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John Kerry’s Moral Muddle

In the wake of John Kerry’s comments about Israel and the likelihood of it becoming an “apartheid state,” a number of conservative commenters have labeled the Secretary of State and one-time presidential candidate an “anti-Semite.”  Frankly, we doubt it.  Moreover, we believe that the charge is probably unfair, based on these comments alone, at least.  Worse still, it is an unnecessary and unhelpful diversion.  Calling John Kerry – or even his boss – an anti-Semite may make some people feel better or convince them that theirs is a more righteous cause, but it also distracts from the real problem with Kerry’s apartheid remark, namely the political consequences of moral disorder.

Kerry’s comments, which were delivered last week to a private meeting of the Trilateral Commission, suggested two things:  first, that the onus for achieving a durable peace in the Middle East is on Israel; and second, that the failure to do so would relegate the Jewish state to rogue-racist status, an ignominious distinction heretofore applied to only one state in the post-war era.  And in both cases, his suggestion is patently absurd.

With respect to Kerry’s first claim, it is worth remembering how he had come to find himself before the Trilateral Commission despondent about the collapse of the latest iteration of peace talks.  The Israelis had, only hours before, declared their unwillingness to continue talks, given the very public reconciliation between the two ruling Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.  And with respect to this reconciliation, it is worth remembering that Hamas is an Islamist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and officially designated by Kerry’s own State Department as a terrorist group.

In the case of the second charge, the now-infamous declaration of imminent apartheid-state status, one might be inclined to think that Kerry was simply mistaken.  But it was far worse than that.

Of all the nations in the Middle East, only Israel is a full-fledged functional democracy that both respects the human rights of its residents and treats them all as equals before the law.  Only Israel treats its minority population – in this case the very same Palestinian Arabs whom John Kerry worries will be oppressed – as full members of its civil society.  Arabs in Israel have the right to vote.  Indeed, 12 of the Knesset’s 120 seats are occupied by Arab representatives.  Arabs can serve and have served in the Israeli government.  The only legal distinction between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is the fact that the latter are excused from military service.

By way of comparison, the total number of Jews remaining in all Arab countries is less than 10,000, less than one-half of one-percent of the roughly 1.7 million Arab citizens of Israel.  And the six-plus-decade exodus from those lands, of course, continues apace.  More to the point, any peace settlement that would return the occupied territories to the Arabs would also compel the Jews living in those territories to leave.  As the inimitable Caroline Glick recently put it:

The Palestinians demand that the territory that would comprise their state must be ethnically cleansed of all Jewish presence before they will agree to accept sovereign responsibility for it.

In other words, the future leaders of that state . . . insist that all 650,000 Jews living in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria must be forcibly ejected from their homes. 

In both instances, then, what the American Secretary of State has done with his declaration of frustration with Israel is to flip reality on its head.  Good is evil.  Right is wrong.  True is false.  And inclusive and diverse is “apartheid.”

By any objective assessment of both the conditions extant in the Middle East and the definition of the word “apartheid,” John Kerry’s declaration is worse than a mere mistake.  It is nonsensical, a moral absurdity.  Of course, in the postmodern, emotive milieu of the contemporary Left, such absurdities are unexceptional.  Neither objectivity nor the traditional characterization of moral terms matter much.  All that really matters are social-linguistic constructs and the application of power.

We’re not entirely sure if one would most accurately classify John Kerry’s moral calculus with respect to Israel as postmodern, post-colonial, or merely emotive.  We are sure, however, that he, like much of the contemporary Left, suffers greatly from the moral chaos bequeathed to us all by the Enlightenment project and its obliteration of the West’s traditional moral framework.

In response to criticism of his apartheid comment, this past Monday, Kerry angrily declared that he “will not allow [his] commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone . . .”  We don’t doubt that Kerry believes that he is, in fact, notably “committed” to Israel.  But given his manifest and irrefutable moral confusion, one can be forgiven for wondering precisely how that commitment might be of value to the Israelis – or free people anywhere, for that matter.

John Kerry is likely not an anti-Semite.  Unfortunately, one need not be an anti-Semite or even anti-Zionist to threaten the future of the nation of Israel – and the future of the entire Middle East along with it.