Secretary of State John Kerry has come under fire after calling Israel a nation on the verge of becoming an “apartheid state” following failed peace talks. The comment was published by the Daily Beast on Sunday in the form of a recording at the Trilateral Commission on Friday where Sec. John Kerry spoke about his regret of coming to a compromise between Israeli and Palestinian officials. John Kerry’s assessment of the Palestinian citizen’s situation in Israel was late attacked by pro-Jewish lobbying firms, alongside lawmakers and activists whom called his words “offensive,” “deeply troubling,” and “inflammatory.”
What upset observers most about the comments is that by calling Israel an “apartheid state,” Kerry conjured up the dark and insidious history of apartheid states, most namely South Africa, where countless individuals were brutally murdered and executed by both state officials and roving militias. The apartheid system in South Africa which subjugated and segregated blacks, a huge majority of the population, to second class citizens, left white Afrikaners the dominant economic engineers and the controlling force over the state apparatus. The institutionalized discrimination in South Africa last for almost half a century until Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994 brought about the end to Afrikaner rule in the country.
While Israel may not be openly and directly subjugating the Palestinian citizens within their borders, the fact remains that Palestinians receive second class citizen status as a result of the ongoing war between the two states. Informal economic discrimination culminates in some of worst standards of living amongst the Middle East, with over 61.3% of Palestinian families living below the poverty line, meanwhile the average Palestinian student receives only 15% of what the average Israeli student receives in government assistance. This is underscored by the 2008-2009 Israel government budget, which sanctioned only $11 million out of its $188 million apportionment to Palestinian infrastructure.
Sec. John Kerry made it clear in his rebuke that if Israel continues down this path without a comprehensive two-state solution that satisfies both Israel and Palestine, Israel is flirting with the same fate as other apartheid states.
“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,” said Sec. John Kerry at the Trilateral Commission.
Within Israel itself there is an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians, of which 370,000 are “internally displaced” meaning they have been torn from their home villages or towns as a result of the ongoing conflict. The “forgotten Palestinians” as they have been come to be known find themselves with virtually no rights, representation, or ability to remedy their situation through the Isreali government. The blind eye turned to those Palestinians within Israel’s borders are of a great concern to observers who note Israel’s human rights record will only deteriorate if something isn’t done to resolve the situation.
Sec. John Kerry calling Israel an “apartheid state” and Israel actually fitting that ugly description implores us to reassess the situation of the average Palestinian citizen living within Israel. The reality on the ground shows a class of citizens who remain jobless, perpetually marginalized, and consistently “forgotten” in the midst of one of the world’s longest and historically driven wars despite Israel’s relative wealth in the region.
John Kerry sternly defended his comments against what he considered “politically partisan” motivations to denounce his assessment of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Standing his ground, Kerry maintained he believes that a two-state solution founded on mutually assured peace and respect for each party involved is the only way out of the mess created almost 70 years ago.
And although Kerry did suggest his use of the word “apartheid” may not have been appropriate since it invokes such a horrid picture, it has for a moment brought attention to the plight of an impoverished Palestinian people as a result of war and destruction.