The initial response of the State Department was to defend Kerry’s warning, with spokeswoman Jen Psaki even going so far as to tweet links from liberal blogs ThinkProgress and Daily Kos referring to current and former Israeli leaders who made similar remarks.
But Psaki’s attempts to quell the outrage were short-lived. Within a day, Kerry put out a statement saying that he will “not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone” and that he wishes he had “chosen a different word to describe my firm belief [in] a two-state solution.” Interestingly, he reiterated Psaki’s point that a whole host of Israeli leaders have made the same warning he did but said apartheid is “a word best left out of the debate here at home.”
Therein lies the puzzle: American politicians are fearful of using the same terms that are used by their Israeli counterparts out of the caution not to offend an American pro-Israel lobby that demands more fealty to the Israeli government than Israelis have themselves.
To understand the reasons behind — and the potential implications of — this absurd double standard, it’s useful to review the fierce debate the comparison sparked in the past.