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Monitor Board of Contributors: Kerry apologized for telling truth

Secretary of State John Kerry pauses while being introduced to address the Council of the Americas' 44th Conference of the Americas at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Secretary of State John Kerry pauses while being introduced to address the Council of the Americas' 44th Conference of the Americas at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” – Leviticus 19:34

I’m sure Secretary of State John Kerry, himself the son of a diplomat, heard a lot of scripture during his years at St. Paul’s School in Concord.

Founded in the Episcopal tradition, St. Paul’s today is a diverse community that welcomes all faiths and traditions, where its students are called to “strive together,” in the words of the school motto, “to learn those things on earth the knowledge of which continues in heaven.”

And one of those things I believe John Kerry ’62, learned as he listened to scripture, studied history and played hockey in rural New Hampshire, was the value of truth-telling.

And recently, following the breakdown of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, John Kerry dropped the “A-bomb” of truth-telling: While speaking in Washington to senior officials of the Trilateral Commission, Kerry said: “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”

You would have thought a real A-bomb had fallen on Foggy Bottom.

It didn’t take long for Kerry to be attacked over his warning that without a two-state solution, Israel risks becoming an apartheid state.

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC released a statement saying, “Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor offered, “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.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, who had opposed Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state, said Kerry should resign: “There is no place for (the use of the word apartheid) in the context of the State of Israel.”

The Anti-Defamation League said, “It is startling and deeply disappointing that a diplomat so knowledgeable and experienced about democratic Israel chose to use such an inaccurate and incendiary term.”

The liberal, pro-Israel lobby J Street did defend Kerry. “Instead of putting energy into attacking Secretary Kerry, those who are upset with the secretary’s use of the term should put their energy into opposing and changing the policies that are leading Israel down this road,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami.

“Israel today is not an apartheid state, and that’s not what John Kerry is saying,” continued Ben Ami. “For over a year now, Kerry has argued that, without a two-state solution, Israel is risking its future and its values as it moves toward permanent rule over millions of Palestinians without equal rights.”

The reality is that Kerry was not alone in his use of “apartheid” in warning what Israel risks becoming if it fails to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert both used “apartheid” to describe Israel’s possible future.

And most recently, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s minister of justice, in a speech on energy, said, “The time has come for (Israeli) youth to ask, to what kind of state do they want to leave the gas reserves? To a Jewish democratic Israel? Or to a binational Arab state? Or to an apartheid state?”

Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu told HuffPost Live: “I go and I visit the Holy Land, and I see things that are a mirror image of the sort of things that I experienced under the apartheid. How can you stop me from the right to describe as I feel. You go anywhere in the world, and if I see things that mirror the kind of experience that I know first-hand . . .”

Words matter. Opinions matter. Law matters.

Under the 1998 Rome Statute, the definition of apartheid under international law is, “Inhumane acts . . . committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Truth matters.

The truth is that America cannot be an interlocutor between Palestinians and Israelis if it binds itself to the needs of one while ignoring the other.

The truth is that Kerry, Livni, Olmert, Barak and others are not speaking of apartheid in Israel. They are not even speaking of apartheid in the occupied territories. They are speaking of the risk of becoming an apartheid state if a two-state solution is not equitably negotiated between the parties.

Listen to the truth.

Perhaps using “apartheid” is a gift – a way of forcing us to look at the hard choices that confront us. To make us confront the reality of how hard it is to find a space for peace between oppression and freedom.

The future of Israel does not depend on continued occupation, exploitation and colonies. Only peace with its neighbors can ensure Israel’s future.

Palestinian President Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, both recognized the State of Israel, as have Egypt and Jordan. The Arab Peace Initiative also offered recognition by all Arab States if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories.

Maybe this is time to pause and breathe.

Israel just celebrated Independence Day and the Palestinian people mourned the ongoing Al-Nakba (catastrophe) that befell them – leave them both to those memories and to prayerful recognition of all that has been accomplished and sacrificed in order “to learn those things on earth the knowledge of which continues in heaven.”

Then pause again, take another deep breath, and listen to Rumi:

Now be silent.

Let the One who creates the words speak.

He made the door.

He made the lock.

He also made the key.

(Robert Azzi is a writer and photographer living in Exeter. He can be reached at

Legacy Comments20

Here are four prominent Israelis, who all issued the same warning, using the same "a" word as Kerry: Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, and Ami Ayalon. "Israel's defense minister warned Tuesday that if Israel does not achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, it will be either a binational state or an undemocratic apartheid state. Defense Minister Ehud Barak's comments came in an address to a security conference north of Tel Aviv." "'If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished,'Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz Wednesday, the day the Annapolis conference ended in an agreement to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008." "A senior Israeli government official warned this week of a potential 'apartheid state' should the Israelis and Palestinians fail in achieving a two-state solution to their decades-old conflict. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Justice Minister and lead negotiator with the Palestinians, has said that she supports U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent efforts to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track." "Former Shin Bet chief and Labor MK Ami Ayalon threw his support on Friday  behind US President Barack Obama's Middle East speech, saying it complements the goals his organization, "Blue White Future," has set for Israel. Ayalon and other leaders of "Blue White Future" seek to garner Israeli support for a two-state solution, which he says most Israelis and most Knesset members would back. 'We want to rebuild Zionism around the idea of a Jewish and democratic state,' he explained. 'If the Palestinians do not get enough support in the UN, [Palestinians Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas may quit or the Palestinians may rise up against him, because they want a better future,'he added. 'They may give up on a diplomatic solution … ask for citizenship and equality in Israel, and if we don't give it to them, it would be apartheid.' Such a scenario would mark 'the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,' Ayalon explained."

Calls for Kerry's firing ring all over Washington DC - NObama has not fired anyone..... yet his regime is under constant siege for massive scandals. That is what you get when you elect a guy with absolutely ZERO executive experience.

Calls are not ringing out all over Washington for Kerry's firing, unless you count the usual Republicans.

What is the point, Kerry is not going anywhere, he is typical of an Obama cabinet member, short on experience and ruled by ideology. Most people in the Obama administration only represent the view of the 30% who are on the Left, not the entire country.

What a horrible thing for Kerry to say. It was over the top and honestly, the Palestinians are the terrorists in this situation. The shoot rockets into Israel at every opportunity, they have often stated that they want to drive Israel into the sea. Arafat had the opportunity when Carter was in office and several times since until his death to have an agreement to only reject them in the end. Kerry was wrong.

Perhaps using “apartheid” is a wasn't a gift. It was the wrong thing to say and the wrong time to say it. Kerry has a gift for that sort of thing.....we are running low on reset buttons...

No, GW, "apartheid" was precisely the right word; and the time to use it is now and at every opportunity until the scales have been lifted from America's eyes.

Of course....what was I thinking....this sort of rhetoric will certainly speed up the peace process.

Mollycoddling the original apartheid regime - the one in South Africa - accomplished nothing other than to further entrench it. Tough talk combined with tough actions finally forced it to cede authority to the majority population. What worked for the likes of Botha, Vorster and Verwoerd will work for Netanyahu in the fullness of time. What "peace process"? The one that Netanyahu torpedoed? And don't take my word for it; it comes from no less a source than Shimon Peres.

It could hardly be going any slower--Kerry's point.

I agree with you, gracchus.

I'm sorry but I do not agree with a comparison between present Day Israel and Apartheid South Africa. What's next, will you break Godwin's law and compare Israel to 1930s Germany?!?!?

Nope, not at all. It's time for everybody to step back and remember the original comment. It was Jimmy Carter, the greatest ex-president the country has produced who warned that Israel was in danger of BECOMING an apartheid state. I have little doubt that is Netanyahu's intent; time will tell whether his views or more moderate ones prevail.

I agree with Gracchus, that apartheid is the right word, issued as a warning of might become of Israel. As Mr. Azzi points out, Kerry's warning has been made repeatedly in the Israeli press. Are we so sensitive that we can't handle that fact? Kerry statement was a warning about might happen absent a two-state solution. Just for historical context, remember that most of the American right was supportive of S.Africa's apartheid regime until the bitter end, long after the rest of the world had recognized the horrors of the regime. Perhaps that explains their sensitivity to the word now. Many Americans on the right went out of their way to buy krugerands to prop up the regime. Possibly some of the regulars here still have them in their gold stash.

You would, you are a far-Left extremist. The Palestinians don't want peace, they want to run the Israelis into the sea. Arafat had numerous chances for peace, he refused them all. The Palestinian authority is a terrorist organizaiton, you can't negotiate with Middle Eastern regimes mired in the 12th century.

There you go again. Using your broad brush to label those with whom you disagree as extremists, when the simple fact is YOU are the extremist. Your post with its false stereotypes and broad brush inaccuracies is typical. I agreed with the description any number of Israelis--from a wide swath of the political spectrum--have themselves used for a number of years, to warn their countrymen of what their country might become if they are unable to reach agreement on two-state solution. Deal with it. And get over it.

I agreed with the description any number of Israelis--from a wide swath of the political spectrum--have themselves used for a number of years, to warn their countrymen of what their country might become if they are unable to reach agreement on two-state solution. even the ones headed to prison on corruption charges..

Nope, you can't negotiate with terrorists and it is a fact that Palestinians want the Israelis driven into the sea. You don't see Israeli women strapping on a bomb and blowing themselves up in the Palestinian territory. By the way, YOU are the extremist, no doubt about that.

Sure I am. My politics are pretty much in line with Teddy Roosevelt's on domestic policy. Yours, based on your comments here, are to the right of Joe McCarthy.

Even Kerry is smart enough to realize his error.

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