November 2, 2009
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
by Michael RatnerOn Tuesday, November 3, Congress is poised to vote on H.Res.867, which calls on the “President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the `Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora.’ ” The Resolution instructs the Obama Administration to prevent further consideration of the Goldstone Report (as it is informally known) in any international body. For Congress to do so, without a hearing where Judge Goldstone can testify and based upon a Resolution rife with factual errors, makes a mockery of assertions by the United States that fundamental protections of human rights laws law apply equally to all. It leaves the United States, and especially Congress, without a thread of moral authority. This Resolution is a rush to judgment. It is a rush to judgment made on the basis of serious factual errors and mischaracterizations of the Goldstone Report. The Goldstone Report documents in a dispassionate and even-handed manner “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed by all parties prior to, during, and after Israel’s assault on the occupied Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009. The text of the Resolution is directly at odds with the actual mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission and its report. The Resolution asserts that the mandate of the Fact Finding Mission was aimed only at Israeli violations of the laws of war. This is a blatant lie. In a letter to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Judge Goldstone states that the mandate he “demanded and received clearly included rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and as the report makes clear was so interpreted and implemented.” The Resolution claims that the Goldstone Report “repeatedly downplayed or cast doubt upon” allegations of Hamas committing war crimes. In fact, however, it examined Palestinian militants rocket and mortar fire into Israel and concluded that “these attacks constitute indiscriminate attacks upon the civilian population of southern Israel and that where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into a civilian population, they constitute a deliberate attack against a civilian population. These acts would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” It is likewise with the spurious claim in the Resolution that the report “denied Israel the right to self-defense.” The Goldstone report examined the conduct of the party’s conduct of the war and not the right of Israel to use military force. As Judge Goldstone said, “Israel’s right to use military force was not questioned.” The United States provides $3 billion for weapons and military equipment every year to Israel. The Goldstone Report concluded that “ grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention were committed by Israeli forces in Gaza: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. ” In these circumstances the United States has a special responsibility to insure that serious investigations are undertaken of the use of the weapons it supplies. Congress should not be blocking such an investigation.