The operative question for the US State Department now appears to be, is there anything left that John Kerry won’t blame on the Jews?
Earlier this year, the Secretary of State famously sat before Congress and blamed Israel for the failure of the peace talks that he pushed so hard for, even though, as was subsequently revealed, it was Kerry’s own miscommunications that doomed the talks from the start. Prior to that, he had implied that if a third intifada started, it would be Israel’s doing. Now it seems that, at a State Department event for the festival of Eid al-Adha on Thursday, Kerry has blamed Israel for the rise of ISIS.
Kerry’s pronouncement calls to mind this satire piece from PreOccupied Territory, titled “Free Will Is Only For White People,” and “attributed” to Kerry’s former right-hand man and Qatar-stooge Martin Indyk:
Since Arabs, as nonwhites, lack free will, the only ethical method of achieving change is to demand concessions from Israel. A society or individual with genuine volition and sense of right and wrong could be held accountable for translating political grievances into the bombings of cafes and buses, but that is not how we, or our European allies, view the Palestinians. They have no choice but to resort to brutality, since that is their nature.
Satire. Except, it’s not. Kerry’s various statements about the peace talks, Palestinian terrorism, or ISIS all remove the agency of the actors involved. The individuals who join ISIS — at least those who are adults and not teenagers — do so of their own accord. They have agency, and they alone are responsible for their own actions. Kerry would never excuse the actions of a rapist on the ground that he had been provoked or led on by his victim. He should never justify the actions of the most depraved terrorists on the ground that they have a political gripe.
Taking this mentality a step further and making the claim that Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians have anything to do with the rise of ISIS requires a logical leap into the absurd. Kerry claimed that “there wasn’t a leader I met with in 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.” Even setting aside the issue of holding individuals to account for their own actions, one still must wonder, why Kerry would take such assertions at face value. ISIS directs its jihad against Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and other Muslims but, somewhat surprisingly, it has not attacked Israel. If Israel were the source of ISIS rage, wouldn’t ISIS have attacked Israel? ISIS’s gripe, however, is with all of western society, not with Israel. And it recruits from Europe and the US, as well as from the Mideast. The suggestion that Israel has caused ISIS makes about as much sense as the suggestion that Israel has caused global warming. There simply is no cause-and-effect relationship.
The State Department’s division of black-is-white-and-day-is-night, in the person of Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, has of course attempted to walk back Kerry’s comments, saying, Kerry “didn’t make a link between growth of ISIL and Israel, period.” But this is not a case of he said, she said, and it is not a case of misplaced context. Kerry’s entire speech is on the State Department website for anyone to see:
As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition, the truth is we – there wasn’t a leader I met with in 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. And people need to understand the connection of that.
That is to say, that in the context of discussions regarding ISIL/ISIS, other Arab leaders raised the issue of the Palestinians, and Kerry feels that people need to understand the connection. To say that this is not an attempt to link ISIS to the Palestinian issue is the most obfuscatory double-speak. For those who have the stomach for it, you can watch the video yourself, embedded below. The relevant comments start at about 11:20. Note the way that Kerry uses hand gestures for extra emphasis when he says “understand the connection.”
Kerry’s scapegoating of Israel has become a dangerous pattern, one that is indicative of a worldview that underlies his behavior and his decisions with respect to the Jewish State. Although Jeff Goldberg wrote persuasively in 2013 that “the past two years have proved the theory of linkage [i.e., the theory that the Mideast would be stable if the Israeli-Palestinian dispute were solved] to be comprehensively false,” Kerry appears unwilling to move on from it and to accept a more reality-based perspective. It is no wonder, then, that his actions in the Mideast have been, to put it kindly, ineffective.
In the same speech, Kerry also spoke about introspection on the Muslim and Jewish holidays. It seems that Kerry would benefit from some introspection of his own. In doing so, he might consider that, had he not been so obsessively focused on Israel and its real or perceived failings, he might have woken up to the ISIS threat sooner. He might also consider his own department’s definition of anti-semitism: “Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the state of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.” Kerry’s scapegoating of Israel for his own failures and for those of others is one of the most traditional forms of anti-Semitism around.