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. Sol

    Calling it like it is is Not PC

    April 28, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  2. Harold Read

    Good Ole Mr. Wilson says:
    April 28, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm
    The Palestinians can do nothing right, Israel can do nothing wrong.

    Lol! And lobbing thousands of rockets into Israel to hit indiscriminate targets is a fantastic way to negotiate for peace,

    April 28, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  3. J Anthony

    Truth hurts. Plus he said it RISKS becoming an apartheid state, not that it IS one. There is a difference. 60+ years of conflict, it just may happen if the 2 sides can't reach some accord.

    April 28, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  4. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    Ehud Barak said the same thing, and he's one of the most highly decorated soldiers in Israeli history. But, like Kerry, he's not a right wing politician, so obviously anything he says about Israel is suspect.

    April 28, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  5. Constitution Believer

    But Israel's own former prime minister Ehud Barak has said the SAME THING!

    How could it, then, be labeled an anti-Israel sentiment?? In fact, in my view it's a pro-Israel, pro-democracy, pro-humanity sentiment.

    Cantor and Cruz are just opportunistic idiots.

    April 28, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  6. 741533548

    Nice job Kerry. Just like obama would do.

    April 28, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  7. Yankee

    Kerry rocks! he is trying to make peace all the Zionist spies posting against him can not change that!

    April 28, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  8. Yomama

    I'm sick and tired of our politicians being so afraid of speaking the truth about Israel. Kerry needs to repeat this truth publicly.

    April 28, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  9. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Why should Israeli policy dictate US policy?

    April 28, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  10. MikeinMT

    The Obama Doctrine has been used by this administration for the past 6 years. "If any individual, organization or country does not agree with this administration, label them as racist, unless they are muslim ."

    April 28, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  11. 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 28, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  12. TvNyC

    Look Israel and Palestine are no angels okay. The Jews killed Jesus Christ and we still give them more respect than anybody else. It's time to treat the Jews the same as everyone else. They are not more special than any other race.

    April 28, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. waitaminute

    First Jeremiah Wright taught Obama to hate Jews. Then Obama taught Kerry.

    April 28, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. thehiddentrue

    Kerry was suppose to support the palestinian concentration camps create by the israel goverment after rip-off Palestinians from theirs Lands.
    Any true said against israel is a blasfemy. Fanatism in the muslim world ....is the same Fanatism in the jewis world too.
    By the way : the neddle east is in turmoil after the insertion if israel into Palestina and by the way the jews leaders start to rip-off of theirs lands to build houses to their legitimes owners : the Palestinians.
    The others histories are tales of the Creep!!

    April 28, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  15. bandstraw

    Sounds like he was calling it like he saw it. Apartied is what it is. History will always see it for what it has been. Now is the time to make history. Let's boycott Israel like we did South Africa, until peace is achieved.

    April 28, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  16. lamestreamdoc

    And Good Ole Mr. Wilson can move to Gaza if he feels so bad for "Palestinians," and see how well he gets treated.

    April 28, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  17. g

    truth hurts some times

    April 28, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  18. Yochanan

    Kerry does not even understand that those Israel is at war with ( Because the keep lobbing missiles and mortars ) are outside of the borders of Israel. Muslims, Christians, Jews and the rest live in peace inside Israels border.

    April 28, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  19. Adam C

    Mr. Kerry is 100% correct and needs to stand behind his statement. As does the State Department. As do the American people.

    April 28, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  20. trobinsont

    What a world it is, when you call it like it is and get asked to resign for your honesty.

    April 28, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. John chambers

    I actually agree with Kerry and I am glad these words have been openly stated. Neither side wants peace and for all you Obama haters out there every president republican and democrat have tried to solve this unsolvable problem steeped in historical problems. I do support Israel and their right to defend themselves. However what typically occurs is more and more settlements being built ignoring Palestinian land and a mounting frustration with broken promises by hawkish leaders. The US Jewish community doesn't want to hear this but you are starting to lose the perception battle of aggressor and victim.

    April 28, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  22. Stephen

    Time for Kerry to go. His remarks on Israel are offensive and his other recent comments show he is NOT the diplomatic representative of the US.

    April 28, 2014 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  23. Matt D

    Kerry is wrong to say that. Israel has been an apartheid state for years. Black South Africans kill in self-defense and they're heroes. Palestinians and they're terrorists. I wish Foxman would shut his gefilte hole. Always whining about something. Besides, Kerry is 1/4 yidd.

    April 28, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  24. DWT

    The "Jewish state is a shining light for freedom"? Hmmm. Whose freedom?

    By the way, I am not anti-Jewish in any conventionally bigoted or ethnic way. I really don't care much about ethnicities and religion in general and see more bad than good emerging from those who do get worked up about that stuff.

    April 28, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    With 12 members of Israeli parliament Arabs, and one Israeli supreme court judge, Arab, Arab-Israeli police and soldiers, it seems absurd to call Israel apartheid.

    April 28, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
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