The US House of Representatives has rejected as "irredeemably
biased" the findings of a UN-sponsored report which says Israel
committed war crimes during its military assault on the Gaza Strip.
The house on Tuesday voted 344 to 36 in favour of a non-binding
resolution calling on Barack Obama, the US president, to maintain
his opposition to the report, which was written by a panel led by
Richard Goldstone, a South African judge.
The report accused
Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group, which has de facto control
of Gaza, of war crimes during the 22-day conflict in December and
But most of its criticism was directed towards Israel's conduct
during the offensive, in which human rights organisations say about
1,400 Palestinians - many of them women and children - were killed.
Thirteen Israelis, including three
civilians, were also killed over the course of the war, Israel has
Steny Hoyer, the Democrat House majority leader, said it was
important to adopt an official resolution against the Goldstone
report as it "paints a distorted picture".
It "epitomizes the practice of singling Israel out from all other
nations for condemnation," he said on Tuesday.
UN assembly pressure
The US house vote came a day before the United Nations General
Assembly is expected to debate its own resolution endorsing the
findings of the Goldstone report.
Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN in New York,
said that while the majority of the assembly's member nations were
expected to vote in favour of the resolution, the US vote on
Tuesday, although non-binding, was likely to dampen its impact.
"Remember - the key recommendation of Goldstone is to get a credible
investigation into the alleged war crimes that the Goldstone
commission found evidence of in Gaza, and the UN Security Council is
the only body that can move forward and demand an investigation,"
"The general assembly just does not have that power. Of course, on
the security council, the United States is a veto-wielding member
and, as the congressional vote underscores, the US is not going to
be interested in moving forward in the security council to call for
an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), or
anyone else for that matter."
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, criticised
the Security Council for so far failing to act "in triggering the
mechanism that Goldstone wanted, the investigation, the monitoring
and then reporting after six months before considering moving into
"The General Assembly, in a responsible way in the draft we have
submitted by the Arab group, which hopefully in the next two days
will receive large support, has taken some of the responsibility
from the security council ... and asked for the investigation to
begin," he told Al Jazeera.
The United Nations Human Rights Council, which sponsored the
Goldstone commission, has already voted to endorse the report.
Steven Rothman, a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, told Al
Jazeera that the report was biased against Israel, even after the
Goldstone commission's mandate was expanded so that it could
investigate war crimes alleged to have been committed by Hamas.
"The report was not written to talk about 12,000 rockets
intentionally sent by Hamas to slaughter Israeli men, women and
children, versus the Israelis trying in many respects to minimise
the damage to Palestinian civilians," he told Al Jazeera.
"So there have been completely different standards applied."
But when asked if he had read the Goldstone report in full, Rothman
said he had read only the report's executive summary.
"I did not read the 400 or 500 pages, but I read the executive
summary designed for members of congress and other world leaders to
read, and I found it terribly, terribly biased and one-sided," he
But Brian Baird, a Democrat congressman for Washington state, said
that the resolution failed to "accurately characterise" the
Goldstone report and made no attempt to reflect the situation on the
ground in Gaza.
"My belief is that it is incumbent on all of us who care about
justice and peace in the region to look equally, with an equally
critical eye, and all sides of this argument," he told Al Jazeera.
"One of the important elements of working towards peace and justice
is that if someone of the calibre of Justice Goldstone, with the
deligence and thoroughness of his investigation, ... reports on the
kind of events that occured that merits further consideration.
"The resolution before us in the House would block that."
The result of Tuesday's vote had been widely anticipated.
In January, as Israel bombarded the Palestinian territory, the House
had overwhelmingly backed a resolution "recognising Israel's right
to defend itself against attacks from Israel".
The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had
lobbied strongly for the latest resolution and said it "strongly
applauded" the House's action on Tuesday.
Goldstone last week sent a letter to the US House of Representatives
saying that the text of the US resolution had "factual inaccuracies
and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out
He offered several rejections and clarifications of the ideas
expressed in the resolution.
In response to Goldstone's criticism, three parts of the resolution
were amended on Tuesday to clarify that Goldstone had sought an
expansion to the commission's mandate so that his team could
investigate claims that Hamas had violated international law during
the Gaza war.
The Goldstone report, which accused Israel of using
"disproportionate force" and of deliberately targeting civilians,
called for independent investigations to be held into Israel's and
Hamas's conduct during the war.
The report called for the cases to be referred to the ICC in The
Hague if Israel and Hamas do not investigate the war crimes
allegations against them within six months.
Hamas has agreed to hold such an investigation, but Israel has not.