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. KEVIN

    The power of the Jewish Lobbies is DC. They have all our political leaders in their back pocket. If Israel is such a healthy and functional society why are we spending so much energy trying to fix it?

    April 29, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  2. futureman1

    Careful Mr Kerry,
    Don't break the 11th commandment. "Thou shall speak no ill of Israel"!

    April 29, 2014 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  3. Tournelle

    You never hear Obama or Kerry say the word Hamas even though Hamas calls for Israel's destruction and swears never to ;negotiate peace with Israel. Hypocrisy. When caught lying Obama, Kerry and Holder act with self righteous indignation which says it all.

    April 29, 2014 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  4. Babak from LA

    It would be refreshing for these guys to stop the back paddling for a change....

    April 29, 2014 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  5. jewishlobbyscrewing America

    The curz , Abe Foxman and Eric Cantor should be forced to make aliyah

    April 29, 2014 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  6. nik green

    When the Israeli lobbies click their heels, US politicians snap to attention. Or else.

    April 29, 2014 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  7. jewishlobbyscrewing America

    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.

    CNN is lying again , its Israel that backed off from the agreement to release prisoners in return palestinians agreed to not to join UN bodies

    April 29, 2014 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  8. J.V.Hodgson

    Never mind the words he used this is classic media double standards
    Ah the NSA spying on our private communications and E-mails which they only read and do nothing with until a crime can proved and that's wrong, wrong, wrong,.... OK I agree.
    If a politician is in " a closed door" meeting, how come its right , right , right to spy on a meeting specifically private and openly quote from one attendee something first said by an Israeli Ehud Barak.
    All this rhetoric proves to me ( because the senate now wants to remove aid to Fatah) simply proves that the USA because of the Jewish lobby in US can never be the country to get Israel and The : whole of the Palestinians ( Fatah and Hamas) even if Hamas agree to recognize Israel's right to exist and no more shelling Israel in fact occurred.... Netanyahu and the Jewish lobby would still insist Hamas are terrorists and we don't negotiate with terrorists because we don't believe them.
    The Israelis use money and political/military power exactly as the Apartheid regime did in SA..
    At the present time both Hamas and Israel are a disgrace to peace, and international fairness, order, and the rule of international law.
    Let Sweden Switzerland and an ICCJ judge arbitrate the negotiations between All Palestinians and Israel
    In a million years Israel and Palestine will never reach a two state solutiuon with the US as the intermediary / arbiter in negotiations.

    April 29, 2014 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  9. BUD

    All Israel wants from us is our money and high tech weapons.

    As long as they keep the disputed territories there will never be peace,

    Every administration has told them this and they just keep building in them,

    April 29, 2014 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  10. kat

    the congress & white house are the other occupied Israeli territories. American people need their freedom back as much as the Palestinian people do.

    April 29, 2014 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  11. sbbw

    why? thats exactly whats going on over there.

    April 29, 2014 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  12. Jack

    Eric Cantor needs to be less public, he needs to help control his TP colleagues

    April 29, 2014 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  13. sketchy

    Don't speak the truth to Israel or you'll be labeled an anti-Semite! Bad things happened happened to them in the past, so now, no one can tell them they have done any wrong. Their lack of objectivity will more than likely be their downfall.

    April 29, 2014 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  14. dotmafia

    Interesting that CNN conspicuously decided not to mention that it was a closed door meeting of the secretive Tritlateral Commission, nor exactly who was in attendance.

    April 29, 2014 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  15. This Old Man

    This has been spoken about in Israeli circles for over a decade so it is rather inane to make a big issue of it, I think. Like in the U.S. though, the wishes of the well-meaning majority of citizens are disregarded by political extremists on all sides, it seems. So any workable compromises become impossible.

    April 29, 2014 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  16. David Jackson

    Thank you John Kerry for not sugar coating what is a reality! In fact Israel is an Apartheid state at this moment. What's wrong with calling a spade a spade?

    April 29, 2014 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  17. nz

    Israel has many smart people in matters related to science, technology and economy.
    Unfortunately, they have poor ideas, intelligence and plenty of misconception when it comes to dealing with fellow human who happen not to be of their type.

    April 29, 2014 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  18. Albert Leo

    Yeah, sometimes the truth just isn't acceptable. Problem is, it's still true.

    April 29, 2014 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  19. will

    Wait a sec.... It is acceptable for Israeli leaders to use the word "apartheid" but no one elese can?

    April 29, 2014 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  20. John Q

    Welcome to the oligarchy that is the USA.

    April 29, 2014 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  21. truth_hurts

    Israel controls the US congress and US media, that's a known fact, but Kerry voiced his real opinion about the terrorist and racist state with it's Zionist criminal leaders.

    April 29, 2014 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  22. Steve

    I think he dropped that bomb on purpose. Knowing that he could retract it later...... Out of frustration. And if it was by accident, then he only said what everyone else is thinking........Out of frustration.

    April 29, 2014 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  23. Hardyman

    The only time Kerry days something accurate and he catches flak from the Tel Aviv lobby that owns Congress. Of course the Zionist state of Israel is an apartheid state. After all, they helped the South Afrikaaners in suppressing the liberation movement of the ANC. If any other country on earth did what the Jews are doing to the Palestinians, we would have sent in the Marines a loooong time ago.

    April 29, 2014 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  24. Abdulla

    There is no need to deny. It is what will happen eventually. If people really care about Israel's future, i believe they should work hard to achieve two state solution. That is in the best interest of Israel.

    April 29, 2014 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  25. Richard

    Kerry tail, Israel dog. Sad, isn't it?

    April 29, 2014 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
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