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Kerry Apologizes After Warning Israel Could Become An ‘Apartheid State’

john-kerry-finger-wag-syria

Secretary of State John Kerry found himself having to backpedal quite vigorously yesterday after remarks that he made about the Middle East peace process:

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry issued an unusual statement Monday evening expressing his support for Israel after a controversy erupted over a politically charged phrase he used in a private appearance.

 Speaking to a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission last week, Mr. Kerry said that if a Middle East peace agreement was not achieved, Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state,” according to an article in The Daily Beast, an online publication. The comments were noted in the Israeli news media and were severely criticized by some American Jewish organizations.

 ”Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said. “Israel is the lone stable democracy in the Middle East, protects the rights of minorities regardless of ethnicity or religion.”

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    From Kerry’s statement:

    While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.

    Yes, he issued the same warning, using the same words, as two previous Israeli Prime Ministers and the minister currently in charge of negotiations. Did they all think Israel is as bad as South Africa under Apartheid?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  2. Tillman says:

    I mean, I get your points on diplomatic speech versus punditry, but I really wish he hadn’t apologized for this.

    So he got Romney’d. Own it.* Especially since he could probably make the case that what he said isn’t false.

    The comments were noted in the Israeli news media and were severely criticized by some American Jewish organizations.

    ”Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said.

    Weasel word – “some.” In logic, it means “at least one.” Why am I not surprised AIPAC was the one? Also love how their statement could be used even if Israel was an apartheid state.

    * To be fair, I would’ve given the same advice to Romney after the 47% remark.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  3. C. Clavin says:

    Never apologize for being absolutely correct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  4. stonetools says:

    If nothing else, the Trilateral Commission’s role in this story will give the conspiracy theorists something to chew over for the next few days.

    Guesss it’s the Trilateral Commision vs the Elders of Zion… but wait, aren’t they supposed to be on the same side?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. Ben says:

    Hey, what he said was completely true, fair and a mirror of what has already been said by prominent Israelis themselves. But he failed to drop to his knees and fellate Israel, as all true American patriots are expected. That is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Who does he really think he’s working for here?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  6. Scott says:

    Primarily, of course, there’s just the idea of equating a close ally with one of the most evil regimes of the post World War II era.

    One, we also were close allies with South Africa. Two, US policy and policy makers certainly did not believe that South Africa was one of the most evil regimes in the Post WWII era.

    The comparison of Israel with South Africa is closer than we want to believe and no amount of revisionist memory can change that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  7. Moosebreath says:

    @stonetools:

    “Guesss it’s the Trilateral Commision vs the Elders of Zion… but wait, aren’t they supposed to be on the same side?”

    That was only an alliance of convenience against the Freemasons. They are back to fighting each other now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  8. Franklin says:

    @Tillman: AIPAC: “Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate”

    It may be offensive, but sometimes offensive things are true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  9. Scott says:

    And three, let’s not forget that Israel had close relations with South Africa, even to the point of providing aid in developing a nuclear weapon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  10. Rob in CT says:

    Classic gaffe: he spoke the truth, and now has to walk it back because it’s politically incorrect. This PC is bipartisan, but with extra fervor on the Right nowadays. This wasn’t always so – I remember in the 80s it was the Dems who were extra special friends of Israel, with many Conservatives skeptical.

    There are people who love to run around screaming about political correctness. THIS is political correctness. And it’s specific to us. The Israelis can talk about this far more honestly (not that it seems to get them anywhere, though).

    This is flatly true: given demographic trends, Israel must either cease to be a universal suffrage democracy or a “jewish state.” If they wish to retain the jewish state bit, they must either: a) give up the territories (and even that might only buy some time); or b) restrict arab-israeli voting rights. If they choose b, they chose a form of apartheid.

    It’s not that it’s false. It’s that if you say it, you will be slandered. Shame on John Kerry. Not for his original statement, but for walking it back.

    @Scott:

    Damn straight. We only turned on the apartheid government of SA in the 80s, and then only reluctantly (Reagan didn’t want to, IIRC). We had our own regional apartheid regime until the 1960s. So to point this out is not necessarily to paint Israel as uniquely evil – that’s obviously false. It’s to warn them that they’re facing the possibility of going down a path we’ve trod, to our shame.

    Isn’t that what friends do?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  11. Matt Bernius says:

    @mantis:

    While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.

    Entirely correct.

    However, the fact is that neither Barak or Ohlmert are involved in the current discussions. From the perspective that Kerry is trying to broker the current round of talks, his use of the term — regardless of how true it is — isn’t the best politics/diplomacy.

    What this also does is serve another reminder that for Public/Diplomatic officials, in our brave new world of small recording devices, nothing should ever be considered “off the record” or private.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    Primarily, of course, there’s just the idea of equating a close ally with one of the most evil regimes of the post World War II era.

    Umm, apartheid-era South Africa was a close ally, one that was vigorously supported by, among others, Presidents Nixon and Reagan. (In fact many of the most evil regimes of the post WWII era were also close US allies, including Saudi Arabia, Saddam’s Iraq, Pinochet’s Chile, and the Shah’s Iran).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. beth says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    What this also does is serve another reminder that for Public/Diplomatic officials, in our brave new world of small recording devices, nothing should ever be considered “off the record” or private.

    And that’s a damn shame because I would guess that most of the real work of diplomacy gets done “off the record” and with many a politically incorrect conversation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    Primarily, of course, there’s just the idea of equating a close ally with one of the most evil regimes of the post World War II era.

    And, of course, Israel itself was also an ally of apartheid-era South Africa. They had no problems getting into bed with the Afrikaner regime and helping them with nuclear weapons technology.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: the sterling/bundy thread isn’t in here!
    but seriously, it’s nice to see kerry is still a bumbling fool who should have just stayed in the senate and enjoyed his salad days on his massive yacht. it’s easy to trash a tiny country surrounded by people who want them all dead ……..when you aren’t there. how the pali’s got the msm to make them “victims” was pretty good, especially when they’re their own biggest enemy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14

  16. Tillman says:

    We really need to be careful about throwing around “most evil regime” to anyone who did something bad. Systemic oppression of blacks? The classic. Butchering your own people? Imitative, but always evil. Turning your country into your own personal fantasy land? Points for originality?

    I’m just saying, I’d like scholars to draw up a list and rank the evil regimes so we can get the semblance of objectivity for just these discussions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. PJ says:

    @bill:

    …it’s easy to trash a tiny country surrounded by people who want them all dead ……..when you aren’t there.

    Are you ok with trashing of apartheid South Africa? I mean the white South Africans were less than 10% and they were all surrounded by all those non-whites, who harbored quite a bit of animosity towards them. Or states in the South where black slaves outnumbered whites?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Kathy Kattenburg says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Amen. Except that Kerry was not absolutely correct. Israel is not “in danger of” becoming an apartheid state. It already is one, and has been for some time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

  19. stonetools says:

    To be honest, Kerry shouldn’t have started the current Middle East peace process at all. You can’t really have a peace process where neither side is interested in negotiating for peace-which is now the case with Israel and Palestine. Kerry wanted to restart peace negotiatiuons just because HE thought there should be another attempt at ME peace-which is unrealistic, frankly.
    TO be blunt, there are just more important things for Sectetary of State to do than restart a doomed peace process involving two warring ethnic groups in a small country in the Middle East. Time for Kerry to join the pivot to Asia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. Gavrilo says:

    Another foreign policy triumph for the Obama Admin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  21. rudderpedals says:

    Lost in the language outrage are a few other bits out of the conspiratorial meeting. One of them was Kerry’s disclosure of tapping the comms the Russians used to order their minions into disruptions in Ukraine…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. humanoid.panda says:

    @Gavrilo: Yes, if there is anything American administrations are adept at,, is brokering Middle Eastern negotiations (with the single exception of Carter, of course).

    Admittedly, Kerry should not have made the mistake of even trying..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  23. DrDaveT says:

    “Tape recorder”? Really? Was he also packing a quill pen and a snuff box?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. bill says:

    @PJ: sure, sa was quite different as the whites were not actually indigenous by any means. This has nothing to do with slavery, that hand is so overplayed these days. Move on, find another reason to fail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  25. Mumbles says:

    I’ve never understood why we Americans are so afraid to discuss this issue, or to try to tell Israel of the potential dangers of Netenyahu’s approach. After all, we have done the same thing ourselves, post-Reconstruction, by creating Jim Crow laws, violent racism outside of the south, and generally backsliding greatly on the subject of rights for black people. Why even bother invoking South Africa, when we can point to our own history?

    Yes, I know, it upsets some people. Too bad for them. In the end, Israel has an urgent problem, and their Prime Minister is apparently just closing his eyes and sticking his fingers in his ears. Granted, Fatah isn’t the strongest political group, and Hamas are scum, but even so, it’s better to create bargaining partners, than to create violent opponents, and it’s Israel who, for the moment, has the upper hand here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  26. wr says:

    @bill: “sure, sa was quite different as the whites were not actually indigenous by any means”

    You mean different from the USA, where the noble indigenous whites wiped out the invading Native Americans?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. An Interested Party says:

    How unsurprising…a member of the government of Israel’s client state has dared to speak the truth and now must apologize for it…perhaps the client state will send even more money to Israel (so that more homes can be built in Judea and Samaria) as a way to pay penance…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Matt says:

    The truth hurts…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. george says:

    Is discrimination based on religion part of the definition of apartheid?

    If so, are there any countries in that region which aren’t apartheid? If not, what is the racial difference between the various Semite groups involved (I’ve always been told both Hebrews and Palestinians are Semites).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0