In The New York Times today, Richard Goldstone calls the apartheid terminology a slander, Israel and the Apartheid Slander:
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.
Much as he recanted his report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza, Goldstone’s op-ed is a good first step but does not go far enough.
For starters, Goldstone does not point out that the conflict in Israel is not racial, it is religious. Jews in Israel are multi-racial, with approximately half the Jewish population being refugees or descendants of refugees from Arab countries; this is the great untold story of the conflict, that as many Jews fled Arab lands in the wake of the Israel War of Independence as non-Jewish Arabs fled what now is Israel. Israel also is home to black Ethiopian Jews who were rescued in Operation Solomon. Israel’s Jewish population is the most racially diverse in the world.
More important, Goldstone does not compare ethnic and religious practices in Israel to those in the Arab Muslim world which is being depopulated of Christians and other non-Muslims, and where discrimination frequently is written into the law of the country. Indeed, many of the countries which attend various “Israel Apartheid” conferences themselves engage in ethnic and religious cleansing, and openly practice religious supremacy.
So there is Apartheid in the Middle East, if that term is meant to signify institutionalized racial and religious discrimination. Goldstone was right to defend Israel, but also should have called out the hypocrites.