US lawmakers condemn Gaza war crimes report as ‘unworthy’ of ‘legitimacy’
The US House of Representatives condemned Tuesday the UN Goldstone report as unfairly accusing Israel of committing war crimes in its 22-day war against Palestinian militants in Gaza.
By a margin of 344-36, lawmakers approved a non-binding resolution that calls the report “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.”
The symbolic measure also urges President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to strongly and unequivocally oppose” any discussion of the report or action on its findings in any international setting.
The Obama administration has already condemned the report, which was expected to go to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, as unhelpful to its efforts to revive stalled Middle East peace talks.
“I think the UN report is unbalanced, and unfair, and inaccurate,” said Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
“It’s unfortunate that the United Nations deals with Israel, in my opinion, in a totally biased and unbalanced way. And it is the only country in the world, Israel, that has a special focus by the United Nations,” he added.
“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,” countered Democratic Representative Brian Baird.
Baird bolstered his speech against the resolution with photographs of dead Palestinian children and Israeli children seeking shelter during a suspected Palestinian rocket attack.
The resolution, crafted by Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, expressed support for the Obama administration’s condemnation of the report and urges opposition to its findings in any international forum.
“The Goldstone Report illustrates the anti-freedom, anti-Israel bias which deeply pervades the UN system, and it does not deserve consideration or legitimacy from responsible nations,” she said after the vote.
“Even in the fog of war, it is clear that Israel took every reasonable measure to minimize the risk of civilian casualties. It is clear that Israel had every right and duty to defend its citizens from the onslaught of rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas and other militants in Gaza,” she said.
Named after former South African judge Richard Goldstone, who headed the inquiry committee, the UN report accuses Israel and Hamas militants of war crimes during the 22-day conflict that flared up in late December 2008 and ended in January, leaving some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
Goldstone recommended that Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas — which rules the tiny Palestinian coastal enclave — face possible prosecution in The Hague if they fail to conduct credible investigations within six months.
Hoyer said rocket fire from Palestinian fighters in Gaza had placed Israel in “an unfortunate position” and stressed that Israel “is as careful a government as there is in terms of prosecuting its own defense” officials.
On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged lawmakers not to back the resolution, said the Goldstone report “presents an opportunity to pursue justice for the victims in Gaza and Israel.”
“Instead of denouncing the report, the US Congress should urge Israel and Hamas to break the cycle of abuse and impunity, which for too long has fueled hatred and hindered efforts at peace,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.