Goldstone: Israel and the Apartheid Slander

Of course this testimony won’t affect the bashers who care not for facts. If only Goldstone had taken his present advice when he authored his Report and said Israel was guilty of war crimes. Ted Belman


THE Palestinian Authority’s request for full United Nations membership has put hope for any two-state solution under increasing pressure. The need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians has never been greater. So it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.

I know all too well the cruelty of South Africa’s abhorrent apartheid system, under which human beings characterized as black had no rights to vote, hold political office, use “white” toilets or beaches, marry whites, live in whites-only areas or even be there without a “pass.” Blacks critically injured in car accidents were left to bleed to death if there was no “black” ambulance to rush them to a “black” hospital. “White” hospitals were prohibited from saving their lives.

In assessing the accusation that Israel pursues apartheid policies, which are by definition primarily about race or ethnicity, it is important first to distinguish between the situations in Israel, where Arabs are citizens, and in West Bank areas that remain under Israeli control in the absence of a peace agreement.

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

To be sure, there is more de facto separation between Jewish and Arab populations than Israelis should accept. Much of it is chosen by the communities themselves. Some results from discrimination. But it is not apartheid, which consciously enshrines separation as an ideal. In Israel, equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court.

The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.

But until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel’s citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defense, even as Palestinians feel oppressed. As things stand, attacks from one side are met by counterattacks from the other. And the deep disputes, claims and counterclaims are only hardened when the offensive analogy of “apartheid” is invoked.

Those seeking to promote the myth of Israeli apartheid often point to clashes between heavily armed Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank, or the building of what they call an “apartheid wall” and disparate treatment on West Bank roads. While such images may appear to invite a superficial comparison, it is disingenuous to use them to distort the reality. The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks; while it has inflicted great hardship in places, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the state in many cases to reroute it to minimize unreasonable hardship. Road restrictions get more intrusive after violent attacks and are ameliorated when the threat is reduced.

Of course, the Palestinian people have national aspirations and human rights that all must respect. But those who conflate the situations in Israel and the West Bank and liken both to the old South Africa do a disservice to all who hope for justice and peace.

Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the West Bank cannot be simplified to a narrative of Jewish discrimination. There is hostility and suspicion on both sides. Israel, unique among democracies, has been in a state of war with many of its neighbors who refuse to accept its existence. Even some Israeli Arabs, because they are citizens of Israel, have at times come under suspicion from other Arabs as a result of that longstanding enmity.

The mutual recognition and protection of the human dignity of all people is indispensable to bringing an end to hatred and anger. The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.

Richard J. Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court, led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-9.

November 1, 2011 | 6 Comments »

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6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. The Kapo Goldstone continues to try to exorcise his demons and redeem himself.

    How can we assess the damage Goldstone has done to Israel? How can we quantify the empowerment he has given to Islamists bent on Israel’s destruction?

    Get lost, Kapo.


    There is a price to pay for your lies.
    PAY IT with dignity, at least.

  2. Why does everyone avoid saying the truth. It is the Arab side that is Apartheid. No Jews can live in any Muslim country in the Middle East and in North Africa.

  3. Ted – you should read this a little more carefully. The first paragraph is extremely important, and naturally leads to the second. The first paragraph (and your reaction to it if you did actually read it carefully) has resulted in the election of people such as Obama, as well being the foundation (such as it is) of the entire politically correct infrastructure of the West. Why so? Because it’s fundamentally realistic… and that really hurts.

  4. You’ve lost your rocker. In what makes Apartheid distinctive there are no similarities. Goldstone distinguishes between Israel and J&S. You don’t. You really have lost it. I should have bottewd this remark but I wanted everyone to see how off base your are. I suggest you recant and soon.

  5. I will take a chance that I won’t be spambotted, and write:

    First of all, I don’t consider Apartheid to be a “crime”. It was an experiment by the White minority in South Africa, for their advanced civilization to live side-by-side with more primitive people. It did not create inequality; it merely tried to deal with inequalities which already existed, hopefully to the advantage of all parties. It collapsed, because the Africans wanted to live like white people: They were not innately primitive, as the Whites had presumed. That was not a crime.

    That said, Goldstone was correct in saying that Israeli society does not manifest inequalities the same as in South Africa; therefore, it is improper to describe the situation there as “Apartheid”. However, this is not to say that there aren’t similarities. The greatest similarity is that in Israel, as in South Africa, two populations with two fundamentally different worldviews and lifestyles are living side-by-side; and there is a need to come to some sort of accomodation. The world’s solution, is to assume that the Arabs are identical to the Jews and therefore must receive equal treatment. The sad reality is that, unlike the South African Blacks, many of whom WANTED to live like White people, Israeli Arabs, for the most part, WANT to live differently from Jews: They want their own flag, their own anthem, their own language, their own religion and their own customs. The same can be said for many in the Jewish majority. That makes the notion of accomodation problematic at the least.