Posted on November 18, 2009 in Washington Watch
Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN)
I rise today to urge my colleagues to oppose H. Res. 867, a resolution that condemns the Goldstone Report regarding the conflict in Gaza. This resolution should be opposed because it suppresses inquiry, inquiry that is the hallmark of democratic societies.
The resolution contains factual errors and undermines Israel’s ability to conduct its own investigation. The resolution goes against President Obama’s foreign policy direction. I ask my colleagues to review the facts about the Goldstone Report’s integrity and the content of his report.
First, what is there to fear about Judge Goldstone? Judge Goldstone has a stellar reputation. He is famous for apprehending Nazi criminals in Argentina and for serving as a chief prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals. He is a self-described Zionist. He serves as a trustee at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Judge Goldstone has said that bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, the debate about the Goldstone Report has been diverted by serious problems with the original U.N. resolution called for in the report. I agree that the first U.N. resolution calling for an investigation of the Gaza war was one-sided and focused unfairly on Israel. Let me repeat: I agree that the original U.N. resolution was unfair. But Judge Goldstone pushed back. He succeeded in expanding the scope of the mission to include an examination of actions of both Hamas and Israel.
So what does the Goldstone Report really say? Four sections of the report deal with abuses by Hamas, including the launching of rockets into civilian towns in Israel. The report explicitly states these rocket attacks are war crimes. The report recounts actions by Israel in Operation Cast Lead that harmed the civilian population in Gaza.
I repeat the point I started with. The word ``inquiry’‘ is an essential hallmark of democracy, and Israel is strong enough to withstand an investigation of its actions in the Gaza war. Hamas should investigate its actions as well and be held to account.
What if Israel would have participated in the review from the beginning? It could have pointed out that the United Nations Humans Rights Council has a history of unfairly singling Israel out for criticism. It could have pointed out the consequences of the Hamas rocket attacks.
Let’s consider the following question: Why are we going to pass a resolution without holding a single hearing? Why is the House voting for a resolution which condemns a report that few Members have fully read?
House Members should know that Israeli leaders, like Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, a Likud party member, and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau have called for Israel to conduct its own investigation.
I urge Members to oppose this resolution because it will undermine President Obama’s commitment that all countries, including our own and our allies, should be accountable for their actions. This resolution complicates the President’s current Middle East initiative.
I conclude with a letter written by Israeli human rights groups who oppose the resolution. ``We are concerned that H. Res. 867 may derail the momentum towards an Israeli investigation. Resolution 867 contains factual inaccuracies, both about the Goldstone Report and the measures taken by Israel to date, that must not guide choices by policymakers. We urge interested parties and Members of the House to show their support for the internal democratic conversation taking place in Israel today and to call on Israel to demonstrate that it can ensure genuine accountability at home.’‘
When nations like the United States, Israel, South Africa, and others have pursued truthful investigation, however uncomfortable, their people have emerged stronger. The House of Representatives is poised to condemn the Goldstone Report today because the report says that both parties to the conflict engaged in possible violations of international law. What is the logic of the action? How does it advance the cause of peace in the Middle East?
I urge my colleagues to look closely at the Goldstone Report, which is right here on this table, and what actions truly advance the cause of peace.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)
I rise in opposition to H. Res. 867. The United States has a responsibility to engage in tough and in honest diplomatic efforts for peace as a purveyor of human rights and the rule of law in the Middle East and throughout the world.
The Goldstone Report raises many questions, its most critical recommendation being that both parties, mind you, both parties conduct their own impartial investigation to find answers.
Neither a dismissal nor an endorsement of the Goldstone Report will change the facts on the ground for Israelis and Palestinians who continue to struggle for a life of normalcy and peace.
Indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by Hamas against Israel have terrorized and killed innocent Israelis, leaving entire communities in grips of fear. The United States and the international community have consistently condemned these attacks and reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defense.
The tragic deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza and the devastation brought upon their homes, schools, and infrastructure has worsened a humanitarian crisis that cannot be ignored. Residents of Gaza and the West Bank continue to lack appropriate access to the most fundamental needs, including food, fuel, water, sanitation, education, health care, and the basic materials needed to rebuild their communities.
The urgency and the gravity of these harsh realities on both sides require that Congress act always with an eye toward peace and reconciliation. In the words of President Obama in Cairo in June of 2009, he said, ``All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear.’‘
As Members of Congress, we can never hesitate or shy away from defending the United States’ indispensable role in the peace process if we hope to achieve these goals. This resolution does not bring us closer to realizing a two-state solution.
Congressman James Moran (D-VA)
I rise today to explain why I will vote ``no’‘ on House Resolution 867, which calls on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to ``oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration’‘ of what has become known as the ``Goldstone Report.’‘
The United States’ connection to the State of Israel is both strong
and deep; we are connected through decades of history, culture, business
and geo-political interests. We care about the people of Israel who
strive for what we have struggled for in the United States—the ability
to live in security, peace and prosperity. The well-being of our friends
in Israel was, is and will remain an American priority. As Israel’s
closest ally, we have an obligation
to see to it that Israel and its neighbors reach a peaceful end to ongoing conflict.
The situation in Gaza is a tragedy, both for Israelis who for too long suffered from indiscriminant rocket attacks and for the hundreds of innocent Palestinians in Gaza who lost their lives, their loved ones, their homes, and their faith in the international community during Israel’s military offensive last December.
And so now the world is grappling with the report on the Gaza war, submitted by the highly respected Judge Richard Goldstone—a self described Zionist, a trustee of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a man widely known for his integrity, fairness, and conscientiousness, who investigated war crimes in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Kosovo and who uncovered Nazi war criminals in Argentina.
But, rather than deal seriously with the contents and recommendations of the report, rather than ask Judge Goldstone to testify before Congress, so we can debate specifically what sections may be valid or flawed, we are seeking with this resolution to foreclose all discussion and action on the report by our President and our Secretary of State, in every multinational forum.
One of the arguments supporters of this resolution make is that the report is one-sided, representing only the Palestinian point-of-view. That argument would have some validity if not for the fact that (a) the report strongly accuses Hamas of indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli citizens, referring to their actions as a ``war crime’‘ and (b) the Israeli Government chose not to participate, going so far as to block Judge Goldstone and his team from entering Israel to conduct their investigation. This forced Israeli citizens who were invited to testify in front of Judge Goldstone, including Noam Shalit, the father of imprisoned IDF soldier Gil’ad Shalit, to travel to Switzerland and Jordan to provide their perspectives on the Gaza operation.
This resolution is a deliberate diversion, taking Congress’ attention away from what should be our main focus. The bottom line is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tragedy that begs for real engagement and real solutions. The resolution before us today offers neither. Instead, it seeks to deflect our attention from what we should be considering: how to reinvigorate the stalled peace process and help Israelis and Palestinians navigate a path towards a two-state solution. I challenge Congress and the committees of jurisdiction to invest their time and resources into more constructive efforts that further the cause of peace.
Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA)
Well, I do support Israel, and I intend to vote ``present’‘ on this particular resolution because, like most Members, I haven’t had time to read 575 pages.
We often speak about process in this body and it is a concept we all embrace, at least rhetorically. But on this occasion, we only have the rhetoric, and the process has been totally inadequate.
This resolution came to the floor on suspension without a hearing, despite the willingness of Judge Goldstone to come before the United States Congress and answer any questions that we might pose to him. And that judge, by the way, is highly regarded in the international rights community for his courage, impartiality and scholarship. He has participated in a number of high profile inquiries, including investigation into Nazism in Argentina.
As the gentleman from Minnesota indicated, he is a self-described Zionist. As both the Chair of the full committee and the Chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East indicated, they have the utmost respect for Judge Goldstone.
He has expressed his strong concerns about this resolution, and he said this: ``I have strong reservations about the text of the resolution in question, text that includes serious factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context.’‘ Last night, we received in the form of a ``Dear Colleague’‘ a response by Chairmen Berman and Ackerman that attempted to refute it.
Clearly, we need more discussion and more debate. An opportunity to have that discussion should have occurred prior to this resolution coming to the floor. This is not about bias against Israel. We know that exists. This is not about Hamas. They have committed horrific acts of terrorism against citizens. This is about us. This is about us.
Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA)
I thank my colleague from Minnesota [Keith Ellison] for his leadership.
My friends who have described the Goldstone Report, as a colleague just did, I’m not sure if they have read it. I have read it. It is not at all silent on whether or not Israel had a reason to respond. It specifically talks about the unacceptability of Hamas rocketing Israeli citizens.
Here’s a picture of Israeli kids in Sderot, hiding, practicing how to deal with those rockets. It is absolutely unacceptable that any people have to undergo this kind of attack; and the Goldstone Report is, in fact, quite clear on that. And contrary to this resolution and contrary to what some of my colleagues said, it is explicit about suggesting that Hamas may have engaged in war crimes.
But there is another side to this story. I have twin 4-year-old boys at home. When I kiss them goodnight, they look for all the world like these three little Palestinian children. I don’t know that father, but I can imagine his grief.
We must not say that this Congress will unequivocally oppose any consideration of a report by a jurist of this integrity and this reputation. Those children deserve someone to ask why they died, just as these children in Sderot deserve someone to say they must not be rocketed. And the Goldstone Report does both. It does both.
Unlike most of my colleagues here, I have been to Gaza and I have read in its entirety the Goldstone Report. And I will tell you he says many things that, though unpleasant, are true and must not be obstructed.
There used to be a school in Gaza called the American International School. The motto of that school: ``Peace, Understanding, and Leadership Through Education.’‘
This is a picture of what happened to that school. This is a picture of what happened to that school.
Do not pass this resolution. Support this fine jurist. Give justice, true justice, a chance to be heard.
Congressman John Dingell (D-MI)
This is a bad bill. It’s a bad resolution. It is unfair. It is unwise. It contributes nothing to peace. It establishes a bad precedent, and it sets up a set of circumstances where we indicate that we’re going to just arbitrarily reject a U.N. finding and a U.N. resolution and that we’re going to have that as a precedent. This is bad.
What we must do here is to make the United States a fair, honest, respected broker. This does not do this. It leaves the United States in real danger of losing the ability to participate actively in the creation of a lasting peace of benefit to both Israel and to the Palestinians.
If you’re a friend of Israel, if you’re a friend of world peace, if you’re a friend of peace in the Mid East, if you’re a friend of the Palestinians, if you want to look to the well-being of the United States, you should reject this resolution. It is a bad proposal. There have been no hearings on it. We do not know what underlies all of the circumstances, and I urge the House to reject it.
Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to H. Res. 867. This resolution, though non-binding, sends a signal to the world that the United States Congress is not serious about pushing the Israelis and the Palestinians toward a peaceful resolution.
It is true that the body that mandated the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known as the Goldstone Report, has been no friend to Israel. Indeed the United Nations Human Rights Council has consistently passed one- sided biased resolutions against Israel while, at the same time, allowing documented, blatant human rights violators to preside over that body without criticism. It is right for the United States and other friends of Israel to question and call out the why six of ten special sessions of the U.N. General Assembly have been about Israel, while none have been called on Tibet or Darfur.
However, we must ask ourselves, does this resolution bring us closer to peace in the Middle East? Does it spur negotiations between the Israelis, Palestinians, and other parties, or does it marginalize and itself choose sides? We must ask, are we undermining President Obama’s, Secretary Clinton’s, Special Envoy Mitchell’s efforts to serve as an honest broker, bring the two sides together, and achieve peace, by passing this resolution?
Madam Speaker, Israel, unequivocally, has a right to defend itself against those who seek to destroy it. We know that Israel was relentlessly attacked by rockets and mortars leading up to the Gaza war. They made the calculation that they could not allow Hamas to continue this violence and abuse.
However, neither Israel nor Hamas, nor any other country or other non-state political act is exempt from international human rights laws or free of consequence for violations of them. If nothing else, the Goldstone Report should serve as a document from which Israel and Hamas, and the rest of the international community can use to ensure that future human rights violations do not take place in civilian areas and that their militaries and fighters are actively working toward minimizing civilian casualties in the future.
Madam Speaker, time and again we acknowledge the urgency of this conflict. The Obama Administration is working feverishly with both sides toward a peaceful resolution, a two-state solution. Let us not undermine this effort today. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting ``no’‘ on this resolution.
Additional remarks inserted into the Congressional Record on behalf of Congressman Dingell:
Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to H. Res. 867. This resolution, though nonbinding, sends a signal to the world that the United States Congress is not serious about pushing the Israelis and the Palestinians toward a peaceful resolution.
It is true that the body that mandated the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known as the Goldstone Report, has been no friend to Israel. Indeed, the United Nations Human Rights Council has consistently passed one-sided biased resolutions against Israel while, at the same time, allowing documented, blatant human rights violators to preside over that body without criticism. The U.S and other friends of Israel have every right and every reason to be critical of the United Nations’ treatment of Israel, when, for example, 6 of 10 special sessions of the U.N. General Assembly have been about Israel, while none has been called on Tibet or Darfur.
Therefore, we must ask ourselves, does this resolution, which opposes further consideration of the Goldstone Report, bring us closer to peace in the Middle East? Does it spur negotiations between the Israelis, Palestinians, and other parties, or does it marginalize and itself choose sides? We must ask, are we undermining President Obama’s, Secretary Clinton’s, and Special Envoy Mitchell’s efforts to serve as an honest broker, bring the two sides together, and achieve peace, by passing this resolution?
Madam Speaker, Israel, unequivocally, has a right to defend itself against those who seek to destroy it. We know that Israel was relentlessly attacked by rockets and mortars leading up to the Gaza war. They made the calculation that they could not allow Hamas to continue this violence and abuse.
However, neither Israel nor Hamas, nor any other country or other nonstate political actor is exempt from international human rights laws or free of consequence for violations of them. If nothing else, the Goldstone Report should serve as a document that Israel, Hamas, and the rest of the international community can use to ensure that future human rights violations do not take place in civilian areas and that their militaries and fighters are actively working toward minimizing civilian casualties in the future.
Madam Speaker, time and again we acknowledge the urgency of this conflict. The Obama administration is working feverishly with both sides toward a peaceful resolution, a two-state solution which will benefit both parties, the United States and the Middle East region as a whole.
I urge my colleagues to join me in voting ``no’‘ on this resolution.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Today we journey from Operation Cast Lead to Operation Cast Doubt. Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist.
Because behind every such deception is the nullification of humanity, the destruction of human dignity, the annihilation of the human spirit, the triumph of Orwellian thinking, the eternal prison of the dark heart of the totalitarian.
The resolution before us today, which would reject all attempts of the Goldstone Report to fix responsibility to all parties to war crimes, including both Hamas and Israel, may as well be called the ``Down is Up, Night is Day, Wrong is Right’‘ resolution.
Because if this Congress votes to condemn a report it has not read concerning events it has totally ignored about violations of law of which it is unaware, it will have brought shame to this great institution.
How can we ever expect there to be peace in the Middle East if we tacitly approve of violations of international law and international human rights, if we look the other way, or if we close our eyes to the heartbreak of people on both sides by white-washing a legitimate investigation?
How can we protect the people of Israel from existential threats if we hold no concern for the protection of the Palestinians, for their physical security, their right to land, their right to their own homes, their right to water, their right to sustenance, their right to freedom of movement, their right to human security of jobs, education, and health care?
We will have peace only when the plight of both Palestinians and Israelis is brought before this House and given equal consideration in recognition of the principle that all people on this planet have a right to survive and thrive. And it is our responsibility, our duty to see that no individual, no group, no people are barred from this humble human claim.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Madam Speaker, this resolution harms U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. The U.S. is attempting to be an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestine peace process, yet this resolution is blatantly biased, and it damages U.S. credibility.
This resolution seeks to hide the ugliness of the Gaza war by covering up violent excesses committed against innocent civilians by both Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces. Why does the U.S. House want to reject an accounting of Hamas’ terrorism against Israeli civilians, as if thousands of rockets were not fired at Israel? And why would this resolution want to deny that hundreds of Palestinian women and children and elders were needlessly killed?
American-made white phosphorous shells were used by Israel in civilian areas, causing horrible burns to Palestinian children, yet this resolution refuses to seek the truth. The report Congress is burying today was led by a former chief prosecutor who has faced far tougher actors than the critics in this Chamber, critics who have not held one single hearing.
There must be only one standard for respecting human rights, a single standard by which we must hold ourselves and our friends and our adversaries accountable.
Madam Speaker, this resolution harms U.S. national security interests in the Middle East and American leadership for human rights and humanitarian law. And, while the U.S. attempts to be an honest-broker in an Israeli-Palestinian peace process this resolution is blatantly biased and damages U.S. credibility.
This resolution seeks to hide the ugliness of the Gaza war by covering-up the violent excesses committed against innocent civilians by Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces.
Why does the U.S. House want to reject an accounting of Hamas’s terrorism against Israeli civilians as if thousands of rockets were not fired at Israel?
Why does this resolution want to deny that hundreds of Palestinian women and elders were needlessly killed by the IDF?
American-made white phosphorus shells were used by Israel in civilian areas causing horrible burns to Palestinian children, yet this resolution refuses to seek the truth?
The report Congress is burying today was led by a former chief prosecutor for war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, a jurist of exceptional experience who has faced far tougher actors than his critics in this Chamber, critics who have not held a single hearing or conducted a single fact-finding mission on the subject of his report.
There must be only one standard for respecting human rights, a single standard by which we must hold ourselves, our friends, and our adversaries accountable. Establishing situational standards for respecting human rights is dishonest and only encourages actions that destroy human dignity and life.
Therefore I agree with U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon who recently said at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual dinner that he is ``a friend who is acutely aware of Israel’s security needs.’‘ But on the issue of the Goldstone report Secretary Ban said, ``When human rights are violated anywhere in the world we need accountability.’‘
Today, I would ask my colleagues to vote for human rights and accountability by voting against this resolution.
Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my sincere disappointment that my colleagues and I are once again in a very untenable position on such a critical issue facing our country, our ally Israel, the Palestinian people and the global community.
House Resolution 867 is just the wrong resolution yet again at this time. The U.N. General Assembly takes up this business tomorrow, and I think it’s really important for us to note that the Congress gets one shot, one shot, to address the shortcomings of the mandate for the inquiry, the pitfalls of the Goldstone Report, and one shot to call on the Palestinians and Israelis to conduct their independent investigations and to stand for human rights and international law.
David Ben-Gurion once said, ``Without moral and intellectual
independence, there is no anchor for national independence,’‘ and I
think we should heed that today. I say it’s the wrong resolution because
it’s our opportunity actually to get it right in a new direction for
the Middle East. Regrettably, in this flawed process, we are tarnishing
the reputation of one of the greatest advocates for human rights of our
time, Justice Richard Goldstone. As a member of the Tom Lantos Human
Rights Commission, I believe we should have and the oversight committees
of jurisdiction should have extended to Justice Goldstone the courtesy
of inviting him to present his findings on the record. We didn’t. We did
not extend to the Israeli Government the courtesy of explaining on the
record the shortcomings they find in this report.
I want to just communicate that it’s really important for us to get it right, and I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Berman. I look forward to us working in the future for something that actually does lead to peace.
Additional remarks inserted into the Congressional Record on behalf of Congresswoman Edwards:
Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my sincere disappointment that my colleagues and I are once again in a tenable position on such a critical issue facing our country, facing our ally Israel, the Palestinian people and the global community.
This resolution, H. Res. 867, is the wrong resolution at this time. The U.N. General Assembly takes up this business tomorrow. Our Nation will be speaking in defense and support of Israel. It is important to note, that while we are united in our support for Israel and the Palestinian people, this Congress gets one shot to address the shortcomings of the mandate for the inquiry and the pitfalls of the Goldstone report. We also get only one shot to call on the Palestinians and the Israelis to conduct their own independent inquiries, to stand up in defense of human rights and international law, and to investigate wrongdoing by all parties with the objective of ensuring that it does not happen again.
David Ben-Gurion once said, ``without moral and intellectual independence, there is no anchor for national independence.’‘ I believe that Israel operates under that spirit today; I am encouraged that there is a robust dialogue within the country over the Gaza war. It is important that this dialogue continues and Israel is allowed to pursue the rule of law unhampered. Now is the appropriate time for the Palestinians to take additional steps to eschew violence and operate with moral and intellectual independence. This will provide additional support to their calls for national independence. They can do this by conducting their own inquiry and investigate the allegations against entities in Gaza.
I say this is the wrong resolution because it fails to call for independent investigations by the Israelis and Palestinians. This was our opportunity to get it right and when this resolution passes, we will have gotten it wrong. It will be a missed opportunity to move closer to achieving a two-state solution. Regrettably, in this flawed process, we are tarnishing the reputation of one of the greatest advocates for human rights of our time, Justice Richard Goldstone. As a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, I believe we should have, and the oversight committees of jurisdiction should have extended to Justice Goldstone the courtesy of inviting him to present his findings on the record. We didn’t. We did not extend to the Israeli Government the courtesy of explaining, on the record, the shortcomings they find in this report. By not taking these actions we have now been forced to consider a poorly constructed resolution at the eleventh hour just before our U.N. delegation presents its case to the General Assembly. Further, this resolution actually calls on the administration to not go to the U.N. tomorrow as it is so broad that it calls on the President and Secretary of State to ``oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the Goldstone report in multilateral fora’‘. Unfortunately, these mixed messages and inconsistencies damage this resolution and the lack of due diligence risks a diminished reputation of this body in the international arena.
As I stand right now I want to communicate to the United Nations that enough is enough: It is inappropriate to create a mandate that is so easily impeachable. However, I find it difficult to abide with a resolution that I find so deeply flawed and as one-sided as some suggest of the Goldstone Report.
I know that these issues are difficult, and I want to thank Chairman Berman; while I disagree with many points in this resolution, I appreciate his leadership on this issue. I appreciate that we will be standing united behind our President as we work toward a lasting two-state solution to find peace for Israel and her people and a homeland for Palestinians.
Congressman David Price (D-NC)
Madam Speaker, let’s be clear about what we’re debating here. Nobody in this Chamber disputes Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and neither does the report issued by Justice Goldstone. The report instead examines the conduct of the war by both sides, including a detailed chapter on the savage rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel, which it describes as ``serious war crimes’‘ and possibly ``crimes against humanity.’‘
Nobody here is defending one-sided mandates either:
But in the interest of full disclosure, critics should note that Justice Goldstone insisted on a rewritten and balanced mandate before he took on the assignment.
Nobody here is disputing the obligation of the U.S. to insist that any resolution debated by the U.N. be fair and balanced and to vote against or veto it otherwise. But there is a crucial distinction between criticizing the way in which the Goldstone Report was handled at the U.N. and criticizing the very existence of the report in the first place, which is exactly what this resolution does. Conflating the two does a disservice to a respected jurist who has devoted his life to upholding international norms of justice and human rights, and more importantly, it may damage future efforts to hold countries accountable through international investigations.
Finally, bringing this resolution up at this time and in this manner could have implications for the possibility of internal investigations into the conflict by the parties themselves. That is a central recommendation of the Goldstone Report as well as the Obama administration and prominent Israeli officials and Israeli human rights organizations. Israel is a strong and resilient democracy. Successfully investigating this episode could only make it stronger. We shouldn’t pass a resolution now which could actually slow or stop the wheels of justice.
Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA)
I rise to express my opposition to the resolution before us. Sadly, I think that in this body’s haste, we’ve overlooked some of the depth of unspeakable tragedies that have occurred during the war on Gaza. Innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives were lost. We owe it to all victims’ families to vow to do everything in our power to prevent further tragedy. Instead, we have a flawed resolution before us.
As an example, the text of the resolution focuses on the original mandate of the report, not the mission that was actually carried out by the investigators. I am disappointed the committee chose to ignore the fact that Justice Goldstone did not agree to take on the investigation until it was agreed to that the conduct of all parties would be investigated. This is just one of many parts of the resolution.
The United States will remain a true friend to our ally Israel without passing a resolution that has questionable accuracy and motives. So let us call for an open and honest debate with the reputable Judge Goldstone. Let us not act in haste to pass a resolution that will in no way achieve our ultimate goal of achieving a lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
Congressman James McGovern (D-MA)
Madam Speaker, this resolution should not be coming before us. I agree that there is an anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. But at this moment in history, it should be the responsibility of every Member of this House to help bring the parties in the conflict in the Middle East back to the negotiating table.
We need to resurrect and advance a peace process, so that rockets never again fall on innocent Israeli civilians and the terror of Gaza is not repeated. This resolution does not do that. This resolution heightens the rhetoric of division.
Regardless of what you think of the Goldstone Report, it makes an important recommendation: that it is incumbent upon both Israel and the Palestinians, in particular Hamas, to carry out credible investigations into actions by their forces that led to the harm and loss of civilians.
I regret that we are not calling upon all parties to return to the peace table so that the rockets and bombs may be silenced in the Middle East, once and for all.
I regret that this resolution is on the House floor increasing the politic ization and the polarization and the heated rhetoric so characteristic of the crisis in the Middle East.
So, Madam Speaker, I will vote ``no’‘ today on this resolution.
Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Madam Speaker, I am going to take the balance of my time to close. As I do, I would like to first of all have entered into the Record a letter from Israeli human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, Gisha, the Public Committee Against Torture, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights.
In regards to: House Resolution 867 regarding the Goldstone
Commission report on Operation Cast Lead.
To: Interested Persons.
From: Israeli Human Rights organizations.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: We appeal to you as representatives of the human rights community in Israel regarding House Resolution 867.
From day one, the Israeli human rights community has consistently called for Israel to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of its forces during ``Operation Cast Lead’‘ in the Gaza Strip. Today, this call is increasingly echoed by Israelis across the political spectrum. Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor (Likud), Minister of Improvement of Government Services Michael Eitan (Likud), Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor), and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu) have all called for such an inquiry, as has Aryeh Deri, former leader of the Shas party. The US State Department has called for such an inquiry as has National Security Advisor James Jones.
Such an investigation, provided it meets international standards for scope and independence, would put an end to the polarizing international debate around the Goldstone Report and show that Israel is a law-abiding state that can ensure accountability at home.
However, we are concerned that H. Res. 867 may derail the momentum towards an Israeli investigation. Resolution 867 contains factual inaccuracies, both about the Goldstone Report and about the measures taken by Israel to date, that must not guide choices by policy makers.
We urge interested parties and Members of the House to show their support for the internal democratic conversation taking place in Israel and to call on Israel to demonstrate that it can ensure genuine accountability at home.
Hamoked—Center for the Defence of the Individual
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.
Rabbis for Human Rights.
Yesh Din—Volunteers for Human Rights.
Congressman George Miler (D-CA)
Madam Speaker, regrettably, I rise in opposition to H. Res. 867, a resolution condemning the recently issued ``Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,’‘ commonly known as the Goldstone Report.
I do not believe that the House should be asked to vote on this resolution when it has not come before the Committee on Foreign Affairs for even one hearing and was brought to the House with little notice under procedures typically reserved for noncontroversial legislation. Given the subject matter of this resolution and the diverse range of views expressed on it from many organizations and individuals, including individuals in my own congressional district, I do not believe this resolution can be described as noncontroversial.
The military conflict in the Gaza Strip last winter resulted in devastating consequences to innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians. It is critical that the international community evaluate the events of last December and January in a factual, unbiased manner. To this end, I am pleased that H. Res. 867 recognizes the numerous problems in the original resolution passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council authorizing the Goldstone Report, as that original resolution wrongly singled out alleged Israeli abuses and ignored the harm caused by Hamas’ rocket and mortar attacks on the Israeli people.
However, I have serious reservations about other aspects of H. Res. 867.
No congressional hearings have been held on H. Res. 867 or the Goldstone Report. On an issue of such importance, Congress must do its due diligence and ensure that we have a full understanding of the facts before being asked to vote to condemn the report and its authors.
Furthermore, I am concerned that H. Res. 867 implicitly criticizes the Goldstone Report because of the initial Human Rights Council resolution. Justice Richard Goldstone, who oversaw the Goldstone Report, is a distinguished jurist with a long record of support for human rights. Most notably, Justice Goldstone was a prominent critic of the abhorrent apartheid regime in South Africa. As H. Res. 867 notes, to his credit, Justice Goldstone extended the original mandate for the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict to include an evaluation of Hamas’ rocket attacks on civilians in southern Israel, among other issues.
Regardless of one’s ultimate evaluation of the report, it is important to recognize the changes that Justice Goldstone was able to make to it and evaluate his report on its own merits.
I fully support efforts to provide clarity, honesty and accuracy to the debate about the conflict in Gaza, just as do many of my constituents who have contacted me this week urging me to oppose this resolution. Hastily voting on a resolution to condemn this report without the ability to properly evaluate its findings does not serve this purpose.
Also, I do not believe that this resolution aids the important
effort of achieving a two-state solution to help end the ever-present
violence and strife in the region. President Obama has taken admirable
steps to bring the two sides to the negotiating table, after years of
neglect under the Bush administration. Yet, this resolution today does
not aid the administration in that effort or further the peace process.
In fact, I believe this resolution undermines the ability of the United
States to further push both sides toward serious peace negotiations.
The House can play a constructive role in promoting peace and understanding in the Middle East and I look forward to supporting such efforts. Regrettably, due to the concerns I have stated above about specific aspects of this resolution and the process under which it has been brought to the House, I must oppose the resolution.
Congresswoman Lynn Woosley (D-CA)
Madam Speaker, it is with great disappointment that I rise today to address H. Res. 867, a resolution calling 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.’‘
Like many of my colleagues, I support the rights of countries—including Israel—to defend themselves. When a democratically elected and peace-seeking nation is forced to take up arms, it is within its rights and obligations to protect its own land and people.
Sadly, the resolution we consider today goes far beyond that principle. H. Res. 867 will only serve to drive a wedge between the parties and will derail the Administration’s efforts towards a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.
While the ``Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’‘ is far from perfect, it should not be used as a political tool to block the peace process or to promote distrust and division.
Any action Congress takes should serve to promote a negotiated peace that will end the violence that threatens to overtake the region and irreparably scar generations. I fear that the resolution before us today only fans the flames of discord and moves us no closer to the common goal of security and prosperity.
It is my hope that in the future Congress will have the opportunity to consider legislation that is balanced and that—at its core—promotes a smart security policy for the U.S. and its allies in the region. Unfortunately, this resolution does not.
Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA)
Madam Speaker, this resolution before us today, House Resolution 867, does nothing to advance the cause of peace and understanding between the Israelis and Palestinians.
In a recent meeting with Jewish constituents, I heard a comment that I thought was moving for its simplicity and power. My constituent told me, ``Israel will not have peace and security until Palestinians have hope.’‘
This resolution does nothing to give hope to the people of Palestine that a better, peaceful future is possible and therefore does nothing to give greater security to the people of Israel. It is a hasty and unconstructive measure that fails to establish a foundation upon which a future peace and prosperity will be constructed.
House Resolution 867 has too many flaws and questionable conclusions for me to support it. I think the Committee should have given the Goldstone report a hearing and taken the opportunity to ask Justice Goldstone questions about his mandate, his findings and his conclusions.
I would ask that Justice Goldstone’s letter to Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen be included in the Record.
In this letter, Justice Goldstone clarifies that he demanded and received an expanded mandate to include the attacks on Israel. The report includes more than 150 instances where it explores the rocket attacks against Israel. And as a matter of fact, the Goldstone report found that rocket attacks constituted ``indiscriminate attacks upon the civilian population of southern Israel’‘.
I recognize a history of bias against Israel at the United Nations and I believe that one-sided resolutions against Israel have no place in an honest debate. However, it should be noted—and it is not in the resolution before us today—that Justice Goldstone dedicated scores of pages to expose war crimes and human rights violations perpetrated by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups for the first time ever.
This resolution suffers too many instances of inaccuracy. It too often gives an account of the Goldstone report that is incomplete and therefore ends up being misleading. I don’t believe this moves us closer to peace and for these reasons I cannot support the resolution.
comments powered by Disqus