U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has drawn criticism for using the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions to illustrate a point he was trying to make about the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. A U.S. State Department official, meanwhile, has told JNS.org that Kerry “was not comparing the two events.”
Kerry, asked at a press conference in Istanbul on Sunday about a report that Turkey is “placing a base outside of Ankara to give them the capability to reach Iran if need be,” declined comment on that report and instead spoke on what he described as the importance of “moving to full diplomatic relations between [Turkey and Israel], which would be beneficial to everybody.”
“I think Turkey is working in very good faith to get there,” Kerry said regarding efforts to normalize Turkey-Israel relations following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Mavi Marmara incident. “I know it’s an emotional issue with some people. I particularly say to the families of people who were lost in the incident we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathize with them. And nobody—I mean, I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re very sensitive to that.”
The Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship that sailed to Gaza in May 2010 in an attempt to break Israel’s blockade against Hamas. After militants attacked Israeli soldiers as they boarded, the soldiers fatally shot eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American.
Israel’s Deputy Minister of Defense Danny Danon reacted to Kerry’s comments by telling the Times of Israel, “It is never helpful when a moral equivalency is made confusing terrorists with their victims. As our American friends were made all too aware once again last week, the only way to deal with the evils of terrorism [is] to wage an unrelenting war against its perpetrators wherever they may be.”
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said in a statement, “Secretary Kerry should retract these remarks as soon as possible. It’s unconscionable to compare the loss of life resulting from an act of self-defense to the results of cold-blooded, premeditated murder by terrorists.”
A State Department official, however, said in a statement provided to JNS.org, “In light of the recent events in his hometown of Boston, Secretary Kerry was expressing his own personal connection to the impact of tragedy on a community and was not comparing the two events—only the pain caused by violence. He has long said that both Prime Minister Erdogan and Prime Minister Netanyahu deserve a great of deal credit and he welcomes the restoration of positive relations.”