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. 80's Geezer-to-be

    What an arrogant J E R K. How did this guy land the job as top "diplomat"...sold his soul. Sad, this bitter old hippie is darned determined to drag us into a war or abandon Israel. Israeli government is not infallible but to jab at your allies is not wise. He is a white Kim Jon Ugh (Un) .

    April 29, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  2. 80's Geezer-to-be

    Sadie, show me the concentration camps and the piles of burning bodies and then we will discuss the Isreali's conducting their own "holocaust". That logic is a lame as calling any leader we don't like "hitler"...now where is your outrage at N Korea? Oh yeah, they aint jews are they?

    April 29, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  3. Rudy NYC


    It is a known fact that Kerry is unqualified to the job and It is the expected result when his arrogance has grown to the size that his head could no longer contain/conceal it.
    It is a known fact that not one Republican is qualified for the job. The best guy the party could find, Mitt Romney, went overseas and made a joke of himself. Poor Mitt was the laughingstock of London before he left....and he's the best that the party has. Can you imagine Rubio, Paul, or Cruz as Sec'y of State? Forget about any Republicans in House because those folks are have more legal issues than one can count. That leaves Uncle Sugar, Sarah Palin, Ricks Perry and Santorum, Newt Gingrich, 9-9-9, Romney, and all of the conservative media pundits. BTW, I didn't see any good stock for POTUS, either.

    April 29, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  4. Colosh Mash

    It seems that to hold a high responsibility post in the white house you must be a completely clueless and incompetent idiot.«Good job » Kerry!

    April 29, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  5. Ralph

    “To learn who rules over you simply find out who are not allowed to criticize”

    April 29, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  6. TheBigT

    Kerry is doing exactly what satan/devil wants him to do. He is trying to destroy Israel.

    April 29, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  7. luvuamerica

    Maybe Ted Cruz should move to Israel. This coming from a guy who walked out Mandela's funeral. What poor excuse for a human being.

    April 29, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  8. Malory Archer

    Kerry was right, and the truth is so painful it's causing the reichwing to foam at the mouth.

    April 29, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  9. Gurgyl

    @ria-check your NRA, kill, kill, kill, even today GA has shooting in kensawa, in Fed.Ex facility. Nothing wrong Israel is Apartheid....

    April 29, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  10. Thom Burke

    Israel doesn't like to be called on their shit. While yes, they may have some Palestinian cabinet members, the overall treatment of the Palestinians is abysmal. Given the jewish Israelis track record, I'm pretty sure the only solution is going to be dividing the country into two. And that is something the jewish Israelis will fight tooth and nail, because they don't want to play fair, not by any means.

    April 29, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  11. tim

    Tripping on words- and the world keeps on spinning, changing, spinning, changing and people stay the same, change, stay the same, change....we are like old men falling asleep in front of the television just waiting to go to bed.

    April 29, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  12. Dead Bear

    How dare anyone say anything bad about Israel?... Ever think the Israeli government deserves the criticism it receives???

    April 29, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    @rla, considering some of the purile, juvenile, and ill-informed comments you make, describing someone else as a brat for pointing out a truth you find unpleasant and ideologically unacceptable is the last thing you should do. Strange how you were so silent on the subject of your little rancher hero, or any of the number of GOP pols who are being brought up on charges and/or investigated in recent weeks. Well, we've come expect nothing less from from one of the lead soloists from the whack-job chorus.

    April 29, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Topgun 74

    Kerry's and Obama's remarks about apartheid shows that there exists a strain of virulent anti-Semitism that exists in members of the Democratic party
    Exactly what Obama remarks about apartheid is it that you're referring to?
    Could it be the same ones that the American Israeli Public Committee AGREED with?
    Any excuse for you yahoos to tie the President into something that has nothing to do with him.

    April 29, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  15. The Real Tom Paine

    @ Name AJ: Apartheid -era South Africa had non-whites who were professionals as well, and it did not stop the formation of Apartheid from happening. The idea that because there is a Palestinian middle/professional class in Israel that is somehow stopping a apartheid-type system from being created is ignoring reality. Nelson Mandela was a lawyer, and many other members of the ANC were professionals with extensive education. Read "Long Walk to Freedom" if you want to understand what Israel is currently doing to its Palestinian population.

    April 29, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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.
    Gee a complete breach of journalistic and diplomatic protocol from a conservative-leaning news publication.
    Who would've thunk it and I wonder what their motivation was?

    April 29, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  17. Pete

    When one country has given so much in foriegn aid to Netanyahus country of Isreal as ours I think by now we can pretty much say just whats on our mind..Plus don't forget all the military hardware from our mighty MIC that makes McCain,other republicans happy that protects their soil,ASSets and our military backing as Big Brother as well..Where would Netanyahus Isreal the "Chosen Ones" be if it weren't for us, probibly still living in mud huts with their camels like other poor third world nations...Mr.Kerry doesn't have to apoligize or explain anything to anybody after having Rice from Bushs administration out there screwing everything up for years and remember we're still mending international fences that she ,Bushs and Cheney tore down years ago with their incompetence,arrogence...

    April 29, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  18. pkbw

    Come on people! Grow up. So Kerry used the word "apartheid", so what? Everyone knows we are committed to Israel. So get a life. There are so many more important issues to deal with in that region. I have no time to worry about a word. Come on!!!

    April 29, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  19. Andrew Vallas

    Technically, apartheid conditions exists in the West Bank which is not part of the sovereignty of Israel. So, Israeli officials are correct in feigning indignation! Politicians are all full of cr@p.

    April 29, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. Name tim

    First of all it isn't alleged, its fact he said what he did. And some of you don't even know what apartheid even is.

    April 29, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  21. Anonymous

    "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."

    April 29, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  22. Malory Archer

    Topgun 74

    Kerry's and Obama's remarks about apartheid shows that there exists a strain of virulent anti-Semitism that exists in members of the Democratic party.


    This might come as a shock to you, but Arabs are Semites as well. It just ain't the Jews, babe.

    April 29, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  23. sonny chapman

    Speaking Truth to Hebrew Leaders in Palestine got Jesus Christ nailed to a cross & cost John the Baptist his head. True Facts; I'll probably be called Anti-Semitic.

    April 29, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  24. Lizzie

    drcid777, go to Israel, live there fir a SHORT time and then tell the rest of us how nice it is to run every time a bomb gets shot in from the Palestine side, not knowing where it will hit, and that everyday. Or when you go to market to buy groceries wondering if you make it back to your place in one piece.

    April 29, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  25. Jason

    If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, IT IS PROBABLY A DUCK.

    April 29, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
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