WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of H.Res. 867, calling on the President and Secretary of State to oppose endorsement or consideration of the flawed Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The resolution passed the House this evening. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I rise to voice my objection to the unbalanced and inaccurate Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, otherwise known as the Goldstone Report. The report not only paints a distorted picture of Israel’s legitimate efforts at self-defense—it epitomizes the practice of singling Israel out from all other nations for condemnation. The Goldstone Report does little to build confidence that the U.N. or its Human Rights Council can deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an evenhanded manner.
“For one, the Human Rights Council’s mandate for the report specifically targeted Israeli actions, ignoring the deliberate Hamas attacks on civilians that provoked Israel’s self-defense in Operation ‘Cast Lead.’ The report’s lead author himself, Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, objected to that one-sided mandate; but it was not formally altered. Similarly, former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who has criticized Israel’s record in the past, also objected to the one-sided mandate. In her words: ‘Unfortunately, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution seeking a fact-finding mission to only look at what Israel has done, and I don’t think that’s a human rights approach.’ Secretary of State Clinton agrees. She said: ‘We believe that the mandate for the Goldstone report was one-sided and that many of the recommendations are appropriately dealt with by the institutions within Israel.’
“The Goldstone Report largely neglects the context within which Israeli actions took place. Why is that context so vital, and why is the report so empty without it? Because, for years, Israel has been the target of asymmetrical warfare—of terrorists who hide behind civilians and aim to kill civilians. For eight years before Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ Hamas—aided by Iran and others—launched deadly rockets and mortars into Israel, even after Israel dismantled its Gaza settlements, even after it withdrew its military. More than 6,000 rockets have fallen, indiscriminately, on southern Israel’s cities and towns. Each intended to kill the maximum number of civilians; each was a war crime, by definition. And I have seen the effects first-hand: in the Israeli town of Sderot, I saw children who had lost the ability to speak, who no longer had control over their bodily functions, who were condemned to play in an armored playground for fear of the rockets that could kill with only seconds’ warning. That is the context of which the Goldstone report make such short shrift.
“Tragically, civilians in Gaza suffered and continue to suffer. They suffer in major part from the determination of their imposed leaders to pursue indiscriminate terror. When terrorists turn civilians into shields, it is they who bear the ultimate responsibility for the inadvertent, unwanted, and tragic results. Hamas—like its state sponsors—is notorious for using innocent men, women, and children as human shields and political props. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it early this year: ‘Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage.’ And Hamas continues to hold them hostage, likely subjecting the Goldstone report’s Palestinian witnesses to intimidation and threats, a possibility that the report does not take into account.
“Unlike Hamas and its sponsors, Israel is a democracy with an independent judiciary. It is fully investigating its own military for any human rights violations that may have been committed in Gaza. I believe in the integrity of Israel’s investigations, because I believe in its legitimacy as a democratic state. But I do not accept the legitimacy of singling out Israel for biased censure.
“It is essential to hold every nation to international norms of behavior in peace, as well as in war. Israel must be held to the same standards as any other nation. It holds itself to such standards, even when its enemies do not. Indeed, few nations constrain themselves more than Israel. But no other nation has so many in the U.N. eager to condemn it, irrespective of facts and justification.
“Soon, the U.N. General Assembly will vote on endorsing the Goldstone Report. But by doing so, and by condemning Israel, the U.N. would also be threatening the just self-defense of any state endangered by asymmetrical warfare. I urge my colleagues to join me in voicing our strong opposition to the impending action of the United Nations.”