A recently leaked audio recording of US secretary of state John Kerry reveals him saying that “Israel could become an apartheid state.” For anyone familiar with global politics or the ongoing crimes of Israel, his statement sounds quite confusing.
In Israel, where Palestinians are barred from traveling on roads, soldiers routinely terrorize Palestinian families, and illegal settlements are constantly expanding, an apartheid state by any basic measure of human rights, already exists. The Israeli crimes are well documented, and the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people in their own land has been loudly condemned for decades.
The question is, what did John Kerry mean when he said Israel “could become an apartheid state?”
The term “apartheid” was first used to describe the society which existed in South Africa prior to 1991. The term was not originally a derogatory one, but like the term “Jim Crow” in the US south, was the common terminology for the system that existed.
In apartheid South Africa, dark skinned Africans were treated as sub-humans. They were barred from using most public facilities. The government routinely attacked, tortured, and murdered them. They worked for extremely low wages, and had no rights in comparison the white settlers.
The United States government, as well as Israel, supported the South African apartheid regime. Weapons, funding, and other forms of aid were provided to the apartheid regime as it repressed, exploited, and terrorized the African people.
The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement
Much like the Palestinian people, the African people fought back. Like the Palestinians, they refused to be reduced to sub-humans within their own land, by European settlers. As the African people fought back, they were supported by the Soviet Union.
Vladimir Shubin, a former Soviet official, documents in his book “The Hot Cold War: The USSR in Southern Africa”, the important role that USSR played in strengthening the fight for freedom. As soviet weapons and soviet military advisors came to aid the South Africans, the United States and its allies in the western world were forced to defend the apartheid regime.
It became a source of extreme embarrassment for the United States. Propaganda from western media often spoke of “Soviet Tyranny” and an “Evil Empire.” The fact that the US was backing up and strengthening the apartheid regime made such words easily exposed as hypocrisy.
Furthermore, the fact that ranks of the freedom struggle in South Africa were almost exclusively dominated by Communists, poked another hole in the narrative of the US being the “champion of freedom” as opposed to “totalitarian communists.” The narrative of the US state department could not be easily reconciled with that fact that the African National Congress (ANC) was led by the South African Communist Party.
A global campaign exposing South Africa was waged. The campaign began with Communists, but soon expanded into a general mass movement. Students occupied buildings demanding that their colleges divest from South Africa. Dock workers in San Francisco refused to unload South African ships. At many huge rallies in the US and Europe, streets filled with Black nationalists, trade unionists, muslims, and numerous others who condemned the apartheid regime, and the US government that supported it. When the apartheid regime invaded Angola, Cuba sent its soldiers to Angola to drive out the invaders.
While the US supported the white settler regime, the public sentiment of the world’s population was with the Black Africans who opposed it. Many people all over the world viewed the Soviet Union and Cuba as the true champions of freedom and democracy, and the US as the “evil empire.”
In response to these rising sentiment, the US government was forced to back away from the South African regime. Beginning first with the liberals, but soon spreading to even right-wing conservatives, US officials began to condemn the apartheid state. The US government, which had once declared the African National Congress to be a terrorist organization, soon found itself speaking more and more critically of the white power structure in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, and soon the apartheid system collapsed.
Support for the apartheid regime had become a liability for the United States. In order to preserve its image, and prevent further unrest, US policy was changed. The US, who had armed, backed, and facilitated the apartheid state, was forced to allow it to fall, and distance itself from its ally.
What John Kerry Means by “Apartheid”
South Africa is still a country with much suffering. Poverty persists among the African people, and though the Communist Party is extremely powerful, property relations remain basically unchanged. However, the humiliating system of enforced segregation, and the lack of basic human rights for Africans, has been eliminated.
Mandela had once been called a terrorist, but when he died, Obama did not send a drone to kill those at his funeral. Rather, US President Barack Obama attended the ceremony. During the aftermath of the death of Mandela, US media did its best to dance around historical reality, and to pretend that the US had always opposed apartheid. The effort of the US officials is no longer to defend the crimes of South Africa’s former racist leaders, but rather to conceal their ugly record of support for them.
When John Kerry says he fears the Israel could “become an apartheid state”, he is saying he fears that the US may be forced to do to Israel what it did to South Africa. Israel could soon become to much of a liability for the United States. The United States may not be able to maintain its reputation internationally, while supporting Israel’s crimes, as they intensify.
The latest string of horrific atrocities by the Israeli settlers and the army troops would cause even the most hate filled peoples to cringe. While the US seeks to win a public relations battle with its rising global competitors, the crimes of Israel are an ongoing exposure of their hypocrisy.
The US currently demonizes and attacks the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic, two countries that have a record of supporting the Palestinian liberation struggle. The US props up Israel’s disgusting crimes, while claiming to attack regimes it dislikes because of a concern about “human rights.”
The mass mobilizations of people all over the world who oppose Israel, and the mass exposure of Israel crimes in the world could potentially change the US relationship with Israel. US officials may be forced to begin condemning “Israeli Apartheid”, as former US President Jimmy Carter already has. While Israel has served as an effective outpost of european power in the Middle East, world public opinion may force a strategic retreat.
The US government which currently coddles and funds Israel with billions of dollars, may be forced to pretend it has “always opposed” subhuman zionist atrocities. Such a situation, where the US would be forced to condemn an apartheid state, would be a setback for Wall Street and Washington in their struggle to control global markets.
This is what John Kerry fears.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.