Is John Kerry Wrong About Israeli Apartheid?

In the aftermath of reports claiming John Kerry said Israel will become an apartheid state without a two-state solution, the Secretary of State is being portrayed as far outside the mainstream and his language is being condemned as erroneous in the extreme.

To Republicans and Democrats, the word “apartheid” in reference to Israel’s rule over Palestinians is an appalling misnomer. But the reality on the ground says different.

It’s important to note, as the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin does, that the label apartheid is not so extreme in Israel.

Yet Israel’s leaders have employed the term, as well. In 2010, for example, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak used language very similar to Kerry’s. “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,” Barak said. “If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

As Israeli activist and military veteran Mikhael Manekin said in January 2012, the apartheid criticism is an accepted part of the debate lexicon in Israel. The Times of Israel reported last year that Alon Liel, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general and ex-ambassador to South Africa, believes Israel currently qualifies as an apartheid state.

“In the situation that exists today, until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state,” Liel said. “This joint state — in the hope that the status quo is temporary — is an apartheid state.”

Back in December, the Israeli paper Haaretz hosted a discussion of the apartheid question, led by correspondent Amira Hass who wrote that “our reality is governed by the same philosophy [as the apartheid system in South Africa], backed by laws and force of arms.”

What, for instance [denotes an apartheid system]?

There are two legal systems in place on the West Bank, a civilian one for Jews and a military one for Palestinians. There are two separate infrastructures there as well, including roads, electricity and water. The superior and expanding one is for Jews while the inferior and shrinking one is for the Palestinians. There are local pockets, similar to the Bantustans in South Africa, in which the Palestinians have limited self-rule. There is a system of travel restrictions and permits in place since 1991, just when such a system was abolished in South Africa.

Does that mean that apartheid exists only on the West Bank?

Not at all, it exists across the entire country, from the sea to the Jordan River. It prevails in this one territory in which two peoples live, ruled by one government which is elected by one people, but which determines the future and fate of both. Palestinian towns and villages suffocate because of deliberately restrictive planning in Israel, just as they do in the West Bank.

Then there was the shocking recent survey conducted by the Israeli data firm Dialog, which found that most Israeli Jews would support an explicitly apartheid system if Israel annexes the West Bank.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they want preferences for Jews over Arabs in admission to jobs in government ministries. Almost half, 49 percent, want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab ones; 42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same classes with Arab children.

About a third of the Jewish public wants a law barring Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset; 69 percent objects to giving Palestinians the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank.

“A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank,” Haaretz reported.

The underlying reality, as Kerry acknowledged, is that Israel’s future will be made up either of a two-state solution along the basic contours of the 1967 lines or of perpetual occupation and annexation of the West Bank. The latter course will by definition be an apartheid system if Israel is to maintain its status as “a Jewish state,” as the basic math of the demographics in the territory makes clear.

After many months of shuttle diplomacy and bringing Israel and the PLO to the negotiating table, this reality became ever more clear to Kerry. He is catching heat for the comment, but he shouldn’t be. If the discussion in America can’t rise to the level of simply dealing with the facts on the ground in Israel-Palestine, then we are even less qualified to operate as a supposed “broker of peace” than is typically believed.

For a glimpse of what daily life under Israeli occupation is like, see the two clips below (click the “cc” button on the bottom one for English subtitles):

16 thoughts on “Is John Kerry Wrong About Israeli Apartheid?”

  1. Excellent article. There's only one country left in the world where these simple facts about Israel are not widely known, and that is the US. The US was also the last country on earth to realize the truth about South Africa. Who knows why? But in the end the penny drops, and I think it's dropping now

  2. Did Kerry said " become an apartheid state?" What he really meant to say was "Israel is an apartheid state," but we all know that he has to pander to the far right wing moon bats.

  3. Kerry was just telling the Trilateral Commission how it is since the Israelis rejected the peace process. They can either create a unitary state or be seen as and be an apartheid state.
    He shouldn't feel shame but pity for his enemies on this subject. Also this was a recorded conversation and his honest candor wasn't meant for the public:

    It is amusing that such a secretive administration has let such a cat out of the bag. Obviously the individual who recorded his remarks wanted to make the Obama administration and Kerry suffer. All the usual suspects are attacking Kerry for his truthful transgression. He wasn't the one who rejected the two state solution.

  4. I had my education on how Jews treated Palestinians and how the American media prevents Americans from knowing the truth while on a business trip outside the country many years ago. I tuned into a British channel. I saw an Israeli soldier take his rifle off his shoulder, shoot a prostate and unconscious Palestinian in the stomach, remount his rifle on his shoulder and walk on as if he was on a Sunday stroll in the park. We have not and probably will never see such reality in the American print, TV, or digital media. Indeed, there is an a calculated attempt to make sure we never will see events in the Middle East as they really are. It seems we Americans are condemned to see the world through the eyes of an Israeli public relations firm.

  5. Is that Oaf Kerry stuck in 1960 or something???? Where's he been??? 'become an apartheid state?"

    Has he slept for the last twenty years…???? More like the Reich than S. Africa……????

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  8. Is apartheid too harsh for Zionist ears? How about racist genocide and land theft?

  9. Once again an American politician who tells the truth is brought to the wood shed and recants. The irony is that in defining itself as a Jewish State Israel admits to being an apartheid nation. The fact is that Arabs have no say in the society and are treated as second class entities. Israel is indeed an apartheid nation, and the whole world knows this.

  10. Israel is truly an apartheid state and supported the former racist South Africa government. Why can’t the truth be said. Just look at the horrible conditions the palestanians endure under present Israeli rule. And it is wonder why they
    resort to violence. Oh I guess they all just brought it on themselves. And America is suppose to be an honest broker and stand for human rights in the world but oh, not when it concerns Israel and palestanians? America you lie! And you will always be wringing your hands with total bankrupt initiatives for peace in the middle east because you don’t really stand for truth and honesty. So keep wringing your hands in failure after failure for true peace with the Israeli’s and palestanians making you doped your hands in tears and blood before you wrong them.

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