Kerry Drops the “A” Word—Then Backtracks
But Israel IS an Apartheid State

by Alan Goodman | April 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Addressing a group of ruling class think tankers and insiders on April 25, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry used the term “apartheid” in relation to the state of Israel. Kerry was speaking of U.S. efforts to orchestrate the division of Palestine into the existing state of Israel alongside tiny, disconnected areas—essentially prisons—which would be recognized as a Palestinian “state” (the “two-state solution” in the parlance of U.S. diplomats). Kerry said that if this fails, then Israel “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.”

When the comments hit the news, furious outrage erupted from Israeli officials and U.S. officials ranging from fascist senator Ted Cruz to liberal senator Barbara Boxer—and Kerry quickly backtracked, saying “If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word.”

Four Palestinian children killed by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

Above: Four children killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, November 2012. Photo: AP

The defining reality is that Israel IS an apartheid state NOW.

Under the apartheid system in South Africa, black (and other non-white) South Africans were locked down in prison-like "Bantustans," without the most basic necessities of life (like clean water or decent shelter). They were treated as non-humans, subject to fascist "pass laws" that governed their every movement if they left. On the backs of their labor, white settlers lived the lifestyles of northern Europeans, and global capitalism-imperialism accumulated massive profits. And apartheid South Africa served as a military enforcer for the interests of the U.S. empire in southern Africa, particularly in the "Cold War" era, backing massive terrorist operations against and invasions of neighboring countries.

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The state of Israel was established on land inhabited by the Palestinian people, on the basis of what by any objective definition was terrorist ethnic cleansing. The Nakba (an Arabic word for "catastrophe") was wave after wave of violent Zionist terror concentrated in the year 1948. One million Palestinians were brutally forced from their land, villages, and homes, fleeing with only the possessions they could carry. Many were raped, tortured, and killed. To ensure that there would be nothing for the Palestinians to return to, their villages and even many olive and orange trees were thoroughly destroyed. By the time the Nakba ended, there had been 31 documented massacres—and there probably were others. (For more, see Revolution special issue "Bastion of Enlightenment…or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of Israel")

Basically ever since, Israel has served as violent enforcer of the interests of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East and around the world. Israel holds the region hostage with a substantial nuclear weapons arsenal. It repeatedly invades neighboring countries. And Israel has carried out terrible crimes around the world in service of the U.S. empire—including a significant role in the genocide of 200,000 Guatemalan indigenous people in the early 1980s and major military backing for apartheid South Africa. (See "The U.S. ... Israel ... and Crimes Around the World.")

An aerial view of part of Israel's 8-meter-tall cement Apartheid Wall (see accompanying map). This part divides the Palestinian village of Abu Dis. Photo: AP

Israel's Apartheid Wall zigzags through hundreds of miles of Palestinian territory—expanding the area seized by Israel and making life untenable for 2.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank.

Today, the areas in which the Palestinian people are confined are every bit as oppressive as apartheid South Africa's Bantustans. Israel's 20-foot high cement wall, widely referred to as the "Apartheid Wall," zigzags through sections of Palestine not formally integrated into Israel. It divides Palestinian villages from each other, villagers from their farms, and families from relatives. It winds through hundreds of miles of Palestinian territory—expanding the area seized by Israel through ethnic cleansing and wars, making life untenable for 2.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank.

The two million people in the Gaza Strip region of Palestine are literally confined in prison conditions, unable to leave, even to visit family in other parts of Palestine. Israel (along with Egypt) enforces a blockade on Gaza that has reduced food supplies to the same level as those available to the poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa.

In his retracting statement, Kerry claimed, “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.”

That the rulers of the U.S. see Israel—built on and maintained through the expulsion, and essentially ongoing imprisonment of the Palestinian people as a model of the democracy they export around the world—points to the nature of what the U.S. actually IS built on and exports around the world. To quote Bob Avakian:

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.

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Comments like Kerry’s do not signal recognition—in any way—by the rulers of the U.S. of the terrible crimes they have sponsored against the Palestinian people. No justice for the Palestinian people will come from relying on or appealing to them. But Kerry’s comments do reflect the fact that imperialism is a system fraught with intense contradictions Those contradictions periodically intensify. People with their eyes wide open, and a scientific and sober appreciation of what obstacles have to be overcome to achieve liberation, can and should seize on such moments—like this one—to expose the real nature of Israel and the global system of oppression it serves, and to struggle for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people.

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