House to Vote on Resolution to Reject Goldstone Report Findings and Recommendations

Justice Richard Goldstone headed the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.
Justice Richard Goldstone headed the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on a resolution calling on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “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.”

Headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the U.N. report found that evidence indicates both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel’s 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, dubbed “Operation Cast Lead”, which began on December 27, 2008.

The report recommended that allegations of war crimes by both parties be investigated.

The current text of the proposed Congressional resolution, H. Res. 867, contains numerous factual inaccuracies, beginning with the assertion that the U.N. inquiry had “pre-judged” its findings and was “one-sidedly” mandated 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”.

The actual mandate adopted on April 3 was “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.”

The quoted text is not from the April 3 mandate, but from U.N. General Assembly resolution S-9/1 on January 12, 2009, which resulted in the later appointment of the mission by the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Also, omitted in the draft resolution’s reproduction of the text are the words “occupying Power” before “Israel”. Under international law, the occupying power is in fact obligated to investigate allegations of war crimes and violations of human rights.

The draft U.S. resolution states that the Goldstone report “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”.

But this criticism itself ignores the fact that even if Israel’s military operations were justifiable as  “defensive measures”, Israel would still be legally obligated to conduct its operations in accordance with international law, and to conduct investigations into alleged war crimes conducted by its own forces.

The draft resolution also makes no mention of the relentless siege of Gaza by Israel, or the fact that Hamas had been strictly observing a cease-fire agreed to in June, only firing rockets after Israel had first violated that truce with repeated attacks against Gazans, a continuation of the crippling siege, and an airstrike and invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces on November 4 that ultimately resulted in the complete breakdown of the truce.

It also makes no mention of the fact that the Goldstone report contains a section dedicated to examining the impact of rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants on southern Israel, or that mission’s efforts to do so were impeded by Israel’s refusal to cooperate.

The draft resolution states that the U.N. 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’”.

That letter to the Sunday Times also stated, “We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes.”

But criticism of the Goldstone report on the similar basis that one of its members had beforehand declared Hamas guilty of war crimes is lacking in the draft resolution.

It calls the Goldstone report’s findings “that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead” “unsubstantiated”. In fact, the 575 page report provides extensive documentation for its findings.

The draft resolution states that “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 is an outright fabrication. Those words do not in fact appear in the body of the actual report.

Those words actually come from an alleged e-mail from Richard Goldstone in which he explained why the U.N. report did not rely on a Colonel Kemp for its inquiry. The full text of the statement from that e-mail, replacing the part omitted in the draft resolution, reads “we did not deal with the issues he raised regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas…” (emphasis added).

The draft resolution states that Richard Goldstone had been quoted in the October 16 edition of the Jewish daily Forward as saying, “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven”.

But omitted is the further context of that remark in the same article, which added, “He recalled his work as chief prosecutor for the international war crimes tribunal in Yugoslavia in 1994. When he began working, Goldstone was presented with a report commissioned by the U.N. Security Council based on what he said was a fact-finding mission similar to his own in Gaza.

“’We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all,’ Goldstone said. ‘But it was a useful roadmap for our investigators, for me as chief prosecutor, to decide where we should investigate. And that’s the purpose of this sort of report.”

The draft resolution asserts that the Goldstone report “in effect, denied the State of Israel the right to self-defense”, but offers no supporting evidence for this.

The Goldstone report found that “While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole.”

The draft resolution states that “the report usually considered public statements made by Israeli officials not to be credible, while frequently giving uncritical credence to statements taken from what it called the ‘Gaza authorities’, i.e. the Gaza leadership of Hamas”, but offers no examples from the report.

The report does, in fact, question the credibility of Israeli officials. It notes in one instance that “it considers the credibility of Israel’s position damaged by the series of inconsistencies, contradictions and factual inaccuracies in the statements justifying the attack.”

Forget what you think you know about the Israel-Palestine conflict

Jeremy R. Hammond

Jeremy R. Hammond is an award-winning political analyst, editor and publisher of Foreign Policy Journal, and author. His new book is Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Read the first chapter FREE at! 

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  • Jeremy,

    Points well made. I would like to point out who the sponsor of the Goldstone report is that being the OIC. The OIC controls the UNHRC by virtue by a majority of seats and it is why over 50% of the resolutions that make it through are related to Israel. I call this bias selective outrage in light of the conditions in Darfur. When the west brought up the deaths over two million in Darfur since the 90’s The OIC’s response was your “attacking Islam.” One of the OIC’s other gems was the anti free speech motion called Defamation of Religion which of course only mentions Islam.

    I would only ask you, if have not already, to read the Quran and a Hadith source such as by Bukhari. I think you will begin to see the political ramifications of a religiously motivated agenda. Israel is no saint but Islamic law clearly states all of Israel is an Islamic Wafq ordained for Muslims for all time. Those who largely control the Islamic world(governments and clergy) simply want Israel gone because once conqured by Islam it is always Islamic. It is why an issue such as Darfur can be swept under the carpet. Akin to this is the whole subject of convesion in which they can convert us but to do otherwise is viewed as a provocation. If we were to Islamic logic then we should take back Turkey which is the home of Orthodox Christianity and is now 99.9% Muslim. Years ago I was quite the critic of Israel but once I started to understand the religious overtones it shed a whole new light on the subject. One point about Israel that still vexes me though is the fact that a people who were so oppressed never learned that oppression never works!!


    • Assuming you’re right on the composition of UNHRC including more than half members also of the OIC, this argument is an ad hominem fallacy. Even that being true, and even there being demonstrable bias does not make the findings and recommendations of the Goldstone report any less valid. The merits/demerits of the report should be made on the basis of the facts of the report itself, not by attacking the credibility or appealing to the alleged prejudice of the source.

      I’ve read the Quran, yes. A number of times. I don’t know what it is you’re implying about it, or Islam in general, or how it has any relevancy to the Goldstone report.

      One point about Israel that still vexes me though is the fact that a people who were so oppressed never learned that oppression never works!!

      No doubt. I am equally vexed.

      Always a pleasure, Bill.

      • Jeremy,

        I am not trying to argue point by point the validity of the Goldstone report. My point was that the findings need to be taken with a grain salt considering who the sponsor was. I would say the same thing for an Israeli sponsored report. The fact remains the OIC through its actions has demonstrated a political bias towards Israel since its inception. Much is merited but much is also driven by religious mandates not reason.

        I brought up Islam because it is pertinent to the discussion. Take into context these points from scripture:
        1) All non Muslims must be purged from the Arabian penisula
        2) The land conqured by Islam will always remain Islamic. It is described as a wafq good for all time
        3) Islam is a religion of mandates. It is not a narrative but prescriptive religion dominated by what is permitted and what is not
        4) Islamic land conqured must be retaken
        When you consider Islam rejected greek thought(critical thinking) in favor of the divine it further reinforces my point(look up Al Ghazali’s Incoherence of the Philosophers for background.) Simply put regardless if Israel is right or wrong does not matter from a puritanical Islamic point. The islamic side is not devoid of reason but in my opinion is too often controlled by a rigid adherence to Islamic law. It is why the OIC can ignore Darfur and yet bleat on and on about Israel. Darfur is largely an inside issue while the issue with Israel is a battle with the infidels thus the focus.

        Akin to this whole arguement is the OIC resolution they are trying to push through the UN called Defamation of Religions. This anti free speech law essentially wants to stop criticism of Islam and institute blasphmeny laws. They do this despite their members comprising a whos who of the worst human right abusers in the world. Try asking a Muslim if we were to ban Dawa, building or repairing mosques, or openly practicing their religion. They would be aghast, and rightly so! However, these are realities in most Islamic states for non Muslims. In pakistan they still have a law on the books that states the testimony of 4 christians equals one male Muslim! Try also comparing the OIC report on Islamophobia to human rights of religious minorities in the Islamic world. You will see in the west harrasment with a large finacial settlement compared to beatings, death, and houses of worship torched in the Islamic world.

        Islam is pertinent to the discussion because it is not just their religion but their model for life, state, and politics. The mistake many of us in the West make is looking at Islam through the lens of our own heritage. We falsely attribute our concept of religion to theirs at it is a grave mistake. It is why I am am highly critical of any form of politics or government largely influenced by religion. It is not governed by reason or critical thinking but what their religion says they should do.

        The OIC states simply want Israel gone. Yes Israel was retaken largely by force but what Islamic territory was not taken by force in the Middle East? We have all been conqured at one time or another. If we were to use Islamic logic we should be trying to retake back Cyprus and the whole of Turkey which is the ancestral home of Orthodox Christianity. Yet we don’t because we reasoned to forgive and move on. The Islamic world cannot ignore transgressions and the Quran is pretty explicit about this.

        It is so frustrating for me when the world hyper focuses on the Israeli Arab conflict while millions die elsewhere! The OIC is complicit but so is the rest of the world who continues to oil the squeeky wheel called Palestinian. What about Darfur, Somalia, Rawanda, Haiti, and the rest of the oppressed throughout the world? Can you hear the pin drop? Try reading a Hadith source or Reliance of the Traveler. Both add much needed perspective to the Quran. Appreciate your thoughts.


        • I am not trying to argue point by point the validity of the Goldstone report. My point was that the findings need to be taken with a grain salt considering who the sponsor was.

          But Bill, that’s an ad hominem fallacy. Also, you’re neglecting who headed it, Richard Goldstone, a Zionist Jew of internationally renown and a well respected and impartial jurist.

          By saying the report should be taking with “a grain of salt”, you are saying we should be skeptical of its findings. Well, if you want to make that argument, you need to point to where their report made any error in fact or logic. Or, if you think the report was biased, rather than arguing an ad hominem, you need to demonstrate from the conduct of the mission or from the report itself why you think this is so.

          It is so frustrating for me when the world hyper focuses on the Israeli Arab conflict while millions die elsewhere!

          I can’t speak for others. But, Bill, I’m an American. So, as an elementary moral principle, I am primarily concerned with those crimes my government has responsibility for — as in the Israeli Arab conflict. As an American, it is my government’s crimes, not the crimes of other countries, that I am in a position to do something about.

          Also, it’s fine to say this or that crime doesn’t receive enough attention. But is it possible, really, to suggest international crimes receive too much attention so long as they continue to occur?

          Bill, here’s the thing. Israel’s assault on Gaza was an absolutely criminal and immoral slaughter of innocent civilians and willful and intentional destruction of the civilian infrastructure. That crime was fully supported by the U.S. government. Rather than defending or playing apologist for such actions, don’t you agree that the right thing to do is to seek to hold those responsible for this evil accountable, and to ensure that such atrocities don’t recur in the future?

          • Jeremy,

            I think you understand my position. I do agree that my arguement is ad hominem fallacy if the only variable is the report itself. I have read most of the report and I do agree Israel did commit grave crimes. I am really upset with many of them but on certain levels I can understand the Israeli response despite whos land it is. No state, legit or not, will allow rockets to rain down on their populace. Israel is caught in a trick bag with really no right answer. They must protect their people while still trying to address the legit claims of the Palestinians who simply want them gone.

            On the crimes the US commited please elaborate. I have an idea what you might say but would like to hear it from you before jumping to conclusions(refer me to another article of yours if this is easier.) I would ask you take into context that despite these crimes it is the West who provides most of the funds to the Pals. Many forget it is the “infidels” who pay the bills not their arab brothers and sisters. Now that is an irony. For all the injustice the Arab states scream about it leaves one with the perception that they are just using the conflict as proxy to fight Israel and distract their populace from problems on the home front.

            Despite all of this, as I stated, this whole conflict leaves me frustrated. I agree with your stance addressing injustices by the US but my view tends to be wider. This is probably because of work I have done with a number of agencies outside the US. From a political standpoint the Israeli Arab conflict is huge but from a humanitaraian standpoint it is dwarfed by other issues such as Darfur. My priority is people and its why I just cannot stand by and watch the OIC bleat on about genocide/human rights in Gaza will completely ignoring Darfur or Somalia. Again, please try exploring the politics of Islam and I think it will shed some light on why Darfur is such a small issue to Muslims in comparision to Israel. Thank you for your comments and rest assured while we may disagree I always learn something.


          • Bill, the Israeli attack was not a response to rocket attacks. This is easily demonstrable by pointing out one simple fact: Hamas had strictly observed the cease-fire. It was Israel, not Hamas, that violated the cease fire.

            As for your question, the U.S. fully supported this Israeli aggression, and all the war crimes that came with it. This blood is on America’s hands as well.

            Yes, the U.S. funds the P.A., but I fail to see what that has to do with anything. You say “For all the injustice the Arab states scream about…” implying they aren’t right to scream about injustice. There really is no comparison between the aid given to the P.A. to the financial aid given to Israel ($3,000,000,000 +)? Also, the U.S. does not support Palestinian crimes against Israelis — it rightly condemns them. It’s only Israeli crimes that the U.S. supports, not only financially, but also militarily and diplomatically, such as by using its veto power to ensure that Israel is not held accountable for those crimes (look at what is going on with the Goldstone report as a case in point).

            Is the U.S. directly responsible for the crimes taking place in Darfur and Somalia? Does the U.S. finance the criminals? Does it send them arms? Does it protect them diplomatically? Again, as an elementary moral principle, as an American I am primarily concerned with the crimes of my own government, not those of others.

          • Jeremy,

            So why did Israel attack Gaza? Many will argue the rocket attacks were a violation of the cease fire. I for one don’t see any defense that firing thousands of rockets is not a violation of the cease fire. I mentioned the aid to demonstrate the US is not wholly in favor of Israel.


          • Israel attacked Gaza, as Richard Goldstone has said, to punish the Palestinian people for having the wrong leaders.

            As for rocket attacks, Hamas was not responsible for them, and was actively working to try to discourage other groups from engaging in them. That was a difficult task for Hamas when Israel went out of its way to provoke attacks from other groups, which were not party to the cease-fire agreement, such as the Islamic Jihad attack in June that was a response to the Israeli assassination of one or more of their members in the West Bank.

            The simple fact of the matter is that it was Israel, not Hamas, that violated the cease-fire. That is uncontroversial.

            As for the U.S. role, it wholly backed the murderous and criminal Israeli assault on Gaza. The fact that the U.S. provides some financial aid to the P.A. does not belie that fact.

  • John Lowell

    An outrage? Of course it is. A surprize? Hardly. Frankly, if this resolution passes with less than 95% affirmative votes, I’d be surprized.

    No less surprized by this likely outcome will I be than was I by the gutting of the draft bill to audit the Fed over the weekend. It’s all of a piece, actually. We live in a dictatorship with a whore legislature responsive only to paying lobbying interests in the financial, drug, arms and Middle East policy areas. And these are the patterns typical of whores. One day these filth will wake up to a sea of angry faces on every street and mall in Washington, D.C. Then there wil be change of a kind Mr. Obama will find himself unable to lie about.