John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, issued an apology last week for a comment that he made which suggested that Israel may at some point in the future become an apartheid state.
Kerry’s retraction comes after many criticized his word choice, demanded an apology and Senator Ted Cruz even demanded he step down as Secretary. The word apartheid is an incredibly sensitive word, especially considering all of the damage and sadness that it has caused in South Africa.
Although admitting that it may have been better to use a different word, John Kerry has maintained that his view is valid, and that the criticisms that have been levelled against him stem from politics rather than actual concern over the issues that surround the countries of Israel and Palestine. He also emphasised his continuing support for the existence of Israel, a stance he has taken for the last thirty years.
However, there is another side to this story. When the facts are more closely examined, it almost appears that a political mountain has been created out of what is essentially a mole hill. Similar statements have been made by influential Israeli politicians and commentators about their own political system, so it is strange that John Kerry’s potentially innocent words have been taken as so critically.
The conversation that John Kerry uttered the word ‘apartheid’ in was also not a public speech but a private meeting between government officials that was never meant to be heard by the general populace. It is not known exactly how the comment was made public, but the full statement is now available:
“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.”
One possible reason why these words have been taken to heart so much by those that support Israel is because they have appeared so close to Holocaust Remembrance Day. After all, it was not until after the end of the Second World War that the state of Israel, a Jewish nation, was even created. Perhaps it was inevitable that someone would take offense when such a delicate situation is being discussed, especially with such divisive terminology.