JERUSALEM (JTA) — Saying that Israel practices apartheid policies is "unfair and inaccurate slander," Richard Goldstone wrote in an Op-Ed for The New York Times.
The use of apartheid to describe Israel is "calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations," Goldstone, who led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza war of 2008-09, wrote in a piece that was published Tuesday.
"It is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it," he wrote.
The Goldstone Report to the United Nations on the Gaza conflict accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanities — charges against Israel that Goldstone withdrew in an April 2 Op-Ed in the Washington Post. The report was never retracted.
Goldstone pointed out that it is important to distinguish between Israel and the West Bank in discussing the apartheid accusation. He said there is no apartheid in Israel proper, pointing out that Israeli Arabs vote, serve as lawmakers and receive equal treatment in the hospital, for example.
Separation between Jews and Arabs is often chosen by the communities themselves or is discrimination, he said, but not apartheid.
Goldstone called the situation in the West Bank "more complex." He said the security fence and roadblocks are measures necessary for self-defense.
"Of course, the Palestinian people have national aspirations and human rights that all must respect," he wrote. "But those who conflate the situations in Israel and the West Bank and liken both to the old South Africa do a disservice to all who hope for justice and peace."