincided with Jerusalem Day, marking 51 years since Israel’s retaking of the Old City, and came a day before the US relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital.

Punctuated by fervent amens, enthusiastic cries of “hallelujah,” and emphatic murmurs of agreement, the interfaith session, which featured textual study on Jerusalem from Glick and several rabbis and Jewish scholars, drew some 120 mostly-American participants, including former American professional basketball player Michael Redd.

Also in attendance was Pastor Jim Garlow of the Skyline Church in La Mesa, California, a member of US President Donald Trump’s preelection Faith Advisory Council, who addressed the embassy move.

“We believe it was a subtle form of anti-Semitism that would not let this one nation — of the two hundred nations on the earth — choose its own capital,” Garlow told reporters after the meeting.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband Jared Kushner are part of the 250-strong delegation from the US attending the official dedication ceremony for the embassy in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood on Monday.

The American delegation will be led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and will include some 40 lawmakers. Republican senators Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham are reportedly expected to attend, as is Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. The group is also expected to include Jewish leaders and heads of pro-Israel Christian organizations.

Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.

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