John Kerry and the Shamefully Servile Way We Talk About Israel

A favorite pastime of American politicians of both parties is grandstanding on behalf of Israel to appease their pro-Israel benefactors. Republican pols, however, have an added incentive to support the Jewish state because a good chunk of their voting base is composed of evangelical Christians who love Israel so much that they can’t wait to see it destroyed in the Battle of Armageddon. That event will herald the return of the messiah, whom the Jews reject, and in doing so are destined for hell according to the Christians who ostensibly support them.

This odious and combustible concoction is what fuels U.S. policy toward Israel and by extension the greater Middle East. It also helps explain the utterly childish manner in which our elected officials talk about Israel and Palestine. That’s why it is absolutely no surprise that Secretary of State John Kerry is the target of a bipartisan thrashing for making what was essentially an accurate statement about the so called peace process. Speaking to a gathering of of world leaders on Friday Kerry said:

“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.”

It’s as true a summation about the prospect of Israelis and Palestinians living in a unitary state as there is. Kerry is only talking about the hypothetical of a single state “solution” that most agree would be no solution at all. Given that Israel already possesses some characteristics of an apartheid state, Kerry was actually putting the matter mildly and didn’t say that Israel is an apartheid state, but that it could become one. One sign that Israel just might already be an apartheid state is that it has literally been walling off the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, which as you can imagine has been more than an inconvenience to the people living in those places.

But U.S. lawmakers don’t think so. Enter first Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tel Aviv) who on the senate floor, called on Kerry to resign, saying that “before any further harm is done to our national security interests and to our critical alliance with the nation of Israel, that John Kerry should offer President Obama his resignation and the president should accept it.” He also called Kerry “unsuitable” for his current position.

(Side note: The U.S. doesn’t have a critical alliance with Israel, but rather Israel has a critical alliance with the U.S., which funds and enables its actions in the occupied territories.)

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Haifa) called on Kerry to apologize to Israel, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Jerusalem) called Kerry’s remark “outrageous and disappointing.”

Not to be outdone, Democrats piled on as well.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Sderot) called the comparison “nonsensical and ridiculous,” while Sen. Mark Begich (D-Nazareth), who’s up for reelection this year said that “it’s not productive” for Kerry to show his frustrations with the peace negotiations in such a way.

Kerry has already backtracked but so far has stopped short of an explicit apology saying, “[I]f 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.”

Amazingly, the congressional kowtowing in this case is only half as shameful as what transpired in May 2011, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations during a 47 minute speech to the U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, no Palestinian leader has ever even been asked to address Congress.

All of this perfectly demonstrates why the U.S. has been unable to nail down a lasting peace deal between Israel and Palestine for four decades: because it is impossible for the U.S. to be an impartial broker in the negotiations when its lawmakers and negotiators are so beholden to one side. And as long as it continues, there will be no peace for Palestine, Israel, or the United States.