Kerry’s cowardly apology on ‘apartheid’ is giant blunder for Israel’s propagandists

Kerry and Netanyahu, State Department photo

Kerry and Netanyahu, State Department photo

As you know by now, Secretary of State John Kerry has had to apologize for using the word “apartheid” to describe Israel’s future without a two-state solution. His cowardly and self-abasing statement, “On Support for Israel,” is below.

For our part, we say this is a great moment. The need by the pro-Israel crowd to get out the big guns just to knock one little word out of the sky is a demonstration if Americans ever needed one of how Orwellian the discourse of the conflict is as the farce of another round of negotiations draws to an end with no fulfillment of the world’s 67-year-old promise to Palestinians that they can have a state.

Now when many Americans are trying to imagine the one-state reality of Israel and Palestine with equal rights for those who have no rights, Kerry’s misstep just exposes the grip of the reactionary Israel lobby over any thoughtful discussion of the question. The craven absurdity of Kerry’s apology — “if I could rewind the tape” — brings the day closer when our news broadcasts and political analysts will have to look at a system in which one group of people has full political rights right alongside 4-5 million people of a different ethnicity who have no rights at all, and question whether the United States can be an honest broker of this conflict or has to always stand as Israel’s lawyer.

We don’t use the term apartheid lightly. For us it’s not an epithet but an accurate description of a situation of separate laws for different ethnic groups. One of us has years of first hand experience inside apartheid South Africa. The other has visited the West Bank and East Jerusalem often, observing a system in which Jews have the right to build homes as Palestinian homes are demolished, where settlers drive on roads from which Palestinians are barred, where Jewish settlers draw water freely while Palestinians see their wells and irrigation hoses destroyed, and the Israeli army stands by.

Our site has people on the ground who will continue to document the realities of Israeli apartheid. And Americans are waking up to those realities. As AP’s Matt Lee said today:

Street also says that Kerry is not alone:

Former [Israeli] Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have used the “apartheid” term as well to describe this possible future.

Yes how long can international figures warn about apartheid while the American political establishment has to blind its eyes? We think getting Kerry to eat his words is a major blunder for Israel and its friends. They should have just let this one die. But the cowardly suppression will only foster more angry discussion. And soon we will see major changes in personnel and philosophy at Hasbara Central, the Israeli propaganda apparatus.

Oh, and commenters pointed this out, a shocking tweet from California Senator Barbara Boxer, taking Kerry on.

It really dares people to ask what the emperor is wearing.

Kerry’s statement, “On Support for Israel”:

For more than thirty years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel, I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight. As Secretary of State, I have spent countless hours working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister Livni because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves. I want to see a two state solution that results in a secure Jewish state and a prosperous Palestinian state, and I’ve actually worked for it.

I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe.

First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.

Second, I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. 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.

The dialogue at yesterday’s State Department briefing:

There are reports that came out this weekend that in a closed-door meeting, the Secretary said that Israel was at risk of becoming, quote, “an apartheid state” if there was not a two-state solution. This has led to a great deal of criticism. The head of the Anti-Defamation League, for instance, released a statement saying that it was undiplomatic, unwise, and unfair of him to say these things. Can you first confirm that the Secretary made those comments? And two, what’s your reaction to the criticism?

MS. Jen PSAKI: Well, let me first say, obviously, I’m not going to confirm the accuracy of comments made during a private meeting. But the Secretary does not believe and did not state publicly or privately that Israel is an apartheid state, and there’s an important difference there. Israel is obviously a vibrant democracy with equal rights for all of its citizens.

Oh and here is Mr. Peace Process, Aaron David Miller, stepping into the role he once disparaged in others, Israel’s lawyer. From the Times:

But Aaron David Miller, a former American peace negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said that Mr. Kerry’s comment had drawn him into an “unproductive fight with a close ally.”

“Baker and Kissinger used tough language when they thought they would not only be able to make a point, but would be able to make a difference,” Mr. Miller said of James A. Baker III and Henry A. Kissinger, both former secretaries of state. “But Kerry’s closed-door comment was ill timed, ill advised and unwise.”

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