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Into the fray: Kerry and the ‘A-word’… actually, both A-words
A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state – or… a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state. Once you put that frame in your mind… which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution.
– John Kerry before the Trilateral Commission, cited by The Daily Beast, April 27
John Kerry’s recent use of the term “Apartheid” in reference to Israel’s future was an anti-Semitic act.
– Caroline B. Glick, The Jerusalem Post, April 29
From the outset John Kerry was an ill-advised choice for the position of secretary of state. His history of embarrassing gaffes made his appointment as America’s top diplomat clearly imprudent and inappropriate.
Rage, reproach and ridicule
But for some reason, none of these prior lapses unleashed the same maelstrom of rage, reproach and ridicule as his leaked prognosis that, unless it hastens to embrace “the two-state solution,” Israel may become an “apartheid state.”
Kerry has, of course, been responsible for measures far more substantially detrimental to Israel than his facile forecast as to its future – such as the abhorrent release of convicted terrorists as a grotesque gesture to coax the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Yet, somehow it was his brandishing the specter of anticipated apartheid that precipitated an unprecedented assault on his competence and character, and even calls for his resignation Thus in a withering review of Kerry’s performance, acerbically titled, “Kerry challenging Biden for ‘most gaffe-prone’” (April 29), Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote: “When ultra-conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and super-liberal Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) are both blasting you, you know you’ve blown it… In a sense, Kerry’s latest debacle can’t really undermine his standing any further. His buffoon-like gaffes… already have made him the subject of derision.”
Rubin concludes her column with the caustic comment: Kerry over and over again has proven himself to be, if not the worst secretary of state, then certainly the most error-prone.
‘Apartheid’ & ‘anti-Semitism’ – Countervailing A-words?
“Apartheid” is an emotive “A-word” and Kerry’s use of it was pounced on by both friends and foes of Israel.
A headline on The Washington Free Beacon website, “Palestinians Echo Kerry on ‘Apartheid’: Kerry comments influencing region, harming Israel” summed up the situation its usage has created.
Picking up on Kerry’s cue, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat charged that Israel had used “every possible tool in order to consolidate its apartheid regime.” Echoing previous threats against Israel, alluded to by the secretary of state, Erekat railed that Israel had chosen apartheid over peace: “We believe that the international community must clarify to Israel that its choice of settlements and apartheid over peace will have political, legal, and financial ramifications.”
Pro-Israel pundits, such as Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin, responded robustly (April 28) that Kerry had “exploded the notion that he is an evenhanded broker since he is, as he has done previously, effectively rationalizing, if not justifying, the next intifada as well as the continued efforts of the BDS movement against Israel.
In Tobin’s assessment “Rather than a mere expression of frustration, as Kerry’s apologists will insist, the use of the “A word does more to doom the already dim chances of peace. As such, Kerry’s already dubious utility as a peace process facilitator is officially at an end.”
Others unsheathed their own countervailing, equally emotive A-word, “anti-Semitism” Most scathing in this regard was the Post’s Caroline Glick. In her latest mid-week column she launched into a searing assault on Kerry, condemning his “use of the term ‘Apartheid’ in reference to Israel’s future” as an “anti-Semitic act.”
Glick continued turning up the heat, asserting: “Kerry’s ‘Apartheid’ remarks are a watershed event. They represent the first time a sitting US secretary of state has publicly endorsed an anti-Semitic caricature of Jews and the Jewish state… Kerry is adopting a full-throated and comprehensive anti-Semitic position.”
Remarkably unremarkable remark?
Truth be told, in some respects it is a little difficult to understand why Kerry’s uncalled for remarks should have generated such intense response.
Although Kerry is hardly a figure deserving of our empathy, I can well imagine the shocked surprise he must has have felt at the force of the reactions they evoked. For as some of his defenders/apologists point out, not only were they remarkably unremarkable, but several senior Israeli leaders have used almost identical language in the past.
Glick herself, who significantly titled her previously cited critique “John Kerry’s Jewish best friends,” acknowledged that Israeli politicians such as Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak have also enunciated very similar positions. Although she suggests that “Livni, Olmert, Barak and others probably don’t share Kerry’s anti-Semitic sensitivities… their behavior enables foreigners like Kerry to embrace anti-Semitic positions.”
According to Glick, “their actions are most likely informed by their egotistical obsessions with power.
Like Barak in Netanyahu’s previous government, today Livni provides Kerry and [US envoy Martin] Indyk with “Israeli” cover for their anti-Israeli policies…,” which some readers might find reminiscent of, and resonant with, several points I raised in my column last week, “Mainstreaming treason.”
Beyond personal prejudice
Although some might find Glick’s caustic rhetoric a little over the top, there can be little doubt of the essential validity and gravity of the issues she raises. Indeed, the situation may well be even more serious than she depicts.
Putting aside speculation as to Kerry’s personal predilections, the very articulation of his opinions is indicative of a deeper, more disturbing malaise. For beyond exposing his prejudices, his remarks illustrate how the discourse on the “Palestinian issue” has become distorted and discriminatory against the Jews – i.e., how its underlying assumptions and its very structure have become blatantly biased and, well… anti-Semitic.
Indeed, inherent anti-Semitism has become so deeply inculcated into the culture and conduct of that discourse it is difficult to imagine it today without its axiomatic anti-Semitic animus.
This is a contention that will doubtless elicit howls of protest from those on what is generically known as “the Left,” who habitually counter it with the threadbare mantra: “Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.”
This is as facilely true as it is inanely irrelevant.
For while clearly not every criticism of Israeli policies can be dismissed as anti-Semitism, the enduring application of blatant double standards in assessing the conduct of the nation-state of the Jews – and that nation-state alone – makes anti-Semitism an increasingly unavoidable explanation.
Blatantly Judeophobic policy
For in essence, according to the approach taken by Kerry and others, and which hitherto has dominated that discourse, the Jews are being told that they can only legitimize the existence of their nation-state if they agree to expose it to mortal danger. They are being told that for their own right to political independence to be embraced by the democratic nations of the world, they must consent to the establishment of (yet another) Muslim tyranny, unswervingly dedicated to its destruction, and surrender to it areas vital to its national security and survival.
But that’s not all.
In making these demands of the Jews, two things are ignored – or purposefully disregarded: (a) The historical context of how the current situation came about; (b) the current realities that dictate Israeli policy in contending with it.
As for the historical context, what is constantly overlooked is that the territories currently being demanded for the establishment of said Muslim tyranny did not fall under Israeli control as the result of any avaricious territorial impulse or colonial expansionist desire. Rather, it was the result of a defensive war, forced upon it without any provocation (apart from its very existence), that succeeded in repulsing an unprovoked genocidal – or rather Judeocidal – offensive against the Jewish state, despite Israeli appeals to the aggressors to desist from their openly declared murderous intentions.
Enmity, not ethnicity
Having repulsed the Arab attempt to annihilate it, the Jewish state, understandably, was not eager to once again expose itself to the vulnerabilities that had made attacking it such a tempting prospect, by handing back the strategically vital territory from which it was attacked, without assurances as to its security.
As such assurances were not forthcoming, Israel was forced to retain the territory and administer the Arab residents who remained in it. Moreover, in light of the critical strategic and historical significance of the territory that had come under its control, Israel justifiably intended to retain some portions of it, and settle its own citizens in those parts of their ancient homeland, legitimately regained in an undisputed act of self-defense.
This clearly led to the need for it to differentiate between populations that were inherently hostile to it, and those which were not, and resulted in divergent administrative/legal systems for Israeli citizens and for non-Israeli Palestinian-Arabs – precipitating accusations of “apartheid” and comparisons with the former racist regime in South Africa.
Such accusations and comparisons are unfounded and inappropriate. For this seemingly discriminatory policy is not driven by any belief in racial superiority but a well-founded concern for security. They are not a response to Palestinian ethnicity but to Palestinian enmity. They are not a product of what the Palestinians are, but of what they do – or support doing.
It is the demand to desist from such differentiation that is a reflection of racism.
It is a reverse racism that pervades the subtext of the discourse on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians: The victims of racist hatred are condemned as racist for fending off their racist attackers.
After all, security barriers are not erected, roadblocks are not put in place, travel restrictions are not enforced as a racist response to Palestinian ethnic identity, but as a rational reaction to Palestinian political enmity. To believe otherwise is to fall prey to what Binyamin Netanyahu once called the “reversal of causality.” The blockade of Gaza is a consequence, not a cause, of Hamas’s violence; the “West Bank” security barrier is the result of, not the reason for, Palestinian terrorism.
If pregnant women and ambulances were not used to smuggle explosives into Israeli cities, there would be no need for checkpoints and roadblocks. If Palestinian gunmen would not open fire from vehicles on Israeli families passing by, there would be no need to restrict the movement of Palestinians on certain roads. If Palestinians did not ambush Israeli cars traveling though Palestinian towns, there would be no need to construct special roads for Israelis to bypass those towns.
Expecting Jews to die meekly
To try and delegitimize these measures as “apartheid” policy embodies the implicit delegitimization of the right of Jews to defend themselves. As such, it comprises the implicit expectation that Jews should consent to die meekly.
For no matter what measures Israel adopts to protect its citizens from those undisguisedly trying to murder and maim them – because they are Jews – they are widely condemned as “racist,” “disproportionate violence” or even “war crimes/crimes against humanity.”
It matters not whether these measures are administrative decisions or security operations; defensive responses or anticipatory initiatives; punitive retaliations or preemptive strikes. It matters not whether they entail the emplacement of physical barriers to block the infiltration of indiscriminate murderers; the imposition of restrictions to impede their lethal movements; the execution of preventive arrests to foil their deadly intentions….
And how can the expectation that Jews die meekly be characterized other than “anti-Semitism” – or more precisely, “Judeophobic racism?”
The real racism
The attitude that shedding Jewish blood is more acceptable than the measures required to prevent it appears to be becoming increasingly internalized into the discourse on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
It is this attitude that is the real racism – structural and systemic anti-Semitism – that colors the conduct and the culture of the discourse on the “Palestinian issue.” It is this racism that underlies Kerry’s recent remarks – and which is more insidious and invidious than them by far.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.