Our ‘Political Pilgrimage’ group got back to Washington DC Monday night; we had CNI’s annual dinner Tuesday night; and I’ve been catching up on numerous things since then. But I do want to share some intriguing good news that came in during our 17-day absence on the PP tour. (Also, be assured that we are planning to put a lot more items here on the blog about what we learned on the tour– in written, photographic, and also videographed form…. This will happen throughout the coming weeks.)
Meanwhile, the good news.
It comes from my dear buddies (and former colleagues) at the DC-based Friends Committee on National Legislation, who made a point of carefully tracking the statements made on the House floor in the discussion over the infamous anti-Goldstone bill that was passed by the House of representatives on November 3. Sadly, the bill, which was heavily pushed by AIPAC and other portions of the “status quo lobby”, passed by a vote of 344 to 36 with 22 members voting “present”.
Some analysts have noted that AIPAC’s ability to ram a “boilerplate”, Israel-right-or-wrong, resolution through the House has decreased noticeably since, for example, last January, when a bill expressing uncritical support for Israel’s war against Gaza passed with an even larger majority.
(Readers are no doubt aware that these bills have no direct operational impact, since it is the President and his administration that conduct foreign policy. They do, however, help create a climate that constrains what the executive branch is able to do. And anyway, on the Goldstone issue, the administration was already out ahead of Congress in denouncing Judge Goldstone’s report, though of course without being able to do anything to actually challenge either Goldstne’s presentation of facts, or his analysis…)
Okay, you’re saying, so where’s the good news?
To me, the good news comes with some of the speeches that were made on the House floor during the discussion on the bill, November 3. There was some very effective push-back there to the efforts of the status-quo lobby! Go, look, for example, at C-span’s archived version of the speech made by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).
For its part, FCNL has made a really helpful digest of the most inspiring and forceful of these pro-Goldstone– as made by no fewer than 15 courageous and principled members of Congress. (The digest came to me in an email. I can’t find it on the usually useful Middle East update page on their website. But you can sign up for their regular Middle East email blasts, here.)
So, here’s the digest:
Keith Ellison urged rejection of the resolution because it suppressed democratic inquiry, contained numerous factual errors (which were refuted by Judge Goldstone himself in a letter he wrote to Congress), undermined Israel’s ability to conduct its own investigation, and ran counter to the Obama administration’s foreign policy. He cited and entered into the record a letter from Israeli human rights groups opposing the resolution because it they feared it could break the momentum building in Israel for an independent investigation.
Barbara Lee (CA) noted that the United States has repeatedly condemned Hamas rocket attacks against Israel and reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defense. Civilian deaths and the devastation wrought on homes, schools, and infrastructure, she said, could not be ignored. She urged rejection of the resolution because it “does not bring us closer to realizing a two-state solution.”
Jim Moran (VA) said the House was “seeking with this resolution to foreclose all discussion and action” on the Goldstone report, instead of asking Judge Goldstone to testify before Congress so “we can debate specifically what sections may be valid or flawed.” Moran noted that Goldstone was a trustee of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and “a man widely known for his integrity, fairness, and conscientiousness, who investigated war crimes in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Kosovo and who uncovered Nazi war criminals in Argentina.”
Bill Delahunt (MA) explained that he would vote “present” because the “process has been totally inadequate.” He noted that the resolution had come to the floor on a fast-track procedure without a hearing “despite the willingness of Judge Goldstone to come before the United States Congress and answer any questions that we might pose to him.”
Brian Baird (WA) displayed large photographs as he addressed the House, one of Israeli children in Sderot crouching for cover on the floor of their classroom during a Hamas rocket alert, another of a Gazan father gazing down at the bodies of his three children killed in an Israeli attack. “Those children deserve someone to ask why they died, just as these children in Sderot deserve someone to say they must not be rocketed,” Baird said, “and the Goldstone Report does both.”
John Dingell (MI) told his House colleagues, “This resolution, though non-binding, sends a signal to the world that the United States Congress is not serious about pushing the Israelis and the Palestinians toward a peaceful resolution.”
Dennis Kucinich (OH) said, “Today we journey from Operation Cast Lead to Operation Cast Doubt. Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist.” He asked, “How can we ever expect there to be peace in the Middle East if we tacitly approve of violations of international law… How can we protect the people of Israel from existential threats if we hold no concern for the protection of the Palestinians?”
Betty McCollum (MN) argued that the resolution “harms U.S. national security interests in the Middle East and American leadership for human rights and humanitarian law. She called the resolution “blatantly biased” and damaging to U.S. credibility and asked, “Why does the U.S. House want to reject an accounting of Hamas’s terrorism against Israeli civilians…” and “deny that hundreds of Palestinian women and elders were needlessly killed by the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces]? 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?”
Donna Edwards (MD) termed H.Res. 867 the “wrong resolution because it fails to call for independent investigations by the Israelis and Palestinians.” She said passing it would be “a missed opportunity to move closer to achieving a two-state solution” and voiced regret that the House did not invite Judge Goldstone and the Israeli Government to testify before bringing a resolution to the floor.
David Price (NC) said the resolution could “slow or stop the wheels of justice” by discouraging calls in Israel for an internal investigation that is “a central recommendation of the Goldstone Report as well as the Obama administration and prominent Israeli officials and Israeli human rights organizations. Israel is a strong and resilient democracy. Successfully investigating this episode could only make it stronger.”
Lois Capps (CA) called for “an open and honest debate with the reputable Judge Goldstone.” She said that “in this body’s haste, we’ve overlooked some of the depth of unspeakable tragedies that have occurred during the war on Gaza. Innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives were lost. We owe it to all victims’ families to vow to do everything in our power to prevent further tragedy. Instead, we have a flawed resolution before us.”
Jim McGovern (MA) emphasized that “regardless of what you think of the Goldstone Report, it makes an important recommendation: that it is incumbent upon both Israel and the Palestinians, in particular Hamas, to carry out credible investigations into actions by their forces that led to the harm and loss of civilians.”
George Miller (CA) noted that many of his constituents had contacted him in the past week urging him to oppose the resolution. He said the House should not be asked to vote on the resolution without a hearing, particularly since it came to the floor with little notice under procedures typically used for noncontroversial legislation. Given the diverse views he had heard, he said, “I do not believe this resolution can be described as noncontroversial.” He said he also believed that the resolution “undermines the ability of the United States to further push both sides toward serious peace negotiations.”
Lynn Woolsey (CA) argued that H. Res. 867 “will only serve to drive a wedge between the parties and will derail the Administration’s efforts towards a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.” She said she hoped Congress would have a future opportunity “to consider legislation that is balanced and that–at its core–promotes a smart security policy for the U.S. and its allies in the region. Unfortunately, this resolution does not.”
Sam Farr (CA) reported that in a recent meeting with Jewish constituents he heard a comment that he found “moving for its simplicity and power. My constituent told me, ‘Israel will not have peace and security until Palestinians have hope.’ This resolution does nothing to give hope to the people of Palestine that a better, peaceful future is possible and therefore does nothing to give greater security to the people of Israel.”
If you live in the the district of one of these members, please make a point of writing to thank him or her for the stand they took.