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. Henry

    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.

    April 28, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  2. Mike Conrad

    Cantor is right! Kerry should be punished severely. Of course, anyone with a pulse knows that Israel has been an apartheid (and terrorist) state for decades, but politicians on the payroll are supposed to know better than to say it out loud. Offends the Tribe! Which we mustn't do, ever.

    April 28, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  3. jake

    Truth hurts, don't it Bibi?

    April 28, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  4. Kenman

    Amazing that there's only one comment on such a hot topic! Obviously, since this administration doesn't know what it's doing on virtually any front, they got exasperated while looking for ANYTHING to hand their hat on before the predicted drumming in the mid term elections!

    AND, Kerry really fits the mold for unqualified for the position in this administration!

    April 28, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  5. charley

    Actually he is right. I support Israel, but not on the Palestine issue .

    April 28, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  6. Lexagon

    It's sad that the fact that it's the right word to describe the situation under discussion doesn't seem to mean anything. What's really sad, though, is that the republicans can't seem to resist any opportunity to reinforce their own image as the "Cartoon Bad Guy" party. A democrat used an unpleasant but accurate term to describe an undesirable political situation? "Shameful, he should resign!" A democrat got a speeding ticket? "Shameful, he should resign!" A democrat stubs his toe and curses? "Shameful, he should resign!" It's getting harder and harder to take the republicans seriously and they have noone to blame but themselves.

    April 28, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  7. Dean

    Apartheid is more applicable to the racism and discrimination that African-Americans continue to suffer in the US. Kerry should focus on fixing that before making stupid remarks.

    April 28, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  8. Steve

    Let's start with the obvious. How is Israel NOT an apartheid state?

    April 28, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  9. SPQR

    The U.S. needs to stop sticking their nose in Israel's business and Israel in the U.S.

    April 28, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  10. NYNJCT

    I agree with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor asked that Obama should call on Kerry to apologize to Israel.

    April 28, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  11. New

    Most people would agree with Mr. Kerry.

    April 28, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  12. Maty

    Heaven forbid Israel be held accountable for penning in and subjugating the Palestinian people.

    April 28, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  13. Benedictberg

    The country of USA will not apologizes for calling a spade a spade. Israel should be grateful to the tax payers of USA for 3 billion in military aid each year.

    April 28, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  14. Maty

    What exactly is Ted Cruz's definition of 'apartheid'?

    April 28, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  15. Abe

    Israel is a hell of a lot worse than apartheid South Africa !!

    Additionally , Israel is the ONLY COLONIAL power in the 21st century !!

    FREE PALESTINE !!! NO JUSTICE for the Palestinians, NO PEACE for Israel !!

    April 28, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  16. Ed Cherrie, Jr

    Why doesn't the Obama Administration take the same position concerning Israeli land grabs as they did with Russia?
    This is a sad double standard and it will be remembered when I vote in the upcoming Congressional Elections!

    April 28, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  17. ...

    And every person will be persecuted for speaking their mind...

    April 28, 2014 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  18. Gandhian

    From humanists' point of view there could never be any justification for the long ongoing conflicts and fratricidal within Israilies and Palestinians both being children of same One Human Family originating from same One Human Parents Adam & Eve. When the first human born on the earth planet and the real eldest brother Cane ruthlessly murdered his real younger brother Habel under the influence of Satan and flesh, the greatest enemies of mankind, there were no any human community with branded names as Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Budhists, whites, blacks, brown, Palestinians and Israilies etc existing under the sky. Since then mankind on the behest of the same Saitan and flesh is engaged in fratricidal and self destruction because of family, religious, political, racial, criminal or other material disputes. If again entire mankind may be wiped out from earth planet except one human parents .of any religion, race or place, believe me that killings and animosity within the same one family will still continue. When not a single human soul is ever born on this earth planet into any religion or race with own pre-choice of his/her religion or race before birth but only with the Divine Choice of same One Creator then why some one should be discriminated, victimized or killed for his/her religious or racial origin? This is the responsibility of both sides leadership to evolve a policy of love, respect and peaceful co-existence in the larger interest of their people and generations.

    April 28, 2014 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  19. clark

    Ehud Barack of Israel said it, now John Kerry says it. Chuck Hagel said it! The world knows it. The American Congress knows it, but looks the other way because they are bought off by legalized bribery called– Lobbies!

    April 29, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  20. Craig Shipman

    It's not that 'the Palestinians can do nothing right'. It's more that 'the Palestinian leadership stubbornly and steadfastly refuses to take unequivocal, unified action that would justify their inclusion among the peace-loving people of the world'.

    What has the Palestinian leadership done to suppress the Palestinian culture of cultivating blind hatred of the Jewish people and further the cause of peace in the Levant and Middle East?

    April 29, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  21. Ewald

    American politician gets in trouble for stating the obvious, would be better headline

    April 29, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  22. Mark

    Wilson this is the sad true

    April 29, 2014 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  23. KyleGlobal

    So what do you call it when one people within the territory controlled by a nation are kept separate and have vastly unequal rights?

    April 29, 2014 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  24. Middle American

    Apartheid would be a step up for most Palestinians, who are living in a prison-state. It's time we(the US) quit supporting Israel in their repression of Palestine.

    April 29, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  25. futureman1

    Wow. A politician who speaks the truth about Israel! Better CYA MR Kerry because you have just broken the 28th amendment to the Constitution. The unwritten one. " Thou shall speak no ill of Israel".

    April 29, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
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