Showing posts with label Goldstone Report. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Goldstone Report. Show all posts

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Victor Kattan: Yes, Gaza conflict was a travesty

Please write your letter to the editor today in response to Victor Kattan's op-ed below from Saturday's Providence Journal. It provides important reminders about the Goldstone report and Israel's 2008-09 invasion of the Gaza Strip, which, according to the Goldstone report:
"…was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."
Letters to the Providence Journal must carry the writer's name, address and daytime phone number. The newspaper strongly favors letters of 250 words or fewer. Letters can be emailed to Please be sure to write at some point in the letter that you are referring to "Victor Kattan: Yes, Gaza conflict was a travesty" (April 30 opinion page).

Yes, Gaza conflict was a travesty

By Victor Kattan
Saturday, April 30, 2011

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission into the Gaza conflict in 2008-9, chaired by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone, which produced "the Goldstone Report," has attracted so much opprobrium that one must wonder whether it would have attracted any attention at all had Israel and its supporters not embarked on a campaign to discredit it.

For those who have not read the 575-page report, it concluded that "what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."

Three weeks ago Goldstone published an op-ed in The Washington Post asserting that the Goldstone report would have been a different document "had I known then what I know now." But as John Dugard, a fellow South African lawyer, and close friend of Goldstone, noted in an article he published in The New Statesman, Goldstone failed to disclose any information in his op-ed that seriously challenged the findings of the U.N. report that bears his name. For this reason, Dugard described Goldstone’s op-ed as making "strange reading."


Monday, April 4, 2011

Goldstone's retraction turns laws of war into Israel's "surmountable nuisance," says Noura Erekat

Below, our former National Organizer, Noura Erekat, responds with insight on Justice Richard Goldstone's frustrating steps to distance himself from some of his own most crucial findings 24 months ago in his U.N. investigation of Israel's largest-ever attack on the Gaza Strip. Goldstone wrote a critical op-ed in last Friday's Washington Post. Erekat is currently an adjunct professor at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in Georgetown University.

Goldstone: An act of negligence

Downplay of Israeli aggression towards civilians during the Gaza War, causes scholars to question Richard Goldstone.

Noura Erekat
April 4, 2011

In the wake of a monumental victory in the human rights community to move the Goldstone Report out of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to the General Assembly where it can be underpinned by actionable follow up, Justice Richard Goldstone’s recent editorial makes some human rights practitioners wish it had been left to languish in the HRC.

Goldstone sought to do two things in his op-ed: to amend the record by stating that Israel’s attacks may not have been deliberate and second, to emphasise Hamas’s culpability under the laws of war. In the best case scenario, Goldstone’s intervention is a problematic attempt to cajole Israel to participate in the international process for accountability.

However, even in that case, the editorial is counterproductive, short-sighted, and casts Goldstone's attempts as no less than curious. 

Just last week, I had the chance to speak to Goldstone at Stanford Law School where I participated in a debate on the report featuring him as a discussant.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Call Congress TODAY: Support the Goldstone Report

As you may know, last week Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.Res.867, trashing the Goldstone Report on war crimes committed before, during, and after Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" assault on the Gaza Strip. Please join the US Campaign in our attempt to stop this terrible resolution
Please send an email to their Representative asking them to vote "no" on H.Res.867.
Feel free to forward this link to email Congress:
Join our national call in day, tomorrow, November 3rd. We believe that H.Res. 867 will be voted on tomorrow afternoon, so please get as many calls in as possible tomorrow morning. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121, then ask to be connected with your Representative's office. When you're connected with your Representative's office use our talking pointsto explain why s/he should "vote no on H.Res.867"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

From the Gaza Freedom March organizers: Tell Congress "Don't Bury Goldstone"

We'll have more information on how to engage Congress on this over the next week, but here is a call from the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March to pressure Congress to oppose a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report: "The US Congress is a considering a bipartisan resolution which would officially reject the findings of Judge Goldstone’s report on the Gaza war and call on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to use the US veto to prevent a vote on the report in the United Nations Security Council. A vote on the bill, House Resolution 867, is expected by this coming weekend.

It is urgent that you call both your Senators and your Congressperson today and tell them to vote against this outrageous bill. You can read the bill here. It ignores the conclusions of the Goldstone Report and simply parrots Israeli government denial."

Click here to learn more and take action.

Bill Moyers interviews Judge Richard Goldstone

Many of you have probably already seen or read Bill Moyers' interview with Judge Richard Goldstone. If not, you can watch the interview and/or read the transcript here. The interview sparked an interesting discussion over at Mondoweiss. What do you think? Was Moyers giving in to Israeli government talking points, or giving Goldstone the chance to respond to commonly repeated criticisms of the report? What did you think of Goldstone's responses? Do you think that Israel and the Hamas leadership will agree to independent investigations? Let us know! In the meantime, help us strengthen civil society movement for accountability for war crimes by getting involved in the US Campaign's corporate accountability and policy work!

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's hard out here for a war criminal: Ehud Olmert's speaking tour met with protest, citizen's arrest attempts

Poor Ehud Olmert. Being a world-renowned war criminal just isn't what it used to be. After facing protests and disruptions at speaking stops at the University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago, Olmert was the target of an attempted citizen's arrest during a speech to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco. The Electronic Intifada reports:
Twenty-two people were arrested for challenging Olmert directly and demanding he be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Olmert has faced protests at Tulane University, University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago. The recent International Independent Fact-Finding Mission, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, found evidence that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during a three-week long attack on the Gaza Strip last winter, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and destroying much of the area's infrastructure. In 2006, similar Israeli attacks on Lebanon killed 1,200 people. Olmert has refused to be held accountable.
The organizers of the San Francisco protests include US Campaign member organizations and supporters. Check out this video of the action: As the U.S. and Israeli governments continue to oppose the Goldstone Report, the need for civil society to hold those responsible for attacks on Palestinian civilians is becoming increasingly evident. Get involved in the citizen's movement for accountability by participating in our November Weeks of Action and by joining the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine creates incentives for the continuation of occupation and apartheid. We need to create incentives to end occupation and apartheid. It's up to us to make sure that it's hard out here for a war criminal. Update: Chicago Olmert protesters comment on their decision to participate here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who You Callin' Biased? Richard Goldstone asks Obama Administration to specify flaws in Report as U.S. military aid to Israel continues to flow

Watch Judge Richard Goldstone respond to criticism of the Goldstone Report on war crimes in the Gaza Strip on Al Jazeera: Judge Goldstone asks the U.S. to justify its claims that the report's findings are flawed and biased, and questions whether the most vehement critics of the Report have even read it. In other Goldstone Report news, Israeli journalist Amira Hass recently provided an update of the case of the Samouni family:
"Twenty-nine members of the family, all of them civilians, were killed in the Israel Defense Force's winter assault - 21 during the shelling of a house where IDF soldiers had gathered some 100 members of the family a day earlier....Salah Samouni...feels that Goldstone, in his report, lent the victims a voice."
Al Jazeera also covered the story of the Samouni family: $30 billion in military aid to Israel over 10 years isn't just a number. U.S. military aid to Israel means tragedy for Palestinians like the Samouni family. Sign up today to organize in your Congressional district against U.S. military aid by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Israeli and international voices support accountability for Israeli violations of international law

As the Goldstone Report continues to make news, Israeli and international voices are calling for accountability for violations of international law and human rights--violations that are often committed with U.S. weapons paid for by U.S. tax dollars. Watch Al Jazeera's "Inside Story" cover the UN Human Rights Council's adoption of the Goldstone Report, including an interview with Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan who hails the Report as the end of Israeli exceptionalism vis-a-vis international law: And here's Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner, who satirizes Israel's "exclusive right to self-defense":
"Virtually all of Israel is now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report, against any attempt to blame us over the war in Gaza. We've honed our message to a sharp point and, inspired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's performance at the UN, we're delivering it with just the right tone of outrage: How dare anyone deny us the right to self-defense! How dare anyone deny us the right to fight back against terrorism....Here is our idea of the "laws of war": When Israeli bulldozers rolled across the border into Gazan villages and flattened house after house so Hamas wouldn't have them for cover after the IDF pulled out, that was self-defense. But if a Palestinian boy who'd lived in one of those houses threw a stone at one of the bulldozers, that was terrorism....The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity."
Click here to read the full article. In other Gaza accountability news, students at the University of Chicago protested a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Several students disrupted the speech itself, with one student shouting out "war crimes are not free expression" and another presenting a list of names of those killed during Israel's December-January attacks on the Gaza Strip. The protest was covered by many Israeli media outlets, including Ha'aretz. Click here to read the full report from the Electronic Intifada, and watch video of the protest below: Unfortunately, U.S. policy continues to support Israeli occupation and apartheid. Help us raise voices against U.S. complicity in war crimes committed against Palestinians in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Click here to sign up as a local organizer in your community to oppose U.S. military aid to Israel or carry out boycott and divestment campaigns against Israeli occupation and apartheid. Click here to help sustain the work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Phyllis Bennis on U.S. opposition to Goldstone Report

Electronic Intifada is carrying a report by Thalif Deen of the International Press Service on the UN Human Rights Council's adoption of the Goldstone Report. Here's US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis, author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, on the U.S. vote against the Goldstone Report at the HRC:
"There is a clear double-standard, once again, in the US position between Ambassador Susan Rice's recognition of the primacy of accountability for war crimes in the case of Darfur and Sudan, regardless of any potential impact on future peace talks, while rejecting accountability in the case of Israeli actions in Gaza....If Washington remains unwilling to hold Israel accountable for its violations, the potential for a new US position in the world -- one in which the United States is respected instead of resented, welcomed as a partner instead of feared -- will be impossible."
Click here to read the full report.

Friday, October 16, 2009

UN Human Rights Council Endorses Goldstone Report

Ha'aretz is reporting that the UN Human Rights Council has voted to endorse the Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel and Hamas of war crimes during Israel's December-January assault on the Gaza Strip:
"25 of the body's members voted in favor of the resolution that chastised Israel for failing to cooperate with the UN mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone. Another 6 voted against and 11 abstained. The resolution agreed in Geneva simply calls for the U.N. General Assembly to consider the Goldstone report and for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the Human Rights Council on Israel's adherence to it. The report calls for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the Israelis or Palestinians fail to investigate the alleged abuses themselves. The countries that voted against the report included the U.S., Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Ukraine"
Click here to read the full article. It's not a big surprise that the United States voted against the Goldstone Report, but what does that mean for the movement to challenge U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine? Keep an eye on this space and our website for an action alert and resources for two weeks of action in November. The first week of November we will be calling for action in coordination with the Gaza Freedom March. The second week of November is the international Week of Action Against the Apartheid Wall, coordinated by our allies at Stop the Wall. We'll be keeping an eye on the Goldstone Report and incorporating its progress into our ongoing actions. In the meantime, if you haven't already, sign up to be a local organizer, sign the Motorola boycott pledge, and donate to support the work of the US Campaign and to replant olive trees in Palestine that have been destroyed by the Israeli military and settlers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Phyllis Bennis talks to Peace by Piece about Goldstone Report, International Law, Civil Society

Check out US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis talking to Jared Sandersfeld of "Peace by Piece" about the Goldstone Report, international law, and the role of civil society in promoting accountability for human rights violations:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Democracy Now with Rashid Khalidi: Palestinian President Abbas Faces Uproar for Aiding US-Israeli Derailment of UN Report on Gaza Assault

Watch US Campaign Advisory Board member and National Conference speaker Rashid Khalidi discuss the popular outrage in the occupied Palestinian territories over the derailment of the Goldstone Report on Democracy Now:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Richard Falk 2009 Edward Said Memorial Lecture at Palestine Center

Yesterday US Campaign staff took a bit of a break to hear Richard Falk give the 2009 Edward Said Memorial Lecture at the Palestine Center. You can view the talk here: Notice again Falk's argument that the Goldstone Report is important in that it provides support for civil society efforts at holding Israel accountable, most notably through boycott and divestment efforts. Click here to learn more about BDS.

Richard Falk on Goldstone Report

Richard Falk discusses the Palestinian Authority's move to delay consideration of the Goldstone Report on Al Jazeera: For more news on the Goldstone Report, click here. Falk argues that the Goldstone Report remains important to civil society efforts at boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Click here to get involved in the BDS struggle.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fascinating comparison of U.S. stances on justice from Human Rights Watch

Our allies in human rights and international law at Human Rights Watch have put together a revealing comparison of U.S. positions on international law as it applies to a variety of conflicts and the U.S. position on the Goldstone Report. Check it out: Justice matters to the US in Kenya, Darfur, and Congo...

Kenya: "And I have urged that the Kenyan government try to find the way forward to handle this themselves, but if that is not possible, and people think it is not, then the names that have been turned over to the International Court of Criminal Justice will be opened, and an investigation will begin, and Kenya will not be making these very tough decisions for itself, which is a kind of rite of passage for democracies, dealing with people and making sure impunity is not permitted." - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 6, 2009.

Darfur: "The United States supports the International Criminal Court's (ICC) actions to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur. We remain determined in our pursuit of both peace and justice in Sudan. The people of Sudan have suffered too much for too long, and an end to their anguish will not come easily. Those who committed atrocities in Sudan, including genocide, should be brought to justice. UN Security Council Resolution 1593, which referred the crimes in Darfur to the ICC, requires the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the ICC and its prosecutor and urges all states and concerned regional organizations to cooperate fully." 
- UN Ambassador Susan Rice, March 4, 2009.

Democratic Republic of Congo: "I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity. ... While I was in the DRC, I had very frank discussions about sexual violence with President Kabila. I stressed that the perpetrators of these crimes, no matter who they are, must be prosecuted and punished. This is particularly important when they are in positions of authority, including members of the Congolese military, who have been allowed to commit these crimes with impunity." 
- Clinton, August 21, 2009.

Worldwide: “[W]e call on all parties and all governments to live up to their commitments under international humanitarian law, abide by all Security Council resolutions, and cooperate with international investigations to end impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 
- Rice, January 29, 2009.

But not in Gaza. 
“[I]n this, as in many other respects, the US focus, and I think constructively the focus of many other countries, is to try to look not to the past but to the future. The best way to end suffering and abuses is for there to be a long term solution and peace based on two states living side by side in peace and security.” 
 - Rice, September 22, 2009.

The US insists that Israel can investigate itself…
 “The United States understands that Israel is a vibrant and strong democracy and it has more than sufficient capacity to conduct a credible internal investigation and we’ve encouraged it to do so.” - Rice, September 22, 2009.

“We are confident that Israel, as a democracy with a well-established commitment to rule of law, has the institutions and ability to carry out robust investigations into these allegations. We note that Israel has stated publicly it has already investigated at least 100 complaints related to the Gaza conflict, including about some incidents mentioned in the report, and is currently pursuing action in 23 individual cases. The findings from each of its investigations [are] subject to multiple independent layers of review. We encourage Israel to utilize appropriate domestic review procedures and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and address all credible allegations of misconduct or violations of international law.” - US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, September 29, 2009.

Even though Israel has never really tried. 
 While Israel is capable of carrying out the impartial investigations called for in the Goldstone report, the record on the recent Gaza conflict and over the past decade indicates a consistent lack of political will to hold its forces accountable for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

While Israeli authorities say that they have initiated roughly 100 investigations into Operation Cast Lead, the majority (about 60) are in fact only operational debriefings “held by the army, in the army” under the Military Justice Law. These debriefings are typically conducted within the chain of command by officers from the same unit as the soldiers whose actions are being evaluated. No witnesses outside the military are interviewed, and there is no mechanism to verify the soldiers’ accounts. The operational debriefing requirement delays a proper impartial criminal investigation, and can actually undermine such an investigation because the information provided cannot be released or used as evidence in a court of law. Operational debriefings do not investigate the orders given to the unit; the point of the debriefing is to determine how those orders were carried out. The lawfulness or unlawfulness of the orders given to the unit is beyond its scope.

Five unique “field investigations” (covering some 20 cases) were conducted by Israeli colonels outside the chain of command, but the relatively low rank of the officers responsible for these investigations calls into question their independence, as do their uniform conclusions that the operations of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza were lawful. In the remaining 23 cases, criminal investigations have been opened.

Despite all three levels of investigations, Israel is known to have interviewed only two Palestinian witnesses to any of the alleged crimes in Gaza, and convicted only one soldier, sentencing him to seven months in prison for the theft of a credit card.

Prior practice also raises substantial doubt as to whether any of these investigations will result in indictments or prosecution. From 2000 to 2008, according to Yesh Din (an Israeli human rights organization), Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories killed more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians not involved in combat. Of 1,246 criminal investigations initiated during the same period into suspected offenses of all kinds by soldiers against Palestinian civilians, only 6 percent (78 cases) resulted in indictments. Only 13 of those indictments charged soldiers with killing civilians. As of September 2008, five soldiers had been convicted for the deaths of four civilians.

Most of these criminal investigations have been badly flawed for reasons that are deeply ingrained within Israel’s military justice system. Investigations are often initiated many months (at times more than a year) from the time of the incident, making it difficult to find evidence or identify witnesses and victims. The unit responsible for investigations has very few of the Arabic speakers needed to take testimonies from witnesses. In 2002, the Knesset passed a law denying Palestinians the possibility of obtaining compensation in most cases in which they have suffered injury as a result of illegal acts by Israeli security forces. 

The US claims Goldstone’s report shows a lack of “balance”…
 “[T]he weight of the report is something like 85 percent oriented towards very specific and harsh condemnation and conclusions related to Israel and very sort of lightly treats without great specificity Hamas’ terrorism and its own atrocities. So in that respect it remains unbalanced, although obviously less so than it might have been and so that is still a source of significant concern.” - Rice, September 22, 2009.

“The report further calls on Israel to undertake a moratorium on the use of certain munitions; it makes no such demand of Hamas with regard to its use of indiscriminate rockets. These unbalanced recommendations taint many of the report’s suggestions for international action.” - Posner, September 29, 2009.

Even though the report’s conclusions are hard-hitting on both sides: 
 The section of the report dealing with violations by Israeli forces during the Gaza war is significantly longer than the report’s sections addressing abuses by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. But the fact that the Goldstone report addresses Hamas’s one-dimensional assault on Israel through use of rockets in fewer pages than it took to discuss Israel’s multifaceted 22-day military operation is hardly surprising. And the conclusions Goldstone reaches regarding Hamas are as hard-hitting as those addressed to Israel:

“[T]hese attacks constitute indiscriminate attacks upon the civilian population of southern Israel and that where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into a civilian population, they constitute a deliberate attack against a civilian population. These acts would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity. Given the seeming inability of the Palestinian armed groups to direct the rockets and mortars towards specific targets and given the fact that the attacks have caused very little damage to Israeli military assets, the Mission finds that there is significant evidence to suggest that one of the primary purposes of the rocket and mortar attacks is to spread terror amongst the Israeli civilian population, a violation of international law.”

Attacking the report as unbalanced because of its language on weapons moratoriums turns Goldstone’s conclusions on their head. The moratorium language regarding Israel’s use of certain weapons (white phosphorus, flechettes, and heavy metals such as tungsten) reflects that Goldstone recognizes, as the US stresses, that Israel is a state with the right to self-defense, and that military action may be undertaken to defend itself. In contrast, it labels Hamas’s use of rockets and mortars a war crime (and possibly a crime against humanity), a clear finding of wrongdoing much stronger than simply calling for a moratorium on their use. 

The US claims Goldstone’s mandate was biased… 
“But the fundamental problem with this particular report is it was hatched with a bias inherent in its mandate. It is as a consequence a product that largely reflects that imbalance in its mandate, notwithstanding the effort to look at the other side to some extent, albeit a lesser extent.” - Rice, September 22, 2009.

Even though the mandate covered both sides. 
 While the original mandate for the mission focused only on Israel, that one-sided approach was corrected by the Human Rights Council president, Nigerian Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, who broadened the inquiry to look at all violations in the Gaza conflict committed by any of the parties. It was only after this change was made that Goldstone accepted the role as head of the mission, which indicates his insistence on a fair and unbiased approach.

The US implemented strategies emphasizing civilian protection in Iraq and Afghanistan…
 “Civilian casualties (CIVCAS) and damage to public and private property (collateral damage), no matter how they are caused, undermine support for [US and coalition forces] and the international community in the eyes of the Afghan population. Although the majority of CIVCAS incidents are caused by insurgents, the Afghan people hold [US and coalition forces] to a higher standard. Strict comparisons of amount of damage caused by either side are unhelpful. To protect the population from harm, [US and coalition forces] must take every practical precaution to avoid CIVCAS and collateral damage.” - Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report on the war in Afghanistan, September 2009.

“Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are “one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities. … Every civilian casualty, however caused, is a defeat for us and a setback for the Afghan government.” 
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, June 12, 2009.

But fails to hold Israel to the same standards.
 “National militaries engaged in asymmetrical warfare must remain bound by humanitarian law, but it is a stark and tragic reality that terrorists systematically ignore these laws. Actions by terrorist groups that have the effect of employing civilians as human shields put enormous pressures on militaries that are trying to protect civilians and their own soldiers, an issue faced by many militaries today. Although the Goldstone report deals briefly with these issues, its findings of fact and law are tentative and equivocating.” 
 - Posner, September 29, 2009.

Op-Ed: Will the Real Obama Administration Please Stand Up?

by Josh Ruebner* Last week the UN Human Rights Council debated the Goldstone Report, issued in September by the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The 575-page report calls for accountability for the “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed before, during, and after Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 assault on the occupied Gaza Strip. After coming under severe pressure from both the United States and Israel, the Palestinian Authority decided to withdraw its resolution calling for the UN Human Rights Council to accept the recommendations of the Goldstone Report, deferring action on it until the council’s next session in March. When the report comes up again next spring for a decision, how the United States votes will determine which of two contradictory impulses within the Obama Administration—respect for the universality of human rights versus shielding Israel from the consequences of its human rights violations—guides its approach to its newly-won seat on the UN Human Rights Council. That the Obama Administration is even grappling with its stance toward the UN Human Rights Council is a welcome improvement over the Bush Administration’s policy of boycotting the institution. Explaining the Bush Administration’s rejection of the council, former State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack alleged in March 2007 that it “has thus far not proved itself to be a credible body,” because, “There has been a nearly singular focus on issues related to Israel, for example, to the exclusion of examining issues of real concern to the international system.” It was with some relief then that human rights advocates cheered the Obama Administration’s March 2009 decision to reverse course and seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Repudiating Bush-era unilateralism, Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, declared, "The U.S. is seeking election to the Council because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.” In April 2009, in support of its candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, the Obama Administration articulated that “The deep commitment of the United States to championing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is driven by the founding values of our nation and the conviction that international peace, security, and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected.” On the strength of this and other pledges to promote human rights, the United States won a seat on the council in May. Upon assuming its seat on the UN Human Rights Council this month, Dr. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, continued the Obama Administration’s strong rhetorical support for the universality of human rights. “We can not pick and choose which of these [human] rights we embrace nor select who among us are entitled to them…These rights extend to all, and the United States can not accept that any among us would be condemned to live without them.” Brimmer also seemed to confirm that the United States will have only one standard by which to judge human rights violations within the UN Human Rights Council. “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.” Yet, already, the reality of U.S. policy on the UN Human Rights Council appears to signal otherwise. Speaking less diplomatically than in the State Department press release announcing the U.S. bid for a seat, Rice told Politico in April that the real reason why the Obama Administration decided to seek a seat was to fight against "the anti-Israel crap" within the council. Neither does the Obama Administration’s response to the Goldstone Report auger well for the United States living up to its word to hold human rights violators accountable. 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. Speaking at the UN, Rice called the UN mission “unbalanced, one sided and basically unacceptable,” even though the Goldstone Report documented human rights violations by Palestinian armed group and the Palestinian Authority, in addition to those committed by Israel. Under withering criticism of the Goldstone Report from Israel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Israel’s supporters on Capitol Hill—Rep. Gary Ackerman went so far as to accuse its authors of living in a “self-righteous fantasyland”—the White House reportedly promised to Jewish organizations in an off-the-record briefing to “quash” the report, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. To do so, the United States reportedly will try to permanently kill the report in the UN Human Rights Council, a body with no effective enforcement mechanism, and prevent it from going to the General Assembly, Security Council, and possibly even the International Criminal Court, as recommended in the report. Yet widespread support for the Goldstone Report recommendations does exist within the United States, as evidenced by the more than 150 organizations that signed an open letter to Rice organized by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation urging the United States to vote in favor of the recommendations in the UN Human Rights Council. Should the United States decide to vote against the Goldstone Report in March, it will be a major letdown for those who took seriously the Obama Administration’s rhetorical commitment to advancing human rights. * Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 300 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. The US Campaign’s open letter to Ambassador Rice can be viewed by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Center for Constitutional Rights Calls on President Obama to Stick to His Promises, Support Goldstone Report

from the Center for Constitutional Rights: Help put the pressure on our government to stand by its promises. Write or call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and ask President Obama to stand for human rights and accountability. Insist that he support a strong resolution in the Human Rights Council endorsing and implementing Justice Richard Goldstone's Report recommendations and supporting international justice mechanisms if domestic investigations are inadequate. The Report to the U.N. Human Rights Council documents war crimes including deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians committed in the context of military operations in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. You can also write Ambassador Susan Rice of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. or call (212) 415-4062. For more information, click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Updates on Goldstone Report

Here at the US Campaign's national office, we're closely following developments surrounding the Goldstone Report on Gaza. Click here for an updated policy analysis on the U.S. reaction to the report. Last week, the US Campaign sent an open letter to Ambassador Susan Rice urging the United States to accept the recommendations of the Goldstone Report. The open letter was covered by JTA and YubaNet. To keep up with media coverage of the US Campaign, click here. You can watch a video of the U.S. response to the Goldstone Report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva here (transcript available here): For an alternative response, click here to read the endorsement of the report by Palestinian human rights organizations.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Richard Goldstone talks about report on Gaza war crimes

Watch video of Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who authored the UN Human Rights Council-sponsored report on violations of human rights and international law during Israel's December-January attacks on the Gaza Strip. Here, Goldstone is interviewed by Al Jazeera English: And here is video of Judge Goldstone's press conference at the United Nations: (Thanks to Palestine Video) And here's Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Norman Finkelstein discussing the Goldstone Report: Take action to support the recommendations of the Goldstone Report by clicking here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Goldstone Report Already Making Waves

The Goldstone Report, the report on the December-January assault on the Gaza Strip initiated by the UN Human Rights Council, has finally been released, and is already making waves. US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab writes in Agence Global:
"On Monday, the United States assumed its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council -- the one the Bush administration had cold-shouldered, then boycotted. Its representative declared in Obamaesque tones, “Make no mistake: The United States will not look the other way in the face of serious human rights abuses.” And on Tuesday, Justice Richard Goldstone and his team submitted the report of their fact-finding mission into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during Israel’s December-January offensive against Gaza -- a report requested by the Council itself."
What are advocates for human rights and international law to make of the report? It has been produced by preeminently qualified experts on international law, including one participant in the commission of inquiry on Darfur and Goldstone himself, who served as prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunes for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It is, in the words of Nadia Hijab, "painstakingly even-handed," criticizing not just Israel but Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for their crack-downs on opposition during the December-January assaults. It's recommendations include that the crimes described in the report be taken up by the International Criminal Court. It is, in short, one of the most potentially important documents of international law related to Israel/Palestine since the 2004 ICJ advisory ruling against the apartheid Wall. What does that mean for us? Hijab quotes outgoing UN General Assembly President Father Miguel d'Escoto, who spoke powerfully of the need for accountability in his final speech in that position:
"[d'Escoto] went on to make a very serious accusation against “those who should supposedly have been most interested” yet “denied their support.” He said he hoped “that they were right and that I was wrong. Otherwise, we face an ugly situation of constant complicity with the aggression against the rights of the noble and long-suffering Palestinian people.” If this complicity repeats itself at the Human Rights Council, the Goldstone Report will be sunk. The power of the state system (and a putative statelet) will have trumped the principles of international law and human rights -- unless human rights advocates act to make sure the right thing gets done."
We need to make sure the right thing gets done. Over the next few days we'll be posting action alerts and resources that you, our supporters, need in order to make sure that this report doesn't get "sunk," as Nadia Hijab fears it will. For now, if you haven't already, join our campaign to end U.S. military aid to Israel--military aid that was used to commit many of the crimes described in the Goldstone report. Check out the whole report here [warning: it's a big file to download]. Read Hijab's full article here. Watch US Campaign steering committee member Phyllis Bennis talk about the report with Laura Flanders on GRITtv. And donate to the US Campaign to support our response to the Goldstone report. Stay tuned for more!
UPDATE: You can now take action to support the recommendations of the Goldstone Report by clicking here.