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John Kerry: Israel Could Become an “Apartheid State”

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: US Embassy Tel Aviv)

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: US Embassy Tel Aviv)

US Secretary of State John Kerry recently told a closed-door meeting of influential world leaders that Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state” if there is no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon.

Kerry’s comments came during a meeting with a group of senior officials and experts from the United States, Western Europe, Russia and Japan, the Daily Beast reports. Kerry

“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative,” Kerry told the group. “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.”

Most Israelis and their supporters bristle at the use of the word ‘apartheid’ to describe Israeli policies and actions. But a significant– and growing– number of prominent international observers, including a handful of vocal Israelis and other Jews, and even Holocaust survivors, have accused Israel of practicing apartheid.

“Israel… perpetuates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa,” former US President Jimmy Carter said in 2006. Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, said Israel’s apartheid is “based on the desire or avarice of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land.”

“I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing in the Holy Land that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under apartheid,” said former archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for fighting apartheid in his homeland. “I have witnessed the systematic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”

“The state of Israel practices its own quite violent form of apartheid with the native Palestinian population,” wrote former Israeli education minister Shulamit Aloni in 2007.

“The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid,” wrote Holocaust survivor Suzanne Weiss in 2010. “The Israeli government’s actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family’s experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation.”

Almost all Israeli leaders categorically reject the apartheid analogy, with many believing the Abrahamic deity figure ‘God’ promised the Jews, ‘His chosen people,’ all of Palestine.

While US leaders very rarely use such critical language as ‘apartheid’ to describe Israeli policies and actions, even in the type of hypothetical scenario envisioned by Kerry, the secretary of state’s remarks reflect growing frustration within the Obama administration over the perpetually stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Israel recently suspended peace talks with Palestinian leaders following a historic reconciliation deal between Fatah, which rules the occupied West Bank, and the more militant Hamas, the democratically elected leaders of Gaza.

Israel argues that it cannot possibly make peace with any Palestinian leadership which includes Hamas, which it, and the United States, considers a terrorist group.

“As long as I’m prime minister of Israel, I will never negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas terrorists that are calling for our liquidation,” vowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in explaining Israel’s decision to break off negotiations.

Hamas militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel in resistance to the latter’s continuing illegal occupation of the West Bank and economic repression of Gaza. Israeli forces unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but have periodically attacked or invaded the strip, causing great death and destruction, in response to rocket attacks which, while not causing extensive casualties, have terrorized much of southern Israel and disrupted life in much of the nation.

Palestinians, and the Obama administration, argue that Israel actions, chiefly the continued construction and expansion of Jewish settler colonies in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, are a potentially deal-breaking impediment to a lasting peace. Under international law, both the occupation and settlements are illegal.

But Israel does not acknowledge their illegality, despite Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Violations of the convention are considered war crimes under international law. In 1972, there were around 10,000 Jewish settlers living in the occupied territories. Today, there are more than 500,000.

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