Kerry declines to say Israel gives “equal rights for all citizens”

John Kerry explains.

Ralph Alswang Center for American Progress

Last night US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a craven statement climbing down from his comments in a private meeting last Friday that Israel would become an “apartheid state” without a “two-state solution.”

Faced with howls of outrage from extreme anti-Palestinian groups, objections from Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (California) and an outright call for his resignation from Republican Senator Ted Cruz (Texas), the hapless Kerry may have felt he had no choice.

Interesting difference

Kerry acknowledged that Israeli leaders have frequently used the term “apartheid” to describe Israeli rule over Palestinians, but asserted that “it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”

Yet with all Kerry’s abject willingness to appease, there is an interesting difference between his final published statement and the comments made on his behalf by State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki earlier in the day.

At the usual morning briefing, Psaki said “the Secretary [Kerry] does not believe and did not state publicly or privately that Israel is an apartheid state, and there’s an important difference there. Israel is obviously a vibrant democracy with equal rights for all of its citizens.”

The press statement Kerry issued later in the day contains similar language: “First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.”

But note that while Kerry repeated the claim that Israel is a “vibrant democracy,” he pointedly did not repeat Psaki’s assertion from earlier in the day that Israel provides “equal rights for all of its citizens.”

“Most significant” problem

The fact is that Israel discriminates systematically against its 1.5 million Palestinian citizens.

Indeed the claim Israel gives equal rights to all citizens contradicts even the State Department’s own reporting.

In its 2013 human rights report on Israel, the US government lists “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, including the Bedouin, in particular in access to equal education and employment opportunities” as among Israel’s “most significant human rights problems.”

Currently, Israel and the US are in a tussle over Israel’s wish to be included in the US Visa Waiver Program which would allow Israeli passport holders to enter the US without advance visas. The main obstacle is Israel’s systematic discrimination against US citizens of Palestinian and Arab descent.

It would appear that claiming Israel gives “equal rights for all citizens” was a stretch too far even for the pliant Kerry.

So what about Israel as a “vibrant democracy”? That’s just pandering too of course – unless one abides by Knesset member Ahmed Tibi’s famous quip that “Israel is democratic for Jews but Jewish for Arabs.”

There’s also a lesson for Palestinians in Kerry’s latest cave-in. As Yousef Munayyer has observed: “When US officials can’t even criticize Israel the way Israeli officials do, is there anyone who can still argue [that the] US should ‘mediate?’”




I would like to say that I give you thumbs up for your effort in the peace talks with Israel and Palestine..I am sorry the Israel Lobby put pressure on you to apologize for bringing up the word Apartheid, it is amazing that we the people have become so gagged when it comes to stating the obvious,,Israel does resemble Apartheid and it is also obvious that Israel is indeed the rock that does not budge in the peace talks , it is obvious that Israel continuation of building Illegal Settlements are a huge blocking stone and for good reason,,every time a settlement is built on Palestinian territory a new abusing check points pops up for the Palestinians making their mobility more and more complicated on their own lands,,This is obvious a land grab for Israel and at the same time conditions that resemble an open prison for the Palestinians --Many of us in this world are boycotting Israel products and soon we will expand that boycott to all its affiliates..We are a nation of people that have stopped Hitler, South Africa Apartheid and now we will stop Israel until Israel stays within the 1967 borders and stop the occupation. Many of us feel that the Illegal Settlements should be turned over to the Palestinian refugees that will never be able to return home in what is now called Israel,,so a good compromise would be to let them return to Palestine..It is way passed the time for a 2 state solution .....


I agree entirely with you Jerry and anyone who tries to present Israel as a democracy is fooling himself or herself and trying to fool everyone else.To quote some famous personage " You can fool some people some of the time and some people all of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time"
I really believe that for Israel, especially with the advances being made by the BDS campaign,the writing is on the wall.


Anyone who argues that Israel is not an apartheid state needs to be reminded of the definition. It is a shame that our government officials are trying to still argue that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. For those who have had to wait in line at check points raise your hand!


Ms Boxer, maybe it's time for you to move to Israel and represent the Motherland honestly and openly, rather than pose as a US Congresswoman as you have for much too long now.


I think Mr Kerry put in brave effort this past nine months. Once again I am stunned by the grip on the US body politic the Israel lobby has. It's really quite depressing to see how US policy is dictated by a lobby and not by justice and fairness. Let alone honesty.