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Congress is set to kill Goldstone Report :)
I'm asking you to tell your representative to vote NO on H. Res 867 when it comes up for a vote tomorrow. Why? The resolution, which is riddled with errors and outright fabrications (see below), calls on President Obama to bury the Goldstone Report, which was commissioned by the United Nations to examine violations of international law during the Gaza conflict. This report offers the only pathway to accountability, and the campaign to demonize it and its authors is part of a larger effort to shred international law so that war crimes against civilians can be committed with impunity.
The resolution, which you can read in full here, calls the Goldstone findings 'irredeemably biased'. In fact, the Goldstone Report is well-researched, and fair-minded. It accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, while rightfully placing greater emphasis on Israeli violations of international law, especially regarding the killing of civilians. It also calls on Israel and Hamas to conduct credible, independent investigations or face the International Criminal Court.
Jewish Voice for Peace
The full text of Goldstone's detailed analysis of the bill, followed by an analysis by professor Stephen Zunes of the Tikkun advisory board:
The Honorable Howard Berman
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
October 29, 2009
Dear Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen,
It has come to my attention that a resolution has been introduced in the Unites States House of Representatives regarding the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which I led earlier this year.
I fully respect the right of the US Congress to examine and judge my mission and the resulting report, as well as to make its recommendations to the US Executive branch of government. However, 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.
I undertook this fact-finding mission in good faith, just as I undertook my responsibilities vis à vis the South African Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, the International War Crimes Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina, the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, and the Volker Committee investigation into the UN's Iraq oil-for-food program in 2004/5.
I hope that you, in similar good faith, will take the time to consider my comments about the resolution and, as a result of that consideration, make the necessary corrections.
Whereas clause #1: "Whereas, on January 12, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/S-9/L.1, which authorized a `fact-finding mission' regarding Israel's conduct of Operation Cast Lead against violent militants in the Gaza Strip between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009;"
This whereas clause ignores the fact that I and others refused this original mandate, precisely
because it only called for an investigation into violations committed by Israel. The mandate given to and accepted by me and under which we worked and reported reads as follows:
". . .to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after".
Whereas clause #2: "Whereas the resolution pre-judged the outcome of its investigation, by one-sidedly mandating the `fact-finding mission' to `investigate all violations of international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law by . . . Israel, against the Palestinian people . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression'"
This whereas clause ignores the fact that the expanded mandate that I demanded and received clearly included rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and as the report makes clear was so interpreted and implemented. It was the report carried out under this broadened mandate - not the original, rejected mandate - that was adopted by the Human Rights Council and that included the serious findings made against Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups.
Whereas clause #3: "Whereas the mandate of the `fact-finding mission' makes no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks, which numbered in the thousands and spanned a period of eight years, by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel, that necessitated Israel's defensive measures;"
This whereas clause is factually incorrect. As noted above, the expanded mandate clearly included the rocket and mortar attacks. Moreover, Chapter XXIV of the Report considers in detail the relentless rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and the terror they caused to the people living within their range. The resulting finding made in the report is that these attacks constituted serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
Whereas clause #4: "Whereas the `fact-finding mission' included a member who, before joining the mission, had already declared Israel guilty of committing atrocities in Operation Cast Lead by signing a public letter on January 11, 2009, published in the Sunday Times, that called Israel's actions `war crimes';"
This whereas clause is misleading. It overlooks, or neglects to mention, that the member concerned, Professor Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, in the same letter, together with other leading international lawyers, also condemned as war crimes the Hamas rockets fired into Israel.
Whereas clause #5: "Whereas the mission's flawed and biased mandate gave serious concern to many United Nations Human Rights Council Member States which refused to support it, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;"
This whereas clause is factually incorrect. The mandate that was given to the Mission was certainly not opposed by all or even a majority of the States to which reference is made. I am happy to provide further details if necessary.
Whereas clause #6: "Whereas the mission's flawed and biased mandate troubled many distinguished individuals who refused invitations to head the mission;"
This whereas clause is factually incorrect. The initial mandate that was rejected by others who were invited to head the mission was the same one that I rejected. The mandate I accepted was expanded by the President of the Human Rights Council as a result of conditions I made.
Whereas clause #8: "Whereas the report repeatedly made sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead;"
This whereas clause is factually incorrect. The findings included in the report are neither "sweeping" nor "unsubstantiated" and in effect reflect 188 individual interviews, review of more than 300 reports, 30 videos and 1200 photographs. Additionally, the body of the report contains a plethora of references to the information upon which the Commission relied for our findings.
Whereas clause #9: "Whereas the authors of the report, in the body of the report itself, admit that `we did not deal with the issues . . . regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas and second-guessing decisions made by soldiers and their commanding officers `in the fog of war.';"
This whereas clause is misleading. The words quoted relate to the decision we made that it would have been unfair to investigate and make finding on situations where decisions had been made by Israeli soldiers "in the fog of battle". This was a decision made in favor of, and not against, the interests of Israel.
Whereas clause #10: "Whereas in the October 16th edition of the Jewish Daily Forward, Richard Goldstone, the head of the `United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict', is quoted as saying, with respect to the mission's evidence-collection methods, `If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.'"
The remark as quoted is both inaccurate and taken completely out of context. What I had explained to The Forward was that the Report itself would not constitute evidence admissible in court of law. It is my view, as jurist, that investigators would have to investigate which allegations they considered relevant. That, too, was why we recommended domestic investigations into the allegations.
Whereas clause #11: "Whereas the report, in effect, denied the State of Israel the right to self- defense, and never noted the fact that Israel had the right to defend its citizens from the repeated violent attacks committed against civilian targets in southern Israel by Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations operating from Gaza;"
It is factually incorrect to state that the Report denied Israel the right of self-defense. The report examined how that right was implemented by the standards of international law. What is commonly called ius ad bellum, the right to use military force was not considered to fall within our mandate. Israel's right to use military force was not questioned.
Whereas clause #12: "Whereas the report largely ignored the culpability of the Government of Iran and the Government of Syria, both of whom sponsor Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations;"
This whereas clause is misleading. Nowhere that I know of has it ever been suggested that the Mission should have investigated the provenance of the rockets. Such an investigation was never on the agenda, and in any event, we would not have had the facilities or capability of investigating these allegations. If the Government of Israel has requested us to investigate that issue I have no doubt that we have done our best to do so.
Whereas clause #14: "Whereas, notwithstanding a great body of evidence that Hamas and other violent Islamist groups committed war crimes by using civilians and civilian institutions, such as mosques, schools, and hospitals, as shields, the report repeatedly downplayed or cast doubt upon that claim;"
This is a sweeping and unfair characterization of the Report. I hope that the Report will be read by those tasked with considering the resolution. I note that the House resolution fails to mention that notwithstanding my repeated personal pleas to the Government of Israel, Israel refused all cooperation with the Mission. Among other things, I requested the views of Israel with regard to the implementation of the mandate and details of any issues that the Government of Israel might wish us to investigate.
This refusal meant that Israel did not offer any information or evidence it may have collected regarding actions by Hamas or other Palestinian groups in Gaza. Any omission of such information and evidence in the report is regrettable, but is the result of Israel's decision not to cooperate with the Fact-Finding mission, not a decision by the mission to downplay or cast doubt on such information and evidence.
Whereas clause #15: "Whereas in one notable instance, the report stated that it did not consider the admission of a Hamas official that Hamas often `created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the mujahideen, against [the Israeli military]' specifically to `constitute evidence that Hamas forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack.';"
This whereas clause is misleading, since the quotation is taken out of context. The quotation is part of a section of the report dealing with the very narrow allegation that Hamas compelled civilians, against their will, to act as human shields. The statement by the Hamas official is repugnant and demonstrates an apparent disregard for the safety of civilians, but it is not evidence that Hamas forced civilians to remain in their homes in order to act as human shields. Indeed, while the Government of Israel has alleged publicly that Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields, it has not identified any cases where it claims that civilians were doing so under threat of force by Hamas or any other party.
Whereas clause #16: "Whereas Hamas was able to significantly shape the findings of the investigation mission's report by selecting and prescreening some of the witnesses and intimidating others, as the report acknowledges when it notes that `those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups . . . from a fear of reprisals';"
The allegation that Hamas was able to shape the findings of my report or that it pre-screened the witnesses is devoid of truth. I challenge anyone to produce evidence in support of it.
Justice Richard J. Goldstone
And this from Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, who wrote this analysis in his capacity as a member of the advisory board of the Tikkun community.
More info on the House Resolution Condemning the Goldstone Report
by Steve Zunes
There are a number of disturbing aspects of H. Res. 867, with implications that go well beyond simply attacking the report of the United Nations Human Rights Council's fact-finding commission on the Gaza conflict, which documented war crimes by armed forces of both Hamas and Israel. Below is an analysis of some of the more misleading and disturbing clauses in the resolution:
The lead-off clause cynically places "fact-finding mission" in quotes, implying that this was not in fact the purpose of the investigation of a reputable and experienced team. In addition, the commission's mandate was not, as the resolution claims, to investigate "Israel's conduct…against violent militants," but the conduct of its forces in relation to the civilian population.
This is followed by a series of clauses criticizing the original mandate of the UN Human Rights Council which called only for an investigation of Israeli war crimes. This is completely moot, however, since commission head Justice Richard Goldstone - to his credit - refused to accept the position unless its mandate was changed to one which would investigate possible war crimes by both sides in the conflict. and the mandate of the commission was thereby broadened. The House resolution does not mention this, however, implying that the original mandate was the basis of the report. In reality, from the start of the actual investigation, there was not such a bias against Israel, since it dedicating over 70 pages to detail a whole series of violations of the laws of war by Hamas, including rocket attacks into civilian-populated areas of Israel, torture of Palestinian opponents, and continued holding of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Yet H. Res. 867 makes no mention of this extensive critical reporting in the report regarding Hamas' violations of international humanitarian law, thereby giving the false impression that the report unfairly only dealt with the actions of the Israeli armed forces. The inclusion of these clauses is apparently designed to give the false impression that the report was based upon this original one-sided mandate and ignore the fact that it had long been superseded by the revised balanced mandate upon which the report is actually based.
The resolution claims that the report makes "sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead." If one bothers to actually read the report, there were indeed detailed and well-substantiated evidence of deadly attacks against schools, mosques, private homes and businesses nowhere near legitimate military targets. In particular, the report cites in detail eleven incidents in which Israeli armed forces engaged in direct attacks against civilians, including cases where people were shot "while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags." The report's conclusion that Israel's military assault on Gaza was "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish humiliate and terrorize a civilian population" echo detailed empirical reports released in recent months by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, among others. Criticism of this report, therefore, is criticism of these reputable human rights groups as well.
Then the resolution goes on to claim that the report denies Israel's right to self-defense. This is patently false. There was absolutely nothing in the report that denies Israel's right to self-defense. It simply insists that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have the right to attack civilians.
The resolution resolves that Congress go on record that the report is "irredeemably biased," ignoring - among other things - that the head of the commission was Richard Goldstone, who has had a longstanding reputation for fairness and objectivity and previously led the war crimes prosecutions for Yugoslavia. He is also Jewish, a longtime supporter of Israel, a member of the board of directors of Friends of Hebrew University and other Zionist groups, and the father of an Israeli citizen. He wrote most of it, he approved the final version, and has steadfastly defended it. This resolution, then, is a direct attack on the integrity of one of the world's most principled defenders of human rights.
The resolution even claims that the report is part of an effort "to delegitimize the democratic State of Israel and deny it the right to defend its citizens and its existence can be used to delegitimize other democracies and deny them the same right." In reality, there is absolutely nothing in the report that delegitimizes Israel or its right to defend its citizens, nor is there anything in the report that could conceivably delegitimize other democracies or deny other democracies their right to exist or defend their citizens. This is demagoguery at its most extreme and appears to be a right-wing effort to silence defenders of international humanitarian law by putting Congress on record as saying that documenting a given country's war crimes is tantamount to denying that country's right to exist and its right to self-defense.
There are other clauses in the resolution which take a number of quotes out of context and engage in other misrepresentations to make the case that, in the resolution's words, the report is "irredeemably biased."
Perhaps most seriously, there is the final clause of the resolution which endorses Israel's right to attack Syria and Iran because of their alleged support of Hamas.
As a result, it is critical that there be a full-press effort to defeat this resolution. Please call your Congressperson first thing Monday and encourage them to vote against H. Res. 867.
--Stephen Zunes, www.stephenzunes.org
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