Today has not been a good day for false slanders. First off, Bill Kristol was taken to task for his libel of the Occupy Movement.
Now former South African anti-Apartheid activist, Judge, and UN Commission leader Richard Goldstone has weighed in forcefully on the use of the term "Apartheid" in reference to the situation in Israel. As many of us have maintained, the venerable South African exposes that bit of extremist rhetoric as incorrect and detrimental to the cause of peace.
The fact that Goldstone felt the need to go to the New York Times with an Op-Ed says a lot about how important this is. The spread of extremist and incorrect rhetoric in regard to the I/P situation hardens viewpoints and is undermining chances for a peace and settlement.
Israel has been accused, in circles ranging from the street to academia - and of course daily in this forum - of being like Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa. The first of those accusation is transparently ridiculous given the lack of a fascist government or a genocide, among many other reasons, and has wisely been ruled off limits by this site's moderators. But what of the later?
Enter Goldstone, someone who knows a thing or three about Apartheid. Goldstone was born and raised in South Africa, and was an anti-Apartheid activist since his student days. As a judge in South Africa he was instrumental in striking down or limiting Apartheid laws near the end of the old regime, and chaired the Goldstone Commission which helped investigate political violence and bring about the transition to multi-racial democracy..
Goldstone also knows a thing or three about Israel and Palestine, having chaired the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.
So what does Goldstone have to say about the Apartheid charge in reference to Israel?
It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.
Goldstone puts it plainly
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.
As someone who does see nuance in the situation, Goldstone is not a knee-jerk Israel apologist:
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.
And, speaking of nuance, Goldstone does something that I have never seen those that do direct the Apartheid charge at Israel do, which is to not obscure the difference between what happens in Israel proper, and what happens in the West Bank under a military occupation
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.
Obviously, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank does result in terrible social inequalities. But as Goldstone makes clear, as tragic and unjust as those may be, the situation is fundamentally different from the legal and practical situation in Apartheid-era South Africa.
On the later point, a nuanced and intelligent criticism of Goldstone's conclusions is available here.
In any case, the case against the applicability of the Apartheid smear within Israel proper is airtight, and I have never known those that use it to make any distinction between Israel proper and the West Bank. The bottom line is this:
Here we have someone who is both an expert on South African Apartheid and the I/P conflict telling us that the 'Apartheid' smear is wrong, and, in addition to being simply incorrect, it is inflammatory and detrimental to the cause of peace:
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.
And on that last point, I would like to address those that constantly feel the need to use extremist rhetoric in regard to Israel: By employing extremist and ridiculous rhetoric, you are not helping the cause of peace, and not helping the Palestinian people in their national aspirations. You are sowing further discord and strife.
We see this extremist rhetoric with the ongoing embrace of inaccurate Nazi and Apartheid comparisons, and also the continuing embrace of the bizarre Khazar hoax and similar variants that seek to deny Jewish peoplehood. The later has reared its head yet again today (no, I am not going to link to it, but you can find it easily enough).
Today I have been accused of "supporting Apartheid", which is an odd charge to level at someone who supports a two state resolution along the '67 borders. But it is, sadly, par for the course. Like I said, it is time for you to dial the extremism back, and no less an authority than Richard Goldstone agrees with me on that.
Crossposted at The Progressive Zionist.