US Congress clears Israel of war crimes as Israel opens investigations

by Yaniv Reich on November 4, 2009

Yesterday the shambolic US Congress voted 344-36 to denounce the Goldstone report in a non-binding resolution that claims, among other things, the report is “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy”. As with the rest of the attacks against Goldstone, the House Resolution 867 does not debate any of the facts in the report, but just repeats the by now thoroughly nauseating arguments about Israel’s right to defend itself at any cost to civilians and their infrastructure.

Note that despite the Congress’ resolution, the fact that Israel targets civilian targets is not speculation nor bias, but agreed IDF policy. Its known in the IDF as the Dahiya Doctrine, after the Shiite neighborhood in Beirut that was flattened during the Second Lebanon War. The IDF Northern Command Chief Eisenkot explains the doctrine’s objectives:

“What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on.
We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.
This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved. There would be no mercy shown when it comes to hitting the national infrastructure of a state that, in practice, is controlled by Hizbullah.
In practical terms, the Palestinians in Gaza are all Khaled Mashaal, the Lebanese are all Nasrallah, and the Iranians are all Ahmadinejad.”

Not only is this a revolting military strategy, it is also, if taken at face value and implemented accordingly, a policy in strict violation of the Geneva Conventions. But not in the esteemed judgement of the US House of Representatives, which has made up its mind on the matter.

Judge Goldstone has responded systematically to the factual errors and misrepresentations in the resolution. And Congressman Baird from Washington DC, who has actually been to Gaza, has bravely condemned the resolution:

First, 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, available on my Web site at, to H.Res. 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 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?

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, a man who led the investigations of abuses in South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, 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?

My favorite moment of absurdity, which captures perfectly the uselessness of the US Congress, was when Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) actually objected to entering the Goldstone report into the record of discussion on this resolution HR 867.

All of this is particularly ironic because while the US has preemptively absolved Israel of all war crimes, Israel has opened a (very limited) investigation into 23 incidents of possible war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead. These investigations don’t deal with issues of political decision-making and military strategy, but they nevertheless reflect a development completely at odds with Congress’ blind “support”.

In the shameful US history of unconditional support for Israel no matter what Israel does, yesterday was a particularly poignant example of how far the debate must be shifted in the US.

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