Commentary Magazine

Kerry’s Apartheid Slur

Kerry’s Apartheid Slur

The odds were always against Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to revive the Middle East peace process. But he did not take what most observers saw as his inevitable failure with the grace expected of a diplomat. Days after the Palestinian unity pact signed between the Fatah and Hamas factions ended all hope of progress, Kerry spoke to a closed meeting of the Trilateral Commission and, as he has done in the past, placed the responsibility for the collapse on Israel.

Kerry doubled down on previous warnings that a failure to make peace would increase support for those boycotting the Jewish state and raise the chances of renewed Palestinian violence in the form of a third intifada. He then went further and claimed that in the absence of a peace deal, Israel would become an “apartheid state.” Kerry soon said his choice of words was poor. But he never apologized for what was clearly a slur.

As was true when former President Jimmy Carter used it, the word apartheid, when used in relation to Israel, is a factual and moral travesty. In South Africa, a small white minority was ruling over a black majority, but in Israel, Jews are the majority not only inside the 1967 lines but also throughout the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. With Gaza already outside Israeli rule and demographic trends changing, there is no chance that this situation will ever be reversed.

In Israel, Arabs are full citizens with all the rights their Jewish neighbors enjoy. Those in the West Bank are largely under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, albeit with Israeli forces in charge of security, while Arabs in Gaza live in an independent Palestinian state in all but name that is ruled by Hamas. If the future of the West Bank has not been resolved satisfactorily, it is primarily due to the fact that the Palestinians refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn and to abandon hopes for its destruction. By using such a prejudicial and false term to describe Israel, Kerry encouraged those who are attempting to brand Israel a racist regime.

What the Fatah-Hamas Deal Means

Some peace-processors had a surprisingly positive reaction to the reconciliation between Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party and the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza. They argued that the unity deal made peace more practicable—since now, at least in theory, the Palestinians can speak with one voice.

But this is a misunderstanding. By allying itself with Hamas, Fatah has not co-opted the Islamists into the peace process. To the contrary, the deal merely consolidates a Palestinian consensus against the sort of concessions the PA needs to make in order for peace to be possible. A Palestinian government that includes Hamas is not one that will ever recognize a Jewish state or renounce the “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees. Hamas’s presence in the Palestinian coalition, moreover, may put an end to effective security cooperation between Israel and the PA.

Giving a Pass to the Palestinians

Those looking for the reason the peace process failed can point to the Palestinian decision to transcend the negotiations and seek national admission to international organizations. But blame must also be put on the Obama administration. Though Israel released 78 Palestinian prisoners and made it clear that it would accept a two-state solution and give up territory if peace were achieved, both President Obama and Kerry consistently blasted the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for its failure—all the while praising Mahmoud Abbas as a force for peace. Placing all the pressure for concessions on Israel did not make Netanyahu any more or less willing to make peace. But it did encourage Abbas not to move an inch on any significant issue. The American whitewash of Abbas and the refusal to pressure the Palestinians and to indicate serious consequences if they continue to say no remain obstacles to peace.

The Settlements Canard

Though the Palestinians generated a crisis in the talks by violating their commitments and reviving a campaign to gain recognition by the United Nations, Secretary Kerry claimed the talks went “poof” because of the announcement of a housing project in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. But Gilo, a 40-year-old Jewish section of Jerusalem, is all but universally understood to be off the table in any true peace deal. Almost all the new “settlements” that set Kerry off are in reality just new houses in existing communities that will not be traded in a serious treaty. Kerry’s decision to re-ignite the furor over “settlements” because of Gilo shows either a lack of understanding of the issues or a malevolent desire to blame Israel no matter what the circumstances.

J Street Plays the Victim

In late April, the left-wing J Street lobbying group failed to gain admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The influential umbrella organization nixed J Street’s entry by majority vote. But J Street emerged as the victor from the controversy since the vote allowed it to pretend that mainstream pro-Israel groups were seeking to silence it—thus justifying its advocacy for replacing consensus groups such as the conference and AIPAC with new ones that are more sympathetic to J Street’s views.

But if adding one more left-wing group critical of Israel would not have undermined the conference, the negative vote was mostly the product of J Street’s hostility toward working with organizations against anti-Zionist and BDS groups as well as its desire to undermine AIPAC. Far from demonstrating that J Street represents most American Jews, the conference vote confirmed that it is outside the mainstream when it comes to Jews who are dedicated to the security and well-being of Israel.

About the Author

Jonathan Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY.

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