Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Condemning Goldstone

The sniveling, cowardly behavior of United States officials regarding Israel continues unabated under President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton (who recently trumpeted the “courage” of Israel in agreeing to “restrict” its illegal settlements in the interest of peace; which is like congratulating a rapist for confining his assault to mere intercourse). It also continues in the House of So-called Representatives, with the prospective passage of a resolution, H. Res. 867, drafted by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, condemning the Goldstone Report for bias against Israel, and resolving to block “any further consideration” by the United States of its findings.

For those who have been on Mars, the Goldstone Report is the UN-sponsored report headed by South African Justice Richard Goldstone, which recently investigated the alleged war crimes in Israel’s attack last year on Gaza. Goldstone, himself a Jew and longtime Zionist supporter of Israel, insisted, before he agreed to head the report, that the UN resolution include investigations into rocket attacks by Hamas as well, attacks which Goldstone’s report also condemns as war crimes. But to read the House Resolution, one would never know this—for it goes on and on about how the report is biased, the UN is biased, the Human Rights Council is biased, the whole world is biased against Israel. Nor would one know that Goldstone actually responded to each of the Resolution’s charges in detail—showing how each is either factually incorrect or misleading. Consider this response, for example (the House Resolution condemning his report is in quotes, and Goldstone’s response is not):

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. (from Goldstone letter to U.S. Representatives Howard Berman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Oct. 29, 2009, cited on website of U.S. Representative Brian Baird.)

But the jurist’s responses are not expected to affect the outcome. Reports suggest that the House Resolution will pass easily—especially given the fact that the House of Representatives is controlled from top to bottom by AIPAC and other pro-Israel organizations, the combined weight of which terrifies and targets House members who dare to question the United States’ undying support for any crime Israel chooses to commit.

This resolution, though, is taking things to absurd lengths. For what does it say about a nation, the United States of America, and a legislature, the House of Representatives, which, while continually bragging about its commitment to human rights, condemns a UN report commissioned to investigate war crimes, and which indeed finds evidence of war crimes? For that is what the Goldstone Report’s findings amounted to: that Israel, in attacking Gaza and its civic infrastructure including schools, hospitals, and individual homes with the most devastating modern weapons available, committed numerous violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law required of all militaries. And though the report also condemns the firing of rockets by Hamas, the weight of its findings—as indeed the weight of the damage, 1387 Gazans killed, 13 Israeli soldiers killed; no damage to speak of in Israel; Gaza left in ruins—is a condemnation of Israel and its brutal invasion last year (during, it should be noted, the interregnum period when Bush was leaving office and Obama had not yet been inaugurated.)

The only bit of positive news in all this is that at least one House member, Brian Baird of Washington state, has condemned the House Resolution in no uncertain terms. In a piece appearing on Common Dreams on Nov. 3, and on his website (baird.house.gov), Baird’s essay, “Israel and Gaza Deserve Better than a Misguided Resolution,” asks some pertinent question about H. Res. 867, most significantly, “Have those who will vote on H. Res. 867 actually read the resolution? Have they read the Goldstone report?” Clearly, Baird believes that the answer to both questions is “no.” Nor, he writes, do most House members have any idea what took place in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009: “Since scarcely a dozen House Members have actually been to Gaza, what actual first-hand knowledge do the rest of the Members of Congress possess on which to base their judgment of the merits of H.Res.867 or the Goldstone report?” And most important, “What will it say about this Congress and our country if we so readily seek to block ‘any further consideration’ of a human rights investigation produced by one of the most respected jurists in the world today…”

What will it say indeed. Representative Baird considers the issue vital, both to the Middle East, and to the United States of America, whose reputation in the world has taken such a beating in recent years, and most directly, to the conscience of the Congress. Because unlike most of the toadies who will vote to protect their backsides and their pro-Israel funders, Baird himself has seen the devastation caused by Israel in Gaza, and says it seems to support what the Goldstone Report asserts. This makes it more than “just another imposed political litmus test,” Baird writes:

“This is about whether we as individuals and this Congress as an institution find it acceptable to drop white phosphorous on civilian targets, to rocket civilian communities, to destroy hospitals and schools, to use civilians as human shields, to deliberately destroy non-military factories, industries and basic water, electrical and sanitation infrastructure. This is about whether it is acceptable to restrict the movement, opportunities and hopes of more than a million people every single day….”

Clearly, Baird thinks it unacceptable, especially given the fact that “our money and our weaponry play a leading role in those violations.” Would that more of his sniveling associates in the United States Congress, and, regrettably, in the White House itself, felt the same way. But at this writing, it appears that the United States is about to announce to the world that not only does it consider such behavior perfectly legitimate and even praiseworthy, but that those who would dare question it deserve public condemnation and burial.

Lawrence DiStasi

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