Secretary of State John Kerry chose on October 16th for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha to regurgitate a false theory linking the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with the increase of jihadist violence and recruitment in the Middle East region.
“As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL [also referred to as ISIS or the Islamic State] coalition, the truth is we — there wasn’t a leader I met within the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt – and I see a lot of heads nodding – they had to respond to,” Kerry said. “And people need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity, and Eid celebrates the opposite of all of that.”
After Israeli Economic Minister Naftali Bennett sharply criticized Kerry’s statement, the State Department tried to walk it back, claiming, in the words of Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, that Kerry “did not make a link between the growth of ISIL and Israel, period.”
At best, Harf is telling only a half-truth. While Kerry did not explicitly state that it was his own view there was a link between the growth of ISIS and the failure of the peace talks or Israel, Kerry transmitted the linkage theory he heard from leaders in the region to a receptive audience at the White House. And he did not refute it. In fact, he lent credence to the linkage theory by saying that “people need to understand the connection.”
Kerry once again proved the truth of Mark Twain’s famous quip: “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Indeed, Kerry has helped launch a series of lies against Israel during his term as Secretary of State. Last April, for example, he said that Israel was at risk of becoming “an apartheid state,” if it does not come to terms with the Palestinians.
A competent and honest Secretary of State – neither of which describes John Kerry – would not have repeated the falsehood of linking the failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with the growth of ISIS and other jihadist movements in the first place, unless he intended to set up this straw man argument in order to immediately knock it down. What on earth does ISIS’s systematic massacre of Christians and Yazidis, rapes of women and children, and sexual slavery have to do with Kerry’s failed attempt to continue peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians? Absolutely nothing! But Kerry shamelessly repeated the lie anyway.
As one Israeli commentator observed a few days after Kerry told the Muslims in his audience what they wanted to hear, “Kerry didn’t mention that the astounding Saudi and Qatari assets invested in mosques around the world, including Europe, leads to radicalization. He didn’t come out against Qatar, which has become the primary funder of jihadi organizations. He doesn’t blame the institutionalized anti-Semitic incitement, which is growing in the Muslim world, including by Al-Jazeera.”
Instead, Kerry pandered to his audience. He repeated President Obama’s claim that there is nothing Islamic about the Islamic State, even though ISIS’s atrocities find justification in the Koran and the Hadith (the sayings and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad). Kerry then assured the audience that the sectarian murders occurring regularly within the Muslim community today in the 21st century can be compared with the Thirty Years’ War in 17th century Europe that broke out initially between Protestant and Catholic states. The problem with such specious comparisons is that Muslims, unlike Catholics and Protestants, are still killing each other, as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Yazidis, Zoroastrians and other “infidels,” in massive numbers all over the world.
Hamas is the jihadist branch dedicated, in the words of its charter, to the destruction of the state of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they can be found. Yet Kerry rarely mentions Hamas in his statements regarding the failed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He has not insisted that effective measures be in place first to prevent the rearmament of Hamas as a pre-condition for pouring millions of dollars of new aid the United States is pledging for reconstruction in Gaza, much less the disarmament of Hamas in Gaza.
Kerry’s willingness to turn a blind eye to the real culprit Hamas echoes the attitude of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Gaza recently. During his visit, the Secretary General referred to Israel’s partial defensive blockade of Gaza as a “siege.” He said that lifting the “siege” and “easing movement restrictions” is “one of the most important issues… a basic human right for all the Palestinian people.”
“Siege” is defined in the Oxford Dictionaries as “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling the surrender of those inside.” Israel’s partial blockade of Gaza in response to relentless rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other jihadist groups from civilian centers in Gaza against civilian populations in Israel is anything but a siege. Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally in 2005 and turned over major security responsibilities at the border crossings to the Palestinian Authority. There was no blockade to speak of until Hamas seized power and turned Gaza into a launching pad for attacks against Israel. Even since then, Israel has permitted food and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza as well as construction materials for international projects – the antithesis of a siege.
I approached Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week to ask him whether he would reconsider the use of the term “siege” in describing Israel’s partial blockade. He said he would think about it. In his remarks to the press the next day, Ban did not refer again to an Israeli “siege,” but he continued to castigate Israel for what transpired during the latest Gaza conflict with Hamas. Ban said that while he understood “the security threat from rockets above and tunnels below” that Israel was facing, Israel’s response and resulting “destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality.”
Ban also castigated Israel for shelling UN schools in Gaza, while refusing to acknowledge Israel’s allegation that the UN returned rockets found in UN schools to Hamas.
Where the anti-Israel bias of the Obama administration and the United Nations may converge is a UN Security Council resolution sought by Palestinian President Abbas and sponsored by Jordan, which would set a firm deadline for Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories and end the “occupation.” The precise wording is currently being negotiated behind the scenes. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has recommended that the Palestinian Authority end all security-related cooperation with Israel in the West Bank if the United States ends up vetoing the resolution. The Palestinians would also be likely to join more UN agencies and treaties, as well as the International Criminal Court where they would try to obtain prosecutions against Israeli leaders for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
If France and the United Kingdom decide to support some form of the timetable resolution for Israeli withdrawal the Palestinians are seeking, the Obama administration – given its anti-Israel bias – may well decide ultimately to abstain rather than exercise its veto power. The UK parliament has already gone on record in a symbolic vote as supporting the recognition of a Palestinian state, following the Swedish government’s decision to actually do just that. Other European Union countries may add themselves to the growing list of countries that are going along with this Palestinian state recognition trend, giving the Obama administration some political cover to abstain on the timetable resolution. A vote on the resolution may be postponed until after the U.S. mid-term elections to give the Obama administration some breathing room.
In the meantime, John Kerry is reported to be scrambling to head off a Security Council resolution altogether by trying to put pressure on Israel to return to the negotiating table for direct talks with the Palestinians. He is meeting resistance from both sides. “We’re are not going back to negotiations unless there is some change in the rules to discuss the borders first,” said Fatah Central Committee member Dr. Nabil Shaath. “To continue to negotiate while the Israelis are eating up land is like suicide,” he said.
Kerry’s remarks at the White House Eid al-Adha ceremony, raising concerns among unnamed Middle East leaders regarding the purported linkage of the failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the rise of ISIS, may be his Hail Mary pass to try and shame Israel publicly into returning to the negotiating table and making more concessions. That way, the Palestinians may decide to also resume direct negotiations and postpone seeking action on their proposed Security Council resolution, relieving the Obama administration of having to make a decision on which way to vote. If so, it is another counter-productive move by the Obama administration that will create even more distance with the one true democracy that has traditionally been our closest ally in the Middle East.