“It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.” — Edward Said
On the afternoon of November 3, 2009, the United States House of Representatives voted in favor of House Resolution 867 (H.Res.867), an AIPAC-backed bill that urges both 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,” referred to commonly as the “Goldstone Report.” With this vote, the US Congress has not only enshrined its opposition to investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity found to be committed during last winter’s Israeli massacre of over 1,400 Palestinians in the closed-off Gaza Strip, but has also affirmed its outrageous and unconscionable commitment to Israel’s continuous unfettered aggression and singular unaccountability to international law, rules of military engagement, human rights, and basic morality.
In their successful effort to ( yet again) shield the State of Israel from any and all scrutiny or criticism over its illegal use of collective punishment and excessive force against an imprisoned, impoverished, and defenseless civilian population, Congressional supporters of H.Res.867 sought to discredit the UN’s 575-page report of meticulously-documented human rights violations. After visiting Gaza, conducting 188 individual interviews of victims and witnesses, studying more than 300 reports, submissions and other documentation including medical reports and forensic analysis of weapons and ammunition remnants collected in Gaza, amounting to more than 10,000 pages, and reviewing over 30 videos and 1,200 photographs, the Mission, led by South African Justice Richard Goldstone, concluded that “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” were committed by both parties (Israel and Hamas) during the Israeli assault on Gaza (A/HRC/12/48 p.423).
Goldstone’s impeccable and unimpeachable credentials cannot be overstated. As a member of the South African Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, Goldstone was responsible for uncovering and publicizing allegations of the extensive violence committed by Apartheid South African security forces, paving the way for subsequent investigations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after South African democratization. He served as a judge for the Constitutional Court of South Africa, chairman of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and was a member of the International Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina (CEANA), tasked to identify and prosecute Nazi war criminals who had emigrated to Argentina. In 2004/5, he was a member of the Volker Committee investigation into the UN’s Iraq oil-for-food program.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that, according to a lecture Goldstone delivered in Jerusalem in 2000, he “believes bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust,” which he described as “the worst war crime in the world.” In Goldstone’s view, the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the lessons learned by the international community in the wake of their discovery have “shaped legal protocol on war” and “constituted the basis for the concept of universal jurisdiction.”
Not only this, but in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, his own daughter Nicole (once a resident of Israel) even described Goldstone, who is Jewish, as “a Zionist” who “loves Israel.” Goldstone currently serves as a trustee at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, the harrowing conclusions and reasonable recommendations of the UN commission were quickly denounced by many US officials (not to mention the pathetic ‘who, me?’ outrage and phony self-righteousness exhibited by their Israeli counterparts), most of whom had not even read the report in its entirety; their smug derision of the dispassionate facts presented in the report made perfectly clear their intention to cover-up Israeli war crimes and, in so doing, legitimize and endorse Israel’s ongoing suppression, dehumanization, starvation, occupation, and slaughter of the Palestinian people.
As it has in the past, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), rushed to Israel’s defense. This is the same team that, almost two weeks into the Israeli bombardment, co-sponsored House Resolution 34, a Pelosi-led non-binding declaration that “recogniz[ed] Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” and “reaffirm[ed] the United States strong support for Israel.” H.Res.34 called upon the House of Representatives to express “vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and [to recognize] its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against Hamas’s unceasing aggression,” in addition to claiming that Israel had “facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza” during the assault. The resolution also called on “all nations” to “condemn Hamas for deliberately embedding its fighters, leaders, and weapons in private homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, and otherwise using Palestinian civilians as human shields, while simultaneously targeting Israeli civilians” and “to lay blame both for the breaking of the ‘calm’ and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas.”
The resolution made no mention whatsoever to the crippling Israeli blockade, the devastating and ceaseless air and ground assaults by the Israeli military, or the fact that it was the IDF that had, in fact, broken the ceasefire in the first place. The resolution passed almost unanimously (390-5) on the very same day that the Palestinian death toll in Gaza reached 765, half of them children and women, with thousands more wounded, including hundreds in critical condition. As Congress affirmed its “vigorous support [of] and unwavering commitment” to Israel, municipal buildings, homes, and mosques in Gaza were shelled relentlessly by the Israeli military using US weaponry. Five days earlier, the Israeli Air Force had launched an attack on a school run by theUnited Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya, killing over 40 people and wounding over 100 more.
Over seven months later, when the Goldstone Report was released, Representatives Berman and Ros-Lehtinen returned to the drafting table.
Howard Berman, the self-described liberal who voted for the invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003 as well as the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, was described in an article in the Jewish Daily Forward as a “staunch supporter of Israel” and “a cautious backer of the peace process” whose “interest in the Jewish state was one of the main reasons he first sought a seat on the [House Foreign Relations] committee.” Berman, possibly in an effort to one-up Joe Biden, boasts that “Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist.” Larry Weinberg, an AIPAC board member, confirms Berman’s ethno-supremacist credentials saying, “I have known Congressman Berman for many years, and I am continually impressed by his personal commitment to strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel…He is not only a leader on our issues, but he is a friend to many in the pro-Israel community.”
Berman is adamant about placing harsh sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, which he constantly mischaracterizes as a “nuclear weapons” program. He, along with his trusty sidekick Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has recently proposed HR 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which seeks to impose sanctions on companies that help Iran to import refined petroleum products or that help it to increase its domestic refinery capacity. In a September speech, Berman claimed that the United States “will be in a much stronger position to maximize our ability to obtain crippling sanctions because of our sincere effort to engage [Iran].” What an enticing proposal for Iran to engage! The speech also contained this brilliant nugget regarding the terrifying menace of a nuclear-armed Iran: “We’re not talking about a regime that has the same calculus – that same sense of restraint – as we do about the use of such a weapon.” Perhaps the Congressman forgot that, in addition to being the biggest stockpiler of nuclear weapons on the planet in clear violation of its obligations to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States is also the only country in the history of the world to ever use nuclear weapons. And it used them on innocent civilians. Twice.