Kerry, interrupted

Middle East
on 10 Comments

I have decided to answer Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech – “Remarks on Middle East Peace” made at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on December 28, 2016. The full official text of the over 70-minute speech is here.

Mr. Secretary of State, let us have a dialogue. 

Kerry:

“Today, I want to share candid thoughts about an issue which for decades has animated the foreign policy dialogue here and around the world – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Throughout his Administration, President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security, and that commitment has guided his pursuit of peace in the Middle East. This is an issue which, all of you know, I have worked on intensively during my time as Secretary of State for one simple reason: because the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. And it is an important way of advancing United States interests in the region.”

Ofir

OK, it’s a ‘conflict’, so that suggests two more-or-less equal parties. So, from an ‘honest broker’, I would expect an ‘equal commitment’ to both sides, and if not equal, a balancing of power.

You say “President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security, and that commitment has guided his pursuit of peace in the Middle East” – but you do not mention the same concerning Palestine or Palestinians. So, the commitment is first and foremost to ISRAEL. We might have a problem there.

You say “because the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians”. Well, let’s say it’s an option. Why is it the only solution? Why is one democratic state not a solution? Because you assume that Israel HAS TO BE a Jewish State. By this logic, if it’s not – there cannot be ‘just and lasting peace’. That’s a Zionist approach, but there are certainly other approaches.

You say “it is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state” – Jewish I get. But democratic? Regardless of the institutionalized discrimination of non-Jews in ‘Israel proper’, which would be unaffected and possibly even worsened under such a ‘solution’, the issue of a democracy conditioned by ethnic cleansing so as to ensure its ‘demography’ for Jewish control – is hardly considered by me ‘democratic’. You refer much later to Palestinian refugees in rather vague language, even more vague than in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 which you also refer to – and it seems to leave the option that that they would not actually return to Israel. Indeed, such conditionings are at the core of protectionism of the Jewish State. It simply relies, historically and principally upon ethnic cleansing and ‘demographic control’ as part of its raison d’etre.

This aspect of the state is also a major cause for discrimination, as well as the repeated warnings about this ‘sector’ of society and its inherent ‘demographic threat’. The Party Law prohibits a party from advocating against the principle of Jewish State, thus institutionally entrenching this discriminatory aspect.

So, sorry, but I see Jewish – I just don’t see democratic. If you’re talking about a democracy in the FUTURE, then I’m afraid we will have to drop the ‘Jewish’. Either or. History has not proven both to be possible.

You say “it is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people.” But I have mentioned another possibility, as well as, that Jewish State seems to ensure the curtailment of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. So, I just don’t agree. I don’t agree that it is the ONLY way, nor that it is a way at all.

“And it is an important way of advancing United States interests in the region”, you say.

Ah, that comes in at the end of the introductory paragraph. Very interesting. This is perhaps the most interesting sentence in the whole paragraph. These ‘United States Interests in the region’ – what are they? This is obviously a wide term containing many political, military and not least economic interests.

But these interests, you’re willing to assassinate for them. As Noam Chomsky says, you run the world’s most extreme global terrorist campaign with killer drones that kill people who can be potentially dangerous to these ‘US interests’ (and occasional bystanders). I feel I must regard those ‘interests’ with a certain skepticism, when terror is used in order to defend them – especially when we often don’t get the exact description of the ‘interests’, which are often classified.

Back to you. 

Kerry:

“Now, I want to stress that there is an important point here: My job, above all, is to defend the United States of America – to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world. And if we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold which promises greater conflict and instability to a region in which we have vital interests, we would be derelict in our own responsibilities.

“Regrettably, some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles – even after urging again and again that the policy must change. Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.

“Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who does not support a two-state solution, said after the vote last week, quote, ‘It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share,’ and veto this resolution. I am compelled to respond today that the United States did, in fact, vote in accordance with our values, just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council before us.”

Ofir:

You say “my job, above all, is to defend the United States of America – to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world”. Yes, I got that – but I already talked about ‘interests’, and I wonder about the ‘values’ of a state that is not shy of applying such means of global terrorism – under the pretext of ‘war on terror’. It’s somewhat cynical values, I find.

“Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect”, you say. But just a few weeks ago, you were complaining that whilst Israel is the recipient of more than half of your total foreign military aid, its leaders don’t listen to you. They spit you in the face, and what do they get? A raise of 7 billion USD for the next decade – from 31 billion (last deal) to 38 billion (next deal). So, what does that say about your defiance, and what does it really mean about your telling of ‘hard truths’? How much humiliation are you willing to tolerate within this ‘special friendship’ and ‘mutual respect’? Are you telling the ‘hard truths’ now? That is, in the last month of your administration just before you go out of office?

You say that “I am compelled to respond” to Israel’s ambassador that “the United States did, in fact, vote in accordance with our values, just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council before us.”

But that is not quite true, Kerry. You did not really vote. You abstained. Whilst it is true that previous administrations had let pass many UNSC resolutions regarding Israel in the past (Reagan for example passed 21), Barack Obama has done the least of all those before him since 1967, and has arguably been the most Israel-protective President ever. Indeed, as you boast later, “this Administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter, with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel’s security and protecting its legitimacy”. You take pride in that. But you also take pride in ‘voting’, which you didn’t really, “in accordance with our values” – which totally makes sense, as these ‘values’ are very ambiguous, especially when it comes to Israel. You say that you ‘need to tell hard truths’, but when it came to voting, you let other countries – really, the rest of the world – tell the ‘hard truths’ in the form of the UNSC resolution, which states the obvious: that all Israeli settlements are illegal. You let them say it, whilst sitting down and being ‘neutral’.

Kerry: 

“They fail to recognize that this friend, the United States of America, that has done more to support Israel than any other country, this friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel, cannot be true to our own values – or even the stated democratic values of Israel – and we cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes.

And that’s the bottom line: the vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That’s what we are trying to preserve for our sake and for theirs.

In fact, this Administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter, with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel’s security and protecting its legitimacy.

On this point, I want to be very clear: No American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s. The Israeli prime minister himself has noted our, quote, “unprecedented” military and intelligence cooperation. Our military exercises are more advanced than ever. Our assistance for Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives. We have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself, including during actions in Gaza that sparked great controversy.

Time and again we have demonstrated that we have Israel’s back. We have strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting Israel in international fora, whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked, and we have fought for its inclusion across the UN system. In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than one-half of our entire global Foreign Military Financing goes to Israel. And this fall, we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country, at any time, and that will invest in cutting-edge missile defense and sustain Israel’s qualitative military edge for years to come. That’s the measure of our support.

Ofir:

You say, “They fail to recognize that this friend, the United States of America, that has done more to support Israel than any other country, this friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel, cannot be true to our own values – or even the stated democratic values of Israel – and we cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes.”

But just before the last elections, just before Netanyahu warned that “the Arabs are coming to vote in droves”, he assured the public in no uncertain terms that there will not be established a Palestinian State under his watch. It was unmistakable. And the Likud party platform of 1999, never rescinded, ‘flatly rejects a Palestinian state’, and the Likud was voted in just shortly after (2001), and again, and again, and again, and again. What is there to be in doubt about? Is this not what the ‘democratic’ Israel wants? Is this not what its public voted for? Is this not a reflection of its real ‘values’?

You say that “this Administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter, with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel’s security and protecting its legitimacy”. I often wonder about this ‘protection of legitimacy’. Why does it need so much protection? Is it because the world hates it? Or is it because it actually enacts illegitimate policy?

You say that “we have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself, including during actions in Gaza that sparked great controversy”. Oh yes. During those 51 days of death and destruction in 2014, Obama kept coming up on the lawn and emphasizing ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’, which is why it had to massacre over 500 children and bomb whole families. They were just in the way of this ‘self-defense’.

You say “time and again we have demonstrated that we have Israel’s back. We have strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting Israel in international fora, whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked.” That’s right, you oppose the popular protest which seeks to take Israel to task for its systematic and institutionalized violations of international law, where you know that boycotts are a form of protected speech. And insidious anti-BDS laws working against the First Amendment are sweeping your country as well as other countries including Canada, UK and France. All on behalf of ‘Israeli values’. I don’t think that’s something to be proud of, but you are.

“And this fall, we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country, at any time, and that will invest in cutting-edge missile defense and sustain Israel’s qualitative military edge for years to come. That’s the measure of our support”.

Yes it is, Mr. Secretary. Rather unconditional support. You admonish Israel, but you sit down when it’s time to take action, you hand it the money, and then you complain it’s not listening.

Well you know what Mr. Kerry, I’m also not listening to you any more. I can’t take any more of this.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

10 Responses

  1. just
    December 30, 2016, 12:30 pm

    A really superb piece, Jonathan. I sincerely hope that many will read it and absorb the truths that you elucidate so well in your responses.

    Many thanks for it.

    fyi: Democracy Now! had Diana Buttu and Gideon Levy on this morning. Well worth a listen/read.

    2 excerpts:

    “DIANA BUTTU: Well, you know, in the United States, it’s become clear to me that Israel is not an issue that you even can discuss any longer, when you have presidents—President-elect Trump and a would-be President Clinton talking very much in the same form. And in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the line is pretty much the same. What’s become clear to me, as somebody who lives in Palestine, is that the United States is no longer relevant any longer and that what we need to begin to do is focusing on—focus on all those other countries and pushing for divestment, pushing for sanctions, pushing for boycotts of countries all around the world, just in the same way that the South African apartheid movement ended up pushing for—end of apartheid movement ended up going around the United States and pushing legislation through different countries around the world. To me, it’s become apparent that the United States is an obstacle. It’s been an obstacle for decades now. And the only way forward is to go around the United States, rather than continue to try to go through the United States.”

    “DIANA BUTTU: …When it comes to the issue of representatives speaking before the media, you’re absolutely right, Amy. In order to get a Palestinian voice onto the mainstream media, the—I’ve noticed that the conversation ends up being between one Israeli faction and another Israeli faction, or sometimes you get somebody within the U.S. administration speaking. What I think that they need to know is that we are very capable of speaking for ourselves, and we should be invited to speak for ourselves, rather than having people speak about us. This is what one of the major problems is, is that, for decades, the Israelis have been speaking about us, but not to us. And the international community has spoken about us and not to us. And you see this particularly when it came to Secretary Kerry’s statement that people—that Palestinians don’t want to see a one state. The polls are actually showing the opposite, that people don’t believe in two states any longer, and even taking away the negative, not believing in it, that people genuinely want to see one state. So it’s time for people to start listening to the voices of Palestinians. We’re very capable of speaking for ourselves.”

    https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/30/gideon_levy_diana_buttu_on_israeli

    • RoHa
      December 30, 2016, 6:33 pm

      “We’re very capable of speaking for ourselves.”

      Getting people to listen is a totally different talent.

    • Kay24
      December 30, 2016, 7:45 pm

      DB is right, no one is listening to the voices of the victims of the occupation, no one in the American media bothers to get a credible voice from the other side, to plead their case, or explain the lies. The Palestinians need representatives who can speak to the American public clearly, and emphasize on their suffering. Consistently, we see zionists with talking points, some lawyers, come with their talking points, and are able to convince the American people that Israel in all this is the victim having to face dangers every day. ONLY IN AMERICA.

      • rosross
        December 31, 2016, 9:01 pm

        @Kay24,

        Why are Americans so easily lied to? Are they naieve, or simply ignorant? Why should Israeli propaganda be so effective in the US in particular?

    • Citizen
      December 31, 2016, 11:03 am

      US MSM via Cable TV News/infotainment shows gives constant diet of John Bolton, Charles Krauthammer , Huckabee, type ilk & Israeli Officials, & idiot former military brass–the anchors of each show sound like they are reading off Bibi’s script with both their loaded interview questions and 0 follow up, as if it’s all rehearsed in advance–anybody with a smidgeon of awareness on subject must wonder about the power of losing moral compass for one’s career. Like a cartoon version of The Devil Wears Prada sans the protagonist choosing the moral/ethical POV at the end.

  2. Jonathan Ofir
    December 30, 2016, 6:03 pm

    Thank you dearly, Just. This is so spot on. You know, I was just speaking with Gideon Levy today for an hour, and we talked about the Kerry speech and the ‘classical’ nations of the 2 state solution (I noted also that it used to be an ‘extremist’ Palestinian approach…), and he mentioned what Diana said, exactly the last paragraph (I didn’t know they were on Democracy Now together today). It’s exactly what I was looking for. Thanks Just.

    • genesto
      December 31, 2016, 4:51 pm

      I, too, value your posts, Jonathan, and this is one of your best. Laying out the brutal truth against the disingenuous political speak we’ve been forced to listen on this subject for decades now is very effective. If only we could find a way to penetrate the mainstream media with this unvarnished honesty, maybe we can hasten the movement already underway that’s beginning to see Israel for what it really is and allowing people to gradually speak out about its crimes against the Palestinian people.

      Keep up the great work. As Representative Barbara Lee once told me, history is on our side.

    • just
      January 1, 2017, 11:36 am

      You’re very kind and most welcome, Jonathan. I very much appreciate your contributions here at Mondoweiss.

      Here’s the latest that I have read from Gideon Levy:

      “The Two-state Solution Is Already Dead

      A question for declared supporters of the two-state solution, which means almost everyone, from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Prof. Shlomo Avineri: You all say that this solution is in great danger, maybe even in its death throes. So what needs to happen for you to admit that it has breathed its last? What else needs to happen for you to declare it dead? Another 10,000 settlers? Or 20,000? Another five years of stalemate? When will you admit it?

      Most people know the truth but refuse to admit it. They know that the number of settlers has reached a critical mass. They know that no party in Israel will ever evacuate them. And without all of them being evacuated – and this, too, is something they know – there is no viable Palestinian state.

      They know that settler Israel never intended to implement the two-state solution. The fact is that all Israeli governments – all of them – continued the settlement enterprise.

      Two-state supporters are worried about the situation, even fearful. They are acting like the relatives of a moribund patient who is already brain dead, and whose organs are needed for transplants, but they refuse, hoping that somehow, a miracle will happen and the living dead will be resurrected. There are rabbis who promise them it’s possible. From Kerry to Avineri, this is exactly how proponents of two states are acting – hoping for a miracle and therefore preventing the life-saving transplants.

      It’s hard to begin again from scratch. The two-state solution was ideal. It guaranteed relative justice to both sides and a state for each nation. But Israel did everything it could to destroy it via the settlements, the one irreversible factor in the equation of the Israel-Palestine relationship.

      That’s why the world’s anger at the settlements has suddenly increased: It knows they are irreversible. Yet two-state supporters, both in Jerusalem and in Washington, never did anything to stop them when it was still possible. The conclusion is unavoidable: declaring the death of the two-state solution. But instead, they continue waiting for a miracle.

      Kerry, Avineri and their ilk are full of good intentions. They’re also right in saying this was the only solution. But by denying its death, they are merely solidifying the status quo, the occupation, which is the Israeli government’s goal.

      In Europe, the United States, the Palestinian Authority and Israel, people continue to parrot “two states” out of inertia and fear of the ramifications of change. And they thereby anesthetize and suffocate any thinking suited to the new situation.

      Clinging to yesterday’s solution with all their might, two-state supporters also respond aggressively to anyone who tries to undermine their magical faith in a miracle. That’s standard practice for religious, almost messianic beliefs – woe to anyone who tries to undermine them. And that’s how they’re behaving now toward A.B. Yehoshua, who proposed a typical old-style Israeli solution to the new situation.

      Yehoshua proposed granting permanent residency to Palestinians living in Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control. That’s too little, too nationalist and too discriminatory. Yehoshua still believes in the superiority of the Jews, in interim agreements and small leaps over the abyss. But in contrast to upholders of the two-state solution, he at least has the courage and integrity to recognize the new reality and try to offer solutions to it. And therefore, he’s already considered a heretic by his peers.

      Indeed, the solution of a single democratic state is heresy against everything we were raised on. It requires us to rethink everything – to rethink Zionism and the all privileges that were bestowed on one people only. This is the beginning of a long, painful road, but it’s the only one that’s still open to us. …”

      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.762347

  3. rosross
    December 31, 2016, 8:59 pm

    This is an excellent article. One remains bemused at the US which is forever trumpeting its defence of freedom and democracy, more words than actions however, and claiming that it ‘leads’ the free world, more fantasy than fact, supporting a State like Israel founded on religious bigotry.

    A Jewish State is a religious State, a Theocracy, and gives followers of a particular religion, supremacy. A Theocracy is not and never can be a democracy because it is racist and the UN has already defined racism on religious grounds, understandably, as no different to racism on racial grounds. Actually common sense dictates that bigotry is bigotry, whatever the source of the belief in one’s superior humanity.

    It is astonishing that the United States, given its claims, read dreams, could ever allow itself to support such a racist State.

  4. Ossinev
    January 1, 2017, 5:21 am

    2017 June 8th will be the 50th anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty. I do hope that the Liberty Veteran`s Association and others will be organising and heavily publicising memorial events to recall the brutal premeditated slaughter of 34 American sailors by its “greatest ally”. Perhaps an invitation to the new President to attend a specific memorial event ? He will no doubt avoid responding or refuse but it will add to the cause of shedding further light on the real nature of this “greatest ally”. Every little bit of illumination helps.

Leave a Reply