The use of the term “apartheid” to describe Israel is “unfair and inaccurate slander,” wrote Richard Goldstone in an op-ed article for the New York Times that was published on November 1st.
“It is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it,” Goldstone wrote.
The Palestinian propagandists and their supporters will no doubt reject Goldstone’s thesis as the one-sided product of a committed Zionist. However, Goldstone is no stranger to leveling criticisms at Israeli policies. He led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza war of 2008-09 and produced a highly critical report, which bears his name. Although Goldstone later recanted the Goldstone Report’s specific accusations that Israel had intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians and possibly committed war crimes, he has not recanted the Goldstone Report’s sharp criticisms of Israeli military operations.
Goldstone, a South African jurist with first-hand knowledge of South Africa’s pre-1994 apartheid policies, wrote in his op-ed piece that any comparison of those policies to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was an “offensive analogy.”
Goldstone reminded the Times’ readers that under South Africa’s apartheid policy, which was an inherent part of its legal system and harshly enforced, “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.”
By contrast, Goldstone points out, “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.”
Palestinians who live in the so-called “occupied” East Jerusalem see how well their fellow Palestinians are living in Israel proper. According to a poll released earlier this year by Pechter Middle East Polls, in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations, 30% of Arab East Jerusalem residents said that if given a choice they would choose Palestinian citizenship with the rights and privileges of other citizens of Palestine; 35% would choose Israeli citizenship with the rights and privileges of Israelis; and 35% either declined to answer or said they didn’t know. When asked if they would move to a different location inside Israel, if their neighborhood became part of Palestine, 40 percent said they were likely to move to Israel, and 37 percent said they will not move. When asked why they chose one citizenship over the other, those who chose Israeli citizenship emphasized freedom of movement in Israel, higher income, better job opportunities and Israeli health insurance.
When and if the Palestinians do actually achieve an independent state, Palestinian leaders have already signaled that they will conduct their own version of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and force Jews living in the new state to leave.
Goldstone conceded that conditions are tougher for Palestinians living in areas that remain under Israeli control in the absence of a peace agreement. The security wall, road blocks and check points are daily obstacles to a normal life. But contrary to the Palestinian propaganda, which is amplified at the United Nations and by Islamist and left-wing groups on college campuses, there is no apartheid in the West Bank. And Hamas-controlled Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, has since been used by jihadists to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.
Goldstone noted the critical distinction between Israeli measures that have impinged on Palestinian life in the West Bank as well as Gaza, which are designed to defend Israeli citizens from jihadist terrorist attacks, and South Africa’s apartheid policies which were intended to permanently subjugate the black population:
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.
The security wall, for example, was built only after a succession of suicide bombing attacks that increased significantly during the Second Intifada.
Where does the primary responsibility for the Palestinians’ plight lie? Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas finally conceded – 64 years later – that the Arab world made a mistake in rejecting the United Nations’ 1947 partition plan that would have created two states, one of which would have belonged to the Palestinians. “It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole,” he admitted on Israeli TV. But then he lapsed into the customary Palestinian victimhood narrative when he asked: “But do they [the Israelis] punish us for this mistake for 64 years?”
The answer to Abbas’s question is that the Palestinians have punished themselves with help from Arab nations such as Jordan.
For the first twenty years after the UN partition resolution rejected by the Palestinians, the West Bank and Gaza were controlled by Jordan (a majority Palestinian state) and Egypt respectively. Israel had no military presence in either territory. There were no Israeli checkpoints or security walls. There was no settlements issue because there were no Israeli settlements. Yet during those twenty years, the Palestinians made no concerted effort to establish their own state in the West Bank and Gaza. They continued to rely on their Arab neighbors’ promise of help to drive the Jews into the sea.
At the outbreak of the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli appealed to Jordan to stay out of the conflict, in return for which Israel would not enter the territories under Jordanian control. In other words, if Jordan had heeded Israel’s plea, the West Bank and even the part of Jerusalem which Jordan illegally occupied would not have come into Israeli hands. The Palestinians would still have been able to establish their independent state if Jordan had been willing to give them the land. Instead, Jordan attacked Israel and lost control of the West Bank and the eastern sector of Jerusalem.
Let’s not forget that Jordan itself is a Palestinian majority state, but ruled by the Hashemite minority.
King Hussein, quoted in An-Hahar, Beirut, said on August 24, 1972: “We consider it necessary to clarify to one and all, in the Arab world and outside, that the Palestinian people with its nobility and conscience is to be found here on the East Bank (of the Jordan River), The West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its overwhelming majority is here and nowhere else.”
Yet Jordan, which is host to the largest population of Palestinian refugees, has not integrated the refugees within Jordan or on the West Bank into its Palestinian majority society as full-fledged citizens. And then there was the armed confrontation between the Jordanian regime and the PLO in 1970⁄71, which ended very badly for the PLO. In essence, the Jordanian minority party rulers created their own apartheid conditions against the Palestinian majority.
Nevertheless, Jordanian Queen Noor, the fourth wife of the late King Hussein, without showing a shred of concern about the Jordanian role in helping to cause the suffering of the Palestinian refugees in Jordan itself and the West Bank, placed all the blame on the Israelis during a speech she delivered in New York to UN correspondents on November 2nd.
Since the 1967 Six-Day War, the Palestinians have muffed repeated chances for peace with Israel and for the establishment of their own state. In 2000, for example, Israel offered the Palestinians a contiguous state in 97% of the territory of the West Bank as well as Gaza. Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan said, “If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won’t be a tragedy, it will be a crime.” Yassir Arafat rejected Israeli’s offer, which former President Bill Clinton said was a “colossal historical blunder.”
Abbas is continuing the blunders, avoiding real negotiations with Israel altogether in favor of a theatrical end-run at the United Nations. He adamantly refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, even though a Jewish state was specifically envisioned in the UN partition plan that he now wishes the Palestinians had accepted in 1947.
In sum, Richard Goldstone’s op-ed piece hit the nail on the head. Israel is certainly not perfect, but the Israelis are a good people who want to live in peace with their neighbors. Self-defense against jihadists who are determined to liquidate the Jewish state is not apartheid. To say that it is, in an effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist, is slander.