Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Take Action: Support the Recommendations of the Goldstone Report on Gaza

Last week, the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former member of the South African Constitutional Court and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, released a 575-page report documenting violations of human rights and international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity committed before, during, and after Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 assault on the occupied Gaza Strip.
The reactions of Israel and its supporters were swift and furious. Israel’s President said the report "makes a mockery of history." AIPAC condemned the report as “deeply flawed” and “biased.” And Rep. Gary Ackerman, one of Capitol Hill’s most vociferous defenders of Israeli occupation and apartheid, accused the authors of the report of living in a “self-righteous fantasyland.”
Why are Israel and its supporters so upset by the Goldstone Report? Because it fairly and even-handedly examined the actions of all parties to the conflict and made recommendations to hold all human rights violators accountable through enforcement mechanisms, including compensation and potential prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
As you can imagine, the Obama Administration is under immense pressure to bury this report at the level of the UN Human Rights Council where it will be discussed on September 29 so that it is not referred to international bodies with enforcement powers such as UN Security Council, General Assembly, or International Criminal Court, as the report recommended.
Unfortunately it appears that the Obama Administration is caving into this pressure. Speaking at the UN last week, Ambassador Susan Rice, Permanent U.S. Representative to United Nations, characterized the report as “unbalanced, one sided and basically unacceptable.” Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Crowley urged that the “report should not be used as a mechanism to add impediments to getting back to the peace process,” as if holding human rights abusers accountable and establishing peace are mutually exclusive affairs.
It’s a shame that the United States appears to be shielding Israel, yet again, for any accountability for its illegal actions in international forums. It’s even more of a shame coming so soon after the United States, for the first time, assumed a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and, in the words of Dr. Esther Brinner, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, stated: “Make no mistake; the United States will not look the other way in the face of serious human rights abuses. The truth must be told, the facts brought to light and the consequences faced.”
The Obama Administration faces a serious test of its commitment to the universality of human rights on September 29 when it will vote on whether to accept the Goldstone Report recommendations.