Richard Goldstone

New York - Former South African jurist Richard Goldstone has courted new controversy in an apparent attempt to make amends with his critics in Israel when he dismissed as “an enduring canard” claims that Israel practices “apartheid” against Palestinians.

“It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel,” Goldstone wrote in an opinion article appearing today in Independent Newspapers.

It is designed to “isolate, demonize and delegitimize” Israel, he said.

Goldstone said Arabs Israeli citizens had full political rights and Palestinians under occupation, while mistreated, were not subject to apartheid because Israel has agreed to negotiate for a Palestinian state.

The former South African Constitutional Court judge angered Israel's establishment and many citizens by signing off on a 2009 UN report on the Israeli military assault on Gaza. The report said “some of the actions of the Government of Israel might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed.”

Anger over the so-called Goldstone Report was so intense among Israel's supporters that the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) reached an agreement with Goldstone's family to bar him from attending his own grandson's Bar Mitzvah last year in Johannesburg.

In April this year, Goldstone disavowed the conclusions of his report in an opinion article in the Washington Post, though his three panel members did not. Goldstone’s rejection of alleged apartheid in Israel was first published on Monday in the New York Times.

It has invited a hail of criticism. “Goldstone is a total hypocrite and coward,” said Francis Boyle, an American international law expert, who was a close adviser of Yassir Arafat and advises current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Goldstone's repudiation of his own report named after him for Israel's international crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza proves” how useful to Israel “he really is,” he said.

Boyle contends Israel is violating article 2 of the 1973 Apartheid Convention by committing “inhuman acts” for the “purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group … over any other racial group … and systematically oppressing them.”

This is achieved, he said, through murder, torture, arbitrary arrest, “deliberate imposition on a racial group of living conditions calculated to cause its physical destruction” (such as in Gaza); and legislative measures that discriminate politically, economically and culturally as well as “divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate residential areas for racial groups.”

Goldstone's remarks also conflict with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who after a 2002 visit to Israel said he saw apartheid that “reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

John Dugard, a South African professor of international law and former judge on the International Court of Justice, wrote in an article published Tuesday in the Middle East Monitor, that “in practice … there is little difference” between South African and Israeli apartheid.

“Both regimes were/are ?characterised by discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation,” he said. “The main difference is that the apartheid regime was more honest; apartheid ?laws were legislated openly in Parliament and were clear for all to see, ?whereas the laws governing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are contained largely in obscure military decrees and inherited emergency regulations that are virtually inaccessible.”

Even the leading American Jewish press was sceptical of Goldstone's latest views.

Writing in the Forward, columnist Gal Beckerman said that while “apartheid” might not be exactly accurate, Goldstone never mentioned Israeli settlements in his opinion piece. He ignores “completely the settlement archipelago and the preferential Jewish roads that connect them; he ignores the daily experience of occupation that Palestinians encounter at checkpoints while Jewish cars zoom past; he ignores the fact that in the West Bank there is water reserved exclusively for Jewish settlers.” - Independent Foreign Service