Israel and Gaza Deserve Better Than HR 867

Before
House Members vote on H.Res. 867, regarding the U.N. Goldstone report
on the Gaza conflict, there are a few questions worth asking.

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 baird.house.gov, 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
firsthand 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 and 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?

As
one of the first two American officials, along with Rep. Keith Ellison
(D-Minn.), to enter Gaza shortly after the conclusion of major bombing
from "Operation Cast Lead," then again several months later, I have
seen firsthand the devastating destruction of hospitals, schools,
homes, industries and infrastructure. Much of that devastation was
wrought using U.S. manufactured and paid for weaponry. I have also
spoken with health workers, average Gazans, nongovernmental
organization relief workers and many others.

In
addition, I have been to the Israeli town of Sderot , which has been
the target of repeated rocket attacks, and to a number of Palestinian
towns and Israeli settlements in the West Bank . Colleagues who have
not been to the region may wish to view some of the images and
interviews from these visits on my Web site.

With
the information from these personal visits and on-the-ground knowledge,
I read with care and interest the Goldstone report in its entirety, and
my firm conclusion is that, although the findings may be unpleasant and
troubling, they are, unfortunately, consistent with the facts and
evidence. In my judgment, far from meriting the obstruction called for
in H.Res. 867, the Goldstone report is without question worthy of
further investigation.

I
know this conclusion is not easily accepted, and I know it raises
serious charges against entities and individuals on both sides of this
conflict, Israel and Hamas. But if our own country is truly to stand
for human rights and the rule of law, and if facts matter, how can we
do other than insist that legitimate questions and evidence are
followed by further investigation and, if necessary and warranted,
appropriate consequences?

H.Res.
867 is very serious business. If, as Goldstone asserts and the evidence
I have seen supports, there were in fact gross violations of
international law and human rights on all sides, we cannot in good
conscience support H.Res. 867.

This
is about much more than just another imposed political litmus test that
we are all too often asked to perform. This is about whether we as
individuals and this Congress as an institution find it acceptable to
drop white phosphorous on civilian targets, to rocket civilian
communities, to destroy hospitals and schools, to use civilians as
human shields, and to deliberately destroy nonmilitary factories,
industries and basic water, electrical and sanitation infrastructure.
This is about whether it is acceptable to restrict the movement,
opportunities and hopes of more than a million people every single day.

At
the end of the day, this is also about our own domestic security. If we
are seen internationally as condoning violations of human rights and
international law, if our money and our weaponry play a leading role in
those violations, and if we reflexively obstruct the findings of
someone with the credentials, history and integrity of Justice
Goldstone, it can only diminish our international standing and our own
security.