Goldstone helped end apartheid; Israel helped prop it up

US Politics
on 20 Comments

Lately Israel lobbyists (including Jeff Goldberg with gusto and, more queasily, Jonathan Chait) have been attacking Richard Goldstone because he was a judge in Apartheid South Africa, responsible for many death sentences. At Foreign Policy, here is Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of a new book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, on Israel’s close friendship with Apartheid South Africa, pointing out the hypocrisy of this line of attack, which by the way is aimed at one thing, justifying the killing of hundreds of civilians in Gaza as all in a day’s work:

Goldstone’s apartheid-era judicial rulings are undoubtedly a blot on his record, but his critics never mention the crucial part he played in shepherding South Africa through its democratic transition and warding off violent threats to a peaceful transfer of power-a role that led Nelson Mandela to embrace him and appoint him to the country’s highest court.

More importantly, Ayalon’s and [Reuben] Rivlin’s moralism conveniently ignores Israel’s history of arming the apartheid regime from the mid-1970s until the early 1990s. By serving as South Africa’s primary and most reliable arms supplier during a period of violent internal repression and external aggression, Israel’s government did far more to aid the apartheid regime than Goldstone ever did…

[Netanyahu] categorically denied Israel’s extensive military and trade ties with South Africa, calling charges of lucrative arms sales "flat nonsense" and accusing his critics of trying "to defame Israel."

In fact, Israel was profiting handsomely from selling weapons to Pretoria at the time. Writing in The New York Times, Thomas Friedman estimated that the two countries did $400-$800 million of business in the arms sector in 1986. According to declassified South African documents, the figure was likely even greater: a single contract for modernization of South African fighter jets in the mid-1980s amounted to "approximately $2 billion," and total arms sales in 1988-one year after Israel imposed sanctions against the apartheid regime-exceeded $1.5 billion. As the former head of the South African Air Force Jan van Loggerenberg told me bluntly: "Israel was probably our only avenue in the 1980s."

Declassified South African arms procurement figures (which exclude lucrative cooperative ventures and shared financing arrangements) reveal the full extent of Netanyahu’s lie. The "independent IMF figures" he cited (which excluded diamonds and arms) suggested trade was a minuscule $100 million dollars annually. It was actually between five to ten times that amount-depending on the year-making the apartheid regime Israel’s second or third largest trading partner after the United States.

20 Responses

  1. David Samel
    May 10, 2010, 11:24 am

    The close association between Israel and apartheid SA was quite open and apparent at the time. I remember it being the subject of debate in the 1970’s and 1980’s. What exactly is Netanyahu denying? On the other hand, it so thoroughly undermines not just this latest Goldstone attack, but all of the faux outrage at Jimmy Carter and others for daring to associate Israel with apartheid, that denial seems like the most prudent course.

  2. Leper Colonialist
    May 10, 2010, 11:31 am

    Dare we pose the question?: if apartheid was so terrible, why was Israel so supportive of South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s?

    If Goldstone’s role was so terrible, how is it that Israel, as the self-appointed Light Unto The Nations, at no point ever sought to criticize Goldstone? Until now that is?

    Nope, once again we are witnessing the re-writing of history to jibe with the needs of Israel’s exegency du jour.

    Tomorrow is another day, as Miss O’Hara famoulsy observed; Allah only knows what it will bring by way of Israel’s needs to procliam the peace is war, truth is falsehood, black is white, etc…

    • DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells
      May 10, 2010, 3:54 pm

      As you suggest, this only makes his report more damning, it’s evidence that Goldstone is the hardline Zionist he claimed to be, that ordinarily he’d march in lockstep with Israel, however in this instance, just as Rosalyn Higgins before him, the evidence was so irrefutable that Goldstone had no choice but to tell the truth.

  3. eljay
    May 10, 2010, 11:47 am

    >> [Netanyahu] categorically denied Israel’s extensive military and trade ties with South Africa … accusing his critics of trying “to defame Israel.”

    Huh. And all this time I thought the correct term was “to bludgeon Israel”… ;-)

  4. Shmuel
    May 10, 2010, 11:52 am

    which by the way is aimed at one thing, justifying the killing of hundreds of civilians in Gaza as all in a day’s work:

    That says it all.

  5. Leper Colonialist
    May 10, 2010, 12:11 pm

    Dare we ask if apartheid was so terrible, why did Israel alelgedly engage in the following:

    ” And Israel has proliferated. It provided technical assistance and more to the apartheid regime of South Africa that resulted in the construction of six nuclear warheads that could be dropped by bomber on South Africa’s many regional antagonists. It was alleged but never officially confirmed that the Israeli government had also agreed to supply six specially fitted ballistic missiles to carry the warheads, and that South Africa’s sole nuclear test was a joint South African/Israeli affair. (5) ”

    link to counterpunch.org

    You’d think a country as disreptuable and parish-like as South Africa under the apartheid regime would be kept at multiple arms-length by The Light Unto The Nations, so as to further burnish it’s light-shedding credibilty.

    Well, if you guessed that way, you’d be guessing incorretly it seems.

    • eee
      May 10, 2010, 12:26 pm

      If this is true, why hasn’t the ANC post-apartheid government ever confirmed this? De Clerk took the bombs back to his farm with him when he left? Or does the current SA government hold nuclear weapons? What happened to the bombs?

      • eljay
        May 10, 2010, 1:00 pm

        >> If this is true … [w]hat happened to the bombs?

        This, it seems, is what happened to the bombs:
        (link to en.wikipedia.org )
        All the bombs (six constructed and one under construction) were destroyed and South Africa acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty when South African Ambassador to the United States Harry Schwarz signed the treaty in 1991. On 19 August 1994, after completing its inspection, the IAEA confirmed that one partially-completed and six fully-completed nuclear weapons had been dismantled.

  6. Leper Colonialist
    May 10, 2010, 12:57 pm

    C’mon, hasbara-boy, you’ll have to give this one up.

    Just Google “South Africa nad the repudiation of nuclear weapons” or anything similarly-worded, and you’ll get a bunch of stuff to enlighten you.

    Even something as lame as Wikipedia:

    ” From the 1960s to the 1980s, South Africa pursued research into weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Six nuclear weapons were assembled[1]. With the anticipated changeover to a majority-elected government in the 1990s, the South African government dismantled all of its nuclear weapons, the first nation in the world which voluntarily gave up nuclear arms it had developed itself. ”

    ” The country has been a signatory of the Biological Weapons Convention since 1975, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1991, and the Chemical Weapons Convention since 1995.”

    Hey, why not make lemonade out of lemons? Spin it as just anopther example of that great Israeli genius which has made the desert bloom, made Israel the high-tech entrepot of the Near East, produced a scad of Nobel Prize laureates, etc…

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    • eee
      May 10, 2010, 2:41 pm

      I read the article. There is absolutely no proof that Israel helped SA create these bombs. There are only allegations.

      • Shingo
        May 10, 2010, 4:05 pm

        “There are only allegations. “‘

        Whatever you say eee,

        Brothers in arms – Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria
        “During the second world war the future South African prime minister John Vorster was interned as a Nazi sympathiser. Three decades later he was being feted in Jerusalem. In the second part of his remarkable special report, Chris McGreal investigates the clandestine alliance between Israel and the apartheid regime, cemented with the ultimate gift of friendship – A-bomb technology”

        link to guardian.co.uk

      • eljay
        May 10, 2010, 4:12 pm

        >> There is absolutely no proof that Israel helped SA create these bombs. There are only allegations.

        The proof is at least as sound as the “proof” that Iran is an existential threat to Israel and the rest of the planet…but it’s obvious that only one of the two scenarios involves Israel being the bad guy.

      • David Samel
        May 10, 2010, 6:28 pm

        Yes, and there’s also no proof, only allegations, that the Mossad carried out the Dubai hit. But eee, what is your position on Israel’s close relationship with apartheid SA? That is quite a matter of public record. If you don’t want to talk nukes, fine. But what of the rest of it? IMO, Israel found kinship with SA, in that both were governed by Euro transplants who were coping with the difficulties of ruling over the darker-skinned natives. In any event, dredging up Goldstone’s judicial career under apartheid necessarily dredges up Israel’s contemporaneous cooperation with a regime shunned by most of the world.

      • David Samel
        May 10, 2010, 6:30 pm

        I meant that part about Dubai sarcastically. I’m a little prone to being misinterpreted.

      • Donald
        May 10, 2010, 9:34 pm

        “I’m a little prone to being misinterpreted.”

        Only by people who are very good at it.

  7. stevelaudig
    May 10, 2010, 2:33 pm

    So, if “body counts” are moral arguments the Israelis are responsible for more deaths via the arms trade for profit than Judge Goldstone from the bench. While Judge Goldstone by assisting in the relatively peaceful end of apartheid saved lives that the weapons sold by Israelis to the Afrikaners were designed to take. Advantage Goldstone. This argument will go on for years until finally the Israelis fold unless the final Israeli goal is extermination of the Palestinians. They will have then taken the same route as …. As Martin Van Creveld has said: “if you are strong and you are fighting the weak, then anything you do is criminal.”

  8. Leper Colonialist
    May 10, 2010, 3:04 pm

    Do you really believe that Israel was not involved? Or do you merely wish that israel was not involved? And that Israeli involvement was not a matter of public knowledge/rumor/speculation/allegation?

    Let’s put it another way : of all the countries in the world with a nuclear research capability during the period in question, why is it that none of them, save plucky little Israel, is fingered for assisting with South African nuclear weapons research?

    Please do not ell me anti-Semitism.

  9. NormanF
    May 10, 2010, 6:55 pm

    Israel was no more and no less involved with apartheid South Africa than the Western-ruled countries were. To be sure, the white regime was a problem but its worst aspects could be overlooked to contain a far greater evil – Soviet Communism. When the Evil Empire fell, South Africa’s strategic importance to the West went right along with it.

    Richard Goldstone voluntarily chose to be a servant of the apartheid machine. He didn’t have to. But the Israel-bashing crowd is willing to forgive just about any wrongdoing as long as the guy is own their side. Just keep on changing the subject, folks – and incidentally the Middle East is full of apartheid regimes that have not a single Jew living in them – and on that there is silence.

    • Shingo
      May 10, 2010, 7:22 pm

      “Israel was no more and no less involved with apartheid South Africa than the Western-ruled countries were.”

      Actually that’s false.   Israel were a major trading partner with South Africa and developed nukes alongside South Africa.

      “When the Evil Empire fell, South Africa’s strategic importance to the West went right along with it.”

      And when oil ceases to be a major commodity, Israel will go the way of South Africa.

      “Richard Goldstone voluntarily chose to be a servant of the apartheid machine.”

      False.  Goldstone was a pointed as  a Judge and as such, vowed to enforce the law of the land.

      “Just keep on changing the subject, folks – and incidentally the Middle East is full of apartheid regimes that have not a single Jew living in them – and on that there is silence.”

      Actually it’s the Israeli shilld and porpandiists who changed the subject.  Rather than discuss the Gladstone report, they have changed the subject and mae this about Apertheid South Africa. Teh Muiddle East is also full of regimes that have no Biddists or Hindus.  That’s doesn’t make them apartheid.

      More recently, Istael is supporting war lords from Somalia, and defending the attricities they commuted.

  10. traintosiberia
    May 10, 2010, 9:31 pm

    Denial of any cooperation between Israel and SA ( Apartheid SA) by Israel should raise grave doubt about any Israeli claims of never dealing with Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin ,Idi Amin. Israel has served different fascist states at different times including Nicaragua,Gutamala,El salvador, Iran.It has openly embraced fascist Indian Hindu party BJP.
    Ironically Goldstein was not even handed in offerring his verdict.He blamed both with equal sahre of responsibilty , Hamas, and Israel .Despite his grave attempt to protect Israel from worser scrutiny and verdict , he has been villified.

    Was n’t Bernadotte killed for not following to the letter the Zionist party line !

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