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. Mark P

    Segregated by ethnicity and language, kept behind fences and in "special territories", must pass through checkpoints, must possess Identification papers, etc. How does that differ from old South Africa?

    April 28, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  2. freddie nerk

    Kerry got it right. No need to apologize. He deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

    April 28, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  3. Richard Pearce

    Of course, there was a point where a Surgeon General who said 'there may be a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer' would face this sort of heat, thanks to the power of their lobby.

    April 28, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  4. Joe Plumber

    I think he is right on the money. It's time for Israel to move forward. They can always start bombing again if things don't work out.

    April 28, 2014 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  5. testerbill

    It is the direction that the state of Israel is going. They do not want Palestinians within Israel to have voting rights because they would outnumber the Jews.

    April 28, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  6. Luke

    lol, Israel is already worse than an apartheid state. It's more like US-Native American relations in the 19th century.

    April 28, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  7. bill

    under fire???? no–fire the entire obama/kerry/biden/rice bunch should be fired-this is the worst thing i have ever heard from the WH. How come CNN doesn't jump on this like the owner of the LA Clippers-oh, I forgot-you found out he was a democrat.

    April 28, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  8. israelisanapartheidstate

    Just because Israel meets every criteria of an apartheid state as set forth by the UN Commission on the Crime of Apartheid doesn't mean it's an apartheid state. Doesn't Kerry know that Israel is exempt from normal standards of decent human behavior?

    April 28, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  9. nathan berg

    if we could rewind the tape, things would be VERY different as well mr. kerry.

    April 28, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  10. DaveinIL

    Sounds like the Jimmy Carter school of foreign policy.

    April 28, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  11. Keksi

    Israel IS apartheid state built by ethnic cleansing and land theft.

    April 28, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  12. Jim

    You can't criticize the weather in Israel without being anti-semitic.

    April 28, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  13. G33k N4sty

    Who's he under fire from? AIPAC? He sounds perfect correct to me. Israel continues to expand into Palestinian territories all the while claiming the Palestinians aren't honest brokers. Google for that map of how much Palestinian territories have shrunk during "negotiations'.

    April 28, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  14. bec215

    He speaks the truth... Two wrongs don't make a right, and if you've ever seen the conditions The Palestinian people live and work in, the best analogy is exactly as Kerry described. It's not possible to discuss peace without discussing the hypocrisy of both sides – denying the holocaust is unacceptable, but so is denying that Israeli government has no interest in peace.

    April 28, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  15. skip

    Everything about this administration is a joke

    April 28, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  16. greg

    Hopefully these countries understand that kerry is an idiot who rocks shriveled testicals and we don't like him either

    April 28, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  17. JJB

    Frankly find nothing wrong with his statement. Never trusted Israel after the USS Liberty attack!

    April 28, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  18. bec215

    I've been saying this for years... Ironically, I was more sympathetic to the Isreali position until I went to Isreal and saw the apartheid conditions first-hand, traveling independently. I doubt the tour busses show you the conditions Palestinians are subjected to. Why is it that we cannot call out BOTH sides for their behavior? Why must we be on one side or the other? There is plenty of culpability to go around.... But to say Israel can't be victimizers because Jews were victims is illogical.

    April 28, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  19. John

    Good old Mr. Cruz. Its alright for an Israel Defense Minister to use the word, but not Sec. Kerry. What a fool. I support Israel, got real problems with the Palestinian leadership, but it is pretty clear to me and many of the people that I know in Israel that the risk of it becoming an apartheid state is real and that too many right wing Israelis have no problem with the concept.

    April 28, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  20. Lighten up, Francis

    Kerry shouldn't backtrack. It IS apartheid.

    April 28, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  21. rdavis22135017@att.net

    Shoe in mouth Kerry! LMAO

    April 28, 2014 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  22. Theresa

    It is about time our country keeps money inside the USA for our beautiful nation to rebuild. Those who are against Americans are Not for this nation. Veterans the sick Social security system we paid into needs supported first how could anyone not love America live here? United States Needs money loyal citizens above anything else. I love American before any other nation. Israel is wealthy beautiful nation due to good hard working loving Americans they have a great defense due to our hard work. Now lets care for USA we forgot about us.

    April 28, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  23. Bmbull

    Kerry should resign because he said what everybody knows is the truth?

    April 28, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  24. steve

    Kerry needs to resign now, he is useless and so are the democrats, this is a sad state with what a leader can say, in an already serious situation. He lacks wisdom and his dimplomacy is not at all working. It is better for the US if he quits and let us try someone more capable and someone more responsible.

    April 28, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  25. Schmoogalicious

    Israel at risk of "becoming an apartheid state"? Please. Israel has already BEEN an apartheid state for decades. Jewish-only colonies and roads, one set of laws for Jews and another for Palestinians, identity cards that distinguish between Jew and non-Jew, the list goes on and on. Don't believe it? Visit the West Bank. It should take you all of 10 seconds to recognize it as apartheid. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

    Also google "Roadmap to Apartheid". You can view the film in its entirety online for free.

    April 28, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
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