April 28th, 2014
05:43 PM ET
9 years ago

Kerry under fire for reported ‘apartheid’ remarks about Israel

Updated 9:00am ET 4/29/2014

(CNN) – Secretary of State John Kerry drew strong rebukes for reportedly saying that Israel risks becoming "an apartheid state" if a Mideast peace deal isn’t reached soon.

The alleged comments were reported on Sunday by the Daily Beast, which said it obtained a recording of Kerry speaking to global leaders at a closed-door meeting where the stalled peace process was discussed.

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Kerry issued a statement after the uproar underscoring his long-held support for Israel and commitment to finding a two-state solution in the conflict.

“… 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,” he said.

Earlier Monday, the State Department would not confirm or deny Kerry’s comments.

In his statement, Kerry notes that Israeli leaders in the past have used the term “apartheid” in talking about the dangers of a unity state between the Israelis and Palestinians. He adds, however, “it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”

The story took another turn when the organizers of the event where Kerry spoke wrote a letter to Kerry apologizing for the apparent breach of protocol by Josh Rogin, a reporter with the Daily Beast.

“He was not invited,” wrote Joseph Nye, Chairman of the Trilateral Commission. “Although how Mr. Rogin slipped past both Commission staff and Diplomatic Security is unclear to me, we have confirmed that he indeed was present and apparently recorded the session.”

Nevertheless, the report angered American-Jewish officials and some in Congress.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called it "deeply troubling."

"Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate," the group said in a statement. "The Jewish state is a shining light for freedom and opportunity in a region plagued by terror, hate and oppression."

The group underscored that it agreed with President Barack Obama, who said in 2008 the use of the term "apartheid" to describe the ongoing conflict between the Israeli and the Palestinian governments is "emotionally loaded” and “historically inaccurate."

Apartheid was the reviled system of racial segregation practiced by the white-minority government in South Africa for decades before the country transitioned to a multi-party democracy that was first led by Nelson Mandela.

Kerry’s reported reference to “an apartheid state” however, isn’t the first time a top official used the term when referring to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

"As long as in this territory, west of the Jordan River, there is only one political entity called Israel. It is going to be either non-Jewish or non-Democratic. If this block of millions of Palestinians cannot vote that will be an apartheid state,” former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in 2010 when he was defense minister.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement calling reports that Kerry used such language "startling and deeply disappointing."

"We appreciate Mr. Kerry's deep concern for Israel and his desires to ensure that it have a future of peace and security. Even if he used the repugnant language of Israel's adversaries and accusers to express concern for Israel's future, it was undiplomatic, unwise and unfair,” Foxman said. “Such references are not seen as expressions of friendship and support.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia and Congress’ highest-ranking Jewish member, said Obama should call on Kerry to apologize to Israel.

"Reports that Secretary Kerry has suggested Israel is becoming an apartheid state are extremely disappointing. The use of the word apartheid has routinely been dismissed as both offensive and inaccurate, and Secretary Kerry’s use of it makes peace even harder to achieve," he said in a statement.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and potential presidential candidate, took things a step further by calling on Kerry to resign.

“There is no place for this word in the context of the state of Israel,” he said.

Israeli PM Netanyahu: No peace talks if Abbas is backed by Hamas

The U.S.-sponsored negotiations hit a road block last week after the Palestinians announced they would combine rival movements Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government.

Related: Russia, Syria, Middle East: Is the U.S. losing its ability to sway allies?

Israel's Security Cabinet subsequently announced the country won't hold talks with a Palestinian government backed by the militant Hamas movement.

CNN's Laura Koran contributed to this report.

Filed under: AIPAC • Eric Cantor • Israel • John Kerry • Palestine • Ted Cruz
soundoff (259 Responses)
  1. Good Ole Mr. Wilson

    The Palestinians can do nothing right, Israel can do nothing wrong.

    April 28, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. Chris Asking Question

    So is Secretary Kerry implying that Israelis are racists?

    April 28, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  3. 2012liberal

    Israel govt are bullies. Usa needs to stop sending them money and watch how quick they come to the table.

    April 28, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  4. FRK

    Stop worshiping these political parties as if they are God.
    The Likud party of Israel is not God.
    The Republican party of the USA is not God.
    Back off from that blindness and madness.


    April 28, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  5. The REAL Truth...

    “There is no place for this word in the context of the state of Israel,” – Ted Cruz.
    Now there's a guy who knows which side of his bread is buttered!! LOL

    April 28, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  6. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Israel,is a racist goverment.i have been there. And you can clearly see how they treat people differently.

    April 28, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  7. jerry

    When will this faux hero just go away? Never has their been a more foolish man, nor one who is more self promoting or narcissistic.

    April 28, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  8. Thomas

    Why dose Israel support Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Bashar Hafez al-Assad ?

    April 28, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  9. pkMyt1

    Kerry isn't too far off the mark. If you are of Arab descent in Israel you are a second class citizen.

    April 28, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    --Israel needs to stop drama with USA, yes it is going to be Apartheid state. Nothing wrong with this comment.

    April 28, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. Chris-E...al

    @Good oh Wilson your wrong . Everthing wrong to a dem is right and everything right is wrong to Y0u hitly . Dems are trying to make enemies into friends and friends to enemies . Same here at home we maybe the last generation . But right now your hurting little kids . bub .

    April 28, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  12. Logictox

    Kerry and Hillary, proof that Obama doesn't have a clue.

    April 28, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  13. rs

    As our friends on the Right are fond of saying (in essence) "call it what it is". Neither side has negotiated in very good faith here, and yet both know what the ultimate results should be, but Israel seems evermore desperate to avoid the future, so much so that they have forgotten their own past.

    April 28, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  14. Bill Gate

    Kerry should resign.

    April 28, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  15. Toomuch

    Kerry needs to resign...

    April 28, 2014 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  16. Megyn Conrad

    Israel is an Apartheid State......look up the definition of Apartheid ..........

    April 28, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  17. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Its time we stop protecting israel,and call them out for who they really are.

    April 28, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  18. Vence

    He first should take care of the apartheid in USA.

    April 28, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  19. bcrunner

    Sooo, the former Israeli prime minister can say it, but John Kerry cannot? And Cruz wants Kerry to resign over that? That man should go back to reading green eggs and ham.... and leave foreign policy to the experts...

    April 28, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  20. Lord Toronaga

    Kerry is 100% right. Enough already with that ridiculous state based on religious lies. If you actually read the old testament.... the Jews of Old slaughtered without mercy the original inhabitants of Palestine using Yahweh as their excuse. No more BS. The USA does not sanction religion based governments.

    April 28, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  21. Plain reader

    In today's America you'll be punished for speaking the truth.
    Ted Cruz is an opportunistic person who'll do anything to keep his seat.

    April 28, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  22. paul

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks

    April 28, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  23. Steve

    No state that is a de-facto theocracy, such as the state of Israel is, can be "a shining light for freedom" in reality. This goes equally for theocracies of a Christian, Jewish, or Islamic nature.

    April 28, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  24. Abbey

    John Kerry and an open microphone should always tread carefully.

    April 28, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  25. King Joffrey

    The situation over there is very complex, but Israel is a pain in the a $$ at times

    April 28, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
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