Judge Richard Goldstone has done great harm to Israel. The Goldstone Report, as many writers on this website have documented in the past few years, has been used by Israel haters around the world as the main weapon in the campaign to delegitimize Israel. This past April, Goldstone ran an op-ed in the Washington Post that he had submitted to the New York Times but which the paper’s editors turned down. In that piece, Goldstone re-evaluated some of the conclusions he had signed onto when the 2009 report was issued. Readers of that April op-ed could easily see its tentative nature and its rather half-hearted repudiation of the original damage the judge had done.
But this morning, readers of the New York Times were stunned to find a new op-ed by Goldstone, which not only is a personal mea culpa of the most dramatic sort, but one that blasts one of the major arguments regularly engaged in by the hate-Israel Left, especially the reprehensible Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former President Jimmy Carter. Titled “Israel and the Apartheid Slander,” the judge, in effect, also answers the approach regularly taken by the editors of the paper in which his article appears.
Goldstone begins with noting that “it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.” In effect, the judge is referring to his own previous report and those of its many leftist and anti-Semitic defenders. Most surprisingly, the judge, who grew up in South Africa and knows apartheid well, refers to the “particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again,” which “is that Israel pursues ‘apartheid’ policies.” In writing this, he is trying to head off in advance the mock trial taking place next week in Cape Town, held by the ’60s leftover of the far Left, the so-called Russell Tribunal, convened decades ago by the late Bertrand Russell as a mechanism to condemn the United States in the Vietnam War era. As Goldstone writes, “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.”
Most importantly, Goldstone calls the charge that Israel is an apartheid state an “unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel.” First, he tells his readers what apartheid really was in South Africa, and then concludes with the following:
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.
Turning to the West Bank, Goldstone notes that there, too, “there is no intent to maintain ‘an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.’” While South Africa’s apartheid was meant to enforce racial separation to benefit the white minority, 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.”
Moreover, Goldstone adds that since Israel is under threat of attacks from both of those areas, it has to take measures “necessary for self defense.” To deal with the substantive issues that divide both sides by making the claim of apartheid, he argues, muddies the water and makes solving the disputes harder. He then writes:
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.
Finally, Goldstone writes that “Israel, unique among democracies, has been in a state of war with many of its neighbors who refuse to accept its existence.” He concludes with these words, which I highlight in bold:
The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.
One cannot help but speculate on what accounts for this startling change on the part of Judge Goldstone. Perhaps, coming soon after Yom Kippur, the judge took the New Year personally and decided that it was time to personally atone for the sins he had done to Israel. Perhaps the many critiques of his report from writers like Alan M. Dershowitz and Peter Berkowitz, whom Goldstone heard debate on the subject in California, hit home and affected him deeply.
As Tom Gross has noted on his own blog, Goldstone’s op-ed is a direct repudiation as well of so-called human rights groups that spend all of their time criticizing Israel while avoiding any condemnation of Arab violations of human rights, and of groups like Israel’s B’Teselem, whose director Jessica Montell has said that Israel is “worse than apartheid in South Africa.”
So, whatever Goldstone’s personal motivations that moved him to finally tell the truth, and repudiate his own past actions, his op-ed serves to undermine the attempts of those who seek Israel’s destruction, and prevents them from now using Goldstone’s previous report in their continuing efforts. And perhaps as well, the many criticisms by people like those of us at PJ Media have led the editors of the New York Times to finally decide to run such a piece on its editorial pages. The paper that just a few months ago ran an anti-Israel piece by the now thankfully recently departed Muammar Gaddafi, to the ridicule of all of its readers, has itself partially atoned for its sins by this time giving over its space to Judge Richard Goldstone.
Let us be thankful for such victories.