John Kerry Walks Up to the Truth

A Washington gaffe, as Michael Kinsley once observed, occurs when a politician states an obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say. John Kerry’s closed door remark before a Trilateral Commission (an elite establishment group) gathering, where he said that without a two-state solution, Israel will become an apartheid state, reaches the important gaffe category. The remark is largely true (though it would have truer if he had said that Israel already subjects most Palestinians in the territories it controls to apartheid conditions); it concerns a matter of great importance to American foreign policy, as Israel colors our relationships with the entire Arab and much of the Muslim world; and it breaches a dam on American internal discourse which the Israel lobby has fought hard to construct and defend.

Israel plays an extraordinary role in the American political system. Its leaders flood the important Sunday talk shows when any Mideast topic arises; Israelis lobbied hard for an American war against Iraq, as they do now for an American war against Iran. Americans, by and large, receive them with deference and rapt attention. They also honor Israel by subsidizing it: Americans give more foreign aid to Israel, a rich country, than to all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. So for Kerry to suggest, even with a heavy heart, that Israel is headed for apartheid in the absence of a two state solution is to tread into Emperor’s New Clothes territory. It may be true, indeed of course it’s true. But for a high ranking American politician to actually say so falls somewhere between lese majeste and blasphemy.

Kerry was rapidly denounced by Israel lobbyists in their multiple guises. Commentary called the comments a “calumny” against Israel. One of Bill Kristol’s groups, the Emergency Committee for Israel, called for Obama to fire Kerry, and for Hillary Clinton to repudiate his remarks. AIPAC called the remarks “offensive” and “inappropriate,” comments echoed by the ADL and the American Jewish Committee. The National Jewish Democratic Committee, a major arm of Democratic Party fundraising, expressed its “deep disappointment” with the remarks, rejecting the idea that racially based governance “in any way describes Israel.” Kerry was asked to apologize.

He didn’t—he clarified. Kerry stated that if he could “rewind the tape” he wouldn’t use the A word, while reminding everyone that current Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livini, and former prime ministers Olmert and Barak had explicitly claimed Israel was headed towards apartheid if it didn’t come to an agreement with the Palestinians. Some saw this statement as a grovel, but it could as easily be read as a non-apologetic “explanation.”

The facts under discussion are clear enough. In his Commentary article, Peter Wehner–laid out some standard talking points: Palestinians within the 1967 borders benefit from the full range of citizenship rights. One can quibble with this , as Israel has many laws and customs which limit real civic participation to Jews, but it is largely true that Israel’s million or so Palestinian Arabs possess civil rights. The over the …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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