Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The 'A' Word

Secretary of State John Kerry seen here with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
I am not one of John Kerry’s fans. I did not vote for him when he ran for President. And I did not support him as President Obama’s choice for Secretary of State. I had always seen Kerry’s support for Israel to be somewhat lacking in decisiveness. I simply wasn’t sure where he really stood despite his positive voting record.

Now that he has been in office for some time, I have come to a better understanding of his position. He indeed has a more favorable view of Israel than I had once thought. His views do not match mine. But I am convinced that his support for Israel is strong.

Understandably as Secretary of State he has always tried to counterbalance his support for Israel with support for the Palestinians. But in the balance, I believe his support for Israel is real – even while I disagree with his obsession to get some sort of peace deal between the two peoples. 

Not that I don’t want peace. I absolutely do. And I would support any compromise that would work toward that end – provided of course that Israel remain a free, safe, and secure Jewish State. The problem with Kerry is that he is blind to the fact that it is currently impossible to achieve that. As long as there is a Hamas or a Hezbollah whose clearly stated objective is to wipe Israel off the map - an objective that they constantly act upon by firing rockets indiscriminately into populated areas of Israel… and as long as there is an Iran and an Islamic fundamentalist belief that Israel must be eradicated by any means necessary… there is no possible way to have any kind of peace agreement that will hold.

I bring all of this up in light of the recent Apartheid statement made by Kerry. In his attempt to express the urgency of making peace he said that if Israel doesn’t do it, it is in danger of becoming an Apartheid State. (He made similar comments recently about the possibility of another Intifada.)  All of this quite nicely fitting into the Palestinian narrative.

As one editorial indicated, using the word Apartheid in any context with Israel is the new Antisemitism   And of course Apartheid Israel is bold faced lie. A big lie. The Big Lie of the 21st century. The kind of lie used by Hitler’s Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. He is famous for saying that if you repeat a big lie often enough people will start believing it. Goebbels  filled the air with a media campaign full of disgusting lies about the Jewish people. And that  made many people believe that Jews were the vermin they he said they were.

Why is using Apartheid in the context of Israel a Big Lie? Aren’t the two peoples separate and apart? Do not the Palestinians suffer because of Israel’s security needs? They do. But not because Israel discriminates against them racially, religiously, ethnically, socially, or any other way. It is because they have no choice.

The security fence that for example causes so much grief to Palestinians was built for lack of any other way of securing its borders from attack by suicide bombers from Judea and Samaria (the West Bank of the Jordan River). Since the security fence was built, there haven’t been any. Prior to that, it seemed like an everyday event.  There are other inconveniences that Palestinians feel at the hands of Israel for security reasons. But to say that this is in any way Aparteheid – or that this will lead to Apartheid - is not only an insult to Israel, it is an insult to South African blacks who actually lived through it!

I am reminded of a presentation made by David Olesker, founder and director of JCCAT (Jerusalem Center for Communication and Advocacy Training) at an HTC Melave Malke last year. He told us that the amount of cruel anti black legislation and treatment of black South Africans then versus the way the State of Israel treats its West Bank Arabs now are worlds apart. The differences are so many, it would take hours to list and describe them.

But Anne Bayefsky of the Touro Institute on Human Rights said it best. From Fox News
It makes no difference to the anti-Semite how preposterous the charge is. One-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Arab, enjoying more democratic rights and freedoms than in any Arab state. With Israeli Arabs elected to the Israeli parliament, appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court, and senior members of Israel’s foreign service, the charge is patently false. The claim also stands in marked contrast to Palestinian insistence that no Jews will be allowed to settle in “Palestine.”
The very idea of a Jew inhabiting Arab-claimed territories has been labeled the crime of “Judaization,” now a familiar term in U.N. parlance. Palestinian children’s textbooks, media, and public events of all kinds, are notoriously anti-Semitic. 
The apartheid shoe fits in the Arab-Israeli conflict – on Judenrein Palestine. 
The responses to Kerry’s Apartheid statement are understandable. Florida Senator Marco Rubio called Kerry’s statement “outrageous and disappointing.” House Majority leader Eric Cantor has called for Kerry to apologize to both the Israeli government and people.  And he has asked that the President repeat  an earlier rejection of any such comparison as historically inaccurate and emotionally loaded. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has asked for Kerry’s resignation as Secretary of State and called upon the President to accept it.

Kerry has apologized for that statement citing his over 30 years of support for Israel.  From the New York Times
Mr. Kerry added that he did not believe that Israel was an “apartheid state” or that it intended to become one. Mr. Kerry did not dispute that he had used the phrase but said it had led to a “misimpression” about his views.
“If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution,” he said. 
I believe him. I do not for a minute think he ever believed that Israel was or will be an Apartheid state. He simply misspoke. In his zeal pursuing peace - he used a word he shouldn’t have – and probably didn’t really mean. I think what he really meant is that relations between Israelis and Palestinians can only get worse if things continue as they are.

I know about misspeaking. I have used words both publicly and privately that I wish I could take back. Even as recently as this weekend in a private conversation I had with someone – I used a word that I did not mean which only had the slightest connection to what I really meant. And that created hard feelings that were terribly hurtful to him. I had conveyed a message that I never intended to convey. And no matter how much or how sincerely I apologized for using that word - I suspect that I will never be trusted by him again – even though my apology was accepted.

Sometimes we misspeak and use words intending one meaning – but whose common understanding of them is quite another. It happened to me, this weekend. And I believe that this is what happened to Kerry.  

This does not mean that I support what he has been doing in Israel since his tenure has begun. I don’t. Even as I believe his desire for peace is sincere, his efforts are futile and a waste of time. That should be obvious to everyone by now. 

But neither do I believe his mistaken use of words like ‘Intifada’ or ‘Apartheid’ are anything more than a misguided attempt to push that agenda forward. An agenda of peace that he believes is in everyone’s best interests. It would be - if it were possible. But as I said it is obviously not under current conditions. I therefore think Kerry should expend his efforts elsewhere. But I also think we ought to accept his apology and move on.

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