November 4, 2009

Oberstar joins House in snubbing international humanitarian law

By a vote of 344 to 36, with 22 members voting "present", the US House of Representatives yesterday passed a non-binding resolution dismissing a UN report on war crimes committed during Israel's 2008 assault on Gaza. The report, authored by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, concluded that both Hamas and to a larger extent the Israeli Defense Forces violated international law by targeting hospitals, schools, UN buildings, homes, food stores and other infrastructure necessary for human survival during the 2008 war. Goldstone's conclusions are supported by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, but the pro-war resolution passed by members of Congress (most of whom presumably have not bothered to read the report), "considers the `Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict' to be irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy."

The resolution stands in a long line of "irredeemably biased" statements issued by Congress in recent years that both distort the facts on the ground and grant virtual impunity to Israel for any act of war against its neighbors or the people of the Occupied Territories. On November 4, a coalition of human rights groups issued their own statement calling on the UN General Assembly to endorse the Goldstone report, saying: "this is an opportunity for the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to send a clear message to Israeli and Palestinian leaders that civilians, regardless of their nationality, religious or ethnic background, are not legitimate targets of attack."

James Oberstar voted with the majority and Dave Obey voted "present." You can call Oberstar's office in DC at (202) 225-6211, or Duluth at (218) 727-7474 and express your disappointment.

Several Minnesota representatives showed the courage to stand up against the resoltion. Both Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison voted NO. Keep reading for McCollum's statement before the House.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Statement in support of human rights and in opposition to H. Res. 867

November 3, 2009

Madam Speaker, this resolution harms U.S. national security interests in the Middle East and American leadership for human rights and humanitarian law. And, while the U.S. attempts to be an honest-broker in an Israeli-Palestinian peace process this resolution is blatantly biased and damages U.S. credibility.

This resolution seeks to hide the ugliness of the Gaza War by covering-up the violent excesses committed against innocent civilians by Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces.

Why does the U.S. House want to reject an accounting of Hamas’s terrorism against Israeli civilians as if thousands of rockets were not fired at Israel ?

Why does this resolution want to deny that hundreds of Palestinian women and elders were needlessly killed by the IDF?

American made white phosphorus shells were used by Israel in civilian areas causing horrible burns to Palestinian children, yet this resolution refuses to seek the truth?

The report Congress is burying today was led by a former chief prosecutor for war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, a jurist of exceptional experience who has faced far tougher actors than his critics in this chamber, critics who have not held a single hearing or conducted a single fact-finding mission on the subject of his report.

There must be only one standard for respecting human rights, a single standard by which we must hold ourselves, our friends, and our adversaries accountable. Establishing situational standards for respecting human rights is dishonest and only encourages actions that destroy human dignity and life.

Therefore I agree with U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon who recently said at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual dinner that he is “a friend who is acutely aware of Israel 's security needs.” But on the issue of the Goldstone report Secretary Ban said, "When human rights are violated anywhere in the world we need accountability."

Today, I would ask my colleagues to vote for human rights and accountability by voting against this resolution.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just want too take time too thank the active members for doing what you do and making the community what it is im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.