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.