After coming under intense criticism for his remarks that Israel could become an “apartheid state” if it did not embrace a two-state solution, Secretary of State John Kerry has now sought to clarify his comments, reiterating his support for Israel, which he called a “vibrant democracy.”
While AP News reports that Kerry “pointedly did not apologize for the remarks,” he “acknowledged his comments last week to a closed international forum could have been misinterpreted.”
Two days earlier, the Daily Beast reported that Kerry had said in a private meeting with world leaders that, “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.”
An apartheid state? How could the Secretary of State of America use such a loaded term, one normally used by Israel’s critics and enemies?
Interestingly, when David Ben Gurion explained what he meant by a Jewish state at a meeting of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine at Lake Success New York on July 7, 1947, he made it clear that it would be anything but an apartheid state.
He explained that “. . . a Jewish State does not mean one has to be a Jew. It means merely a State-where the Jews are in the majority, otherwise all the citizens have the same status.
“. . . maybe the name of Palestine will be changed. But whatever the name of the country, every citizen of the country will be a citizen.
“This is what we mean.
“This is what we have to mean.
“We cannot conceive that in a State where we are not in a minority, where we have the main responsibilities as the majority of the country, there should be the slightest discrimination between a Jew and a non-Jew.”
But, Israel’s critics will say that it has already become an apartheid state and that Ben Gurion’s vision has failed, since the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank are treated like second-class citizens (and worse) and some even live behind an apartheid wall.
Isn’t this the constant complaint of those in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, which isn’t afraid to use even more harsh terms, like “ethnic cleansing”?
What Israel’s critics miss is the fact that those Arabs (aka Palestinians) who chose to remain in Israel in 1948 demonstrate that the apartheid charges are completely false.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.