The judge who presided over the inquiry into Operation Cast Lead but then retracted part of his findings has criticised those who accuse Israel of being an apartheid state.
South African judge Richard Goldstone said that the claim that Israel pursued "apartheid" policies was a "particularly pernicious and enduring canard" and one that, when employed, did "a disservice to all who hope for justice and peace".
He said it was important to separate "legitimate criticism of Israel" from assaults that aimed to "isolate, demonise and delegitimise it".
In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Judge Goldstone said he "knew all too well" what an apartheid system was and described it as "an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations".
He said there was no apartheid system in Israel, nor anything that came close, highlighting the fact that while black South Africans were denied rights to vote, marry whites or even use public toilets, no such separation existed in Israel.
Although he said there was more separation between the Jewish and Arab populations than Israelis should accept, he added: "In Israel, equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court."
He also noted that Israel had agreed "in concept" to a Palestinian state incorporating Gaza and much of the West Bank, and said that it was it was disingenuous to use things like Israel's security wall – "built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks," he said - to distort the reality.
Judge Goldstone concluded that Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the West Bank could "not be simplified to a narrative of Jewish discrimination".
He said: "The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony."
In April the judge told the Washington Post that with the benefit of hindsight "the Goldstone Report would have been a different document" and retracted key conclusions including that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians. The initial report had been hugely controversial in Israel and had been described as a "blood libel" against Israel by President Shimon Peres.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said Judge Goldstone's comments this week represented "a powerful condemnation of the exploitation of the bitter experience of the victims of South African apartheid for use in immoral attacks against Israel."