House Resolution 867 passed the U.S. House yesterday with the following votes: 344 yeas, 36 nays, 22 answering “present” and 30 not voting.
The bill title: “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 on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora “
Having followed closely the story which led to this vote in the U.S. House, I believe it is fair to ask if 344 members of Congress knew exactly what they were voting on, or did they stand en masse for a pro-Israeli vote?
HR. 867, with all its “whereases” can be read HERE. Essentially, it calls the United Nations’ fact-finding report on the Gaza conflict earlier this year a pack of lies.
THE GOLDSTONE REPORT:
The United Nations report, authored by Justice Richard Goldstone, concludes that “war crimes” were committed by both Palestinians and Israelis during the conflict, resulting in destruction of schools and hospitals and the deaths of civilians, including children.
JUSTICE GOLDSTONE’S CREDENTIALS:
Former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone “led the investigations of abuses in South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Kosovo, and worked to identify and prosecute Nazi war criminals as a member of the Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina.”
According to the international rights organization Avaaz, “(President) Obama, our allies in Europe, almost everyone wants basic accountability for war crimes - starting with national investigations on both sides. Under pressure, Israeli cabinet members and Palestinian leaders are themselves considering such inquiries. By endorsing House Resolution 867, Congress would be uncritically taking sides - seeking to tie the president’s hands, and wreck the UN process and all chance of truth and justice.”
(NOTE: According to its Web site, “Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. Avaaz means 'voice' in many languages. Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires and Geneva.”)
In a Common Dreams article titled “Israel and Gaza Deserve Better Than HR 867,” Congressman Brian Baird, a Democrat who represents Washington’s 3rd District, asked some very legitimate questions prior to the House vote. Baird was one of two Americans who entered the war zone immediately following the bombing campaign.
* Why are we bringing this resolution to the floor without ever giving former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone a hearing to explain his findings?
* Have those who will vote on H.Res. 867 actually read the resolution?
* Have they read the Goldstone report?
* Are they aware that Justice Goldstone has issued a paragraph-by-paragraph response ... to HR. 867, pointing out that many of its assertions are factually inaccurate or deeply misleading?
* Since scarcely a dozen House members have actually been to Gaza, what actual firsthand 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?
* 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?
Rep. Baird concludes, “As one of the first two American officials, along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), to enter Gaza shortly after the conclusion of major bombing from ‘Operation Cast Lead,’ then again several months later, I have seen firsthand the devastating destruction of hospitals, schools, homes, industries and infrastructure. Much of that devastation was wrought using U.S. manufactured and paid for weaponry. I have also spoken with health workers, average Gazans, nongovernmental organization relief workers and many others.
“In addition, I have been to the Israeli town of Sderot, which has been the target of repeated rocket attacks, and to a number of Palestinian towns and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Colleagues who have not been to the region may wish to view some of the images and interviews from these visits on my Web site.
“With the information from these personal visits and on-the-ground knowledge, I read with care and interest the Goldstone report in its entirety, and my firm conclusion is that, although the findings may be unpleasant and troubling, they are, unfortunately, consistent with the facts and evidence. In my judgment, far from meriting the obstruction called for in H.Res. 867, the Goldstone report is without question worthy of further investigation.”
Yesterday, 344 U.S. House members voted to condemn Justice Goldstone’s report. How they would answer Rep. Baird’s questions may never be known. I plan to write a letter to my congressman, J. Gresham Barrett, who aspires to be South Carolina's governor, and ask him to answer each of the questions for me. (How did your representative vote?)
The Goldstone report places blame for war crimes on Israelis and Palestinians. The United States of America can never broker a Middle East peace accord if our elected representatives are scared that any condemnation of Israel will be viewed as “anti-Semitic.” It is my opinion that this is the reason for 344 yea votes to squelch a report of this magnitude.
Finally, how long can we embrace our nation if torture and war crimes are acceptable over truth and justice?