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. twokheish

    That seems some doesn't like the truth. And ask myself why this can hurts some.

    April 29, 2014 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  2. maybeitsme

    Kerry is such an embarrassment!

    April 29, 2014 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  3. danny

    If it looks like apartheid, acts like apartheid, walks and shoots like apartheid, then id say it was apartheid. Or show me all those arabs voting in israeli elections or show me arab teachers and politicians.

    April 29, 2014 05:46 am at 5:46 am |
  4. Kenny Ray

    The only thing worse for a public official than making a statement that offends blacks is making a comment that offends Jew$

    April 29, 2014 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  5. Zeke

    Kerry needs to go. He is an an idiot in dealing with Israel and keeps the president on the defensive.

    April 29, 2014 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  6. HS

    I would love SOME explanation of how Israel is now, or will be in the future, Apartheid. Does anyone actually know what that word means anymore? This is ridiculous.

    April 29, 2014 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  7. mike_nnh

    you shouldn't get heat for telling the truth. If the shoe was on the other foot there would be no end to the uproar

    April 29, 2014 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  8. Stop wasting time

    Good for Kerry. He shouldn't run from that comment, he should double down on it. Israel needs to show a little give if they want peace. It's stubbornness has always been a one of the road blocks to peace.

    April 29, 2014 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  9. @RI_Roger

    The signs of an administration imploding faster than a speeding bullet.

    April 29, 2014 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  10. sausagefrenzy

    Kerry had to apologise- bow down before your Israeli masters feeble US. lol

    April 29, 2014 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  11. Get Real

    Why is it that WHENEVER this "person" opens HIS mouth, it is EMBARRASSING.

    April 29, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  12. Evangelos

    The American neo-con rightwing will (again) flay Kerry alive for daring to blurt out a truth.

    The thing is, Mr. Kerry expressed the same concern in the same terms as have prominent Israelis in recent years, including Shimon Peres and a former Mossad chief.

    Some of the howlers (like Sarah Palin) will of course not have the capacity to grasp any of that; others like Kristol and Paul Ryan do know better but won't let that stand in the way of some good, shrill demagoguery.

    April 29, 2014 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  13. MC

    Yes – god forbid Kerry point out the basic fact that Israeli filth seem to think they get to make their own rules and the rest of the world will ignore their crimes.

    Ted Cruz is a bought and paid for Israeli Firster who should be executed for the crimes he and his bribe taking wife have committed.

    April 29, 2014 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  14. Echo

    Kerry should resign immediately or be removed from office. Those comments from someone in his position is totally unacceptable and shows he has no skills or has any idea what he is doing in that high position.

    April 29, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  15. greenaxe

    I say we leave Israel to fend for themselves.....too much time and money invested in a losing battle.

    April 29, 2014 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  16. syawhat

    He is taking heat for saying the truth? Israel is ALREADY an apartheid state.Now you can argue they need to be like that or not, but there is no question they are. Is like that Las Vegas millionaire with Christie: You can't say occupied territories. What!!!? They are occupied. What you call the Israeli army and colonists renters?

    April 29, 2014 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  17. george

    Why is it when a democrat says something out of line liberal news organizations report it as alleged and It takes the supreme court and congress to dig up information to prove it is true. When a republican says something liberal news organizations report it as gospel whether it is true or not? Anyone spell bias?

    April 29, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    I really do not think that Sec'y Kerry was trying to suggest that Israel would degenerate into a state rife with internal violence against its' citizens like South Africa was. I do think that he was suggesting that without some long lasting solution that Israel could evolve into a segregated state with isolated pockets of living areas crowded with Palestinians, very much like South Africa used to be, except without the extreme violence against the oppresed.

    Yes, its' an ugly picture that Kerry painted. But, it is also one very real conclusion to the present course of events.

    April 29, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  19. djanson

    Have heart i heard for his next performance he is going to dress up as chamberlain and declare peace in our life time.

    April 29, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  20. Anonymous

    The Jewish state is a shining light for freedom and opportunity in a region plagued by terror, hate and oppression."

    Tell that to the Palestinian that is born in Israel and lives his entire life there, but has restrictions on travel, minimal state support, and ID requirements, and has to watch a newly arrived Russian immigrant, because he is Jewish, receive instant housing, education, govt support, etc. pretty much from the day he arrives.

    Guess the statement above is correct but they forgot to add the words "for Jewish people" after the word "opportunity", and that is what makes it an apartheid state.

    It reminds me of America where people could honestly and sincerely say that the country is based on the premise that "all men are created equal, and endowed with the right to life, LIBERTY and pursuit of happiness", while owning black people as slaves. That worked in 1776 but shouldn't work today.

    April 29, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  21. Elie Elias

    Kerry is right. Are we blind? The state of Israel is an Apartheid state.

    April 29, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  22. Al

    He said what his belief and that of the White House. Our only true Allie in the region and Kerry goes out and does the normal Kerry thing, I said that before I changed my mind and didn't say it right. That is the way of this entire administration that has been under Obama since 2008. OPPPPPS didn't mean it, or I was not aware or informed. That's what is needed for leaders in this country more like this.

    April 29, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  23. RobGinChicago

    Just out of curiosity, could you tell me something that the Palestinians have done right?

    April 29, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  24. crabman1

    they have been fighting over dirt and any thing else that one or the other dose not like --- let duke it out last man standing wins -– the U S needs to keep out of it --–

    April 29, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  25. Politicat

    Amatuer hour continues. We need adult leadershiip in the WH & State Dept. again.

    April 29, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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