With Judge Richard Goldstone set to present a widely criticized United Nations report to the Human Rights Council today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and her Senate colleagues urged the United States to take action to block the report from reaching the UN Security Council. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Senators also urged the Obama administration to denounce any punishment against Israel as a result of the report's flawed findings.
The Senators wrote to Secretary Clinton, "We believe it is critical that the U.S. continue to work very hard to block any punitive actions against Israel that this report mentions, whether at the Security Council or other U.N. bodies. The loss of innocent lives is unfortunate wherever it occurs - in Israel or in Gaza. But this biased report ignores many of the key facts, and this should be recognized by the international community... As the United Nations Human Rights Council moves toward a resolution on the Goldstone report, we trust you and your team will denounce the unbalanced nature of this investigation."
Senator Gillibrand said, "The UN report charging Israel with war crimes is misleading and unacceptable. These findings should not be used as ammunition against a nation that has been forced to protect its families and children from Hamas attacks. Legitimizing the report sends a dangerous message to countries defending themselves against terrorism. I applaud the State Department for expressing deep concerns and urge the Administration to use its voting power and leverage to ensure that Israel is treated fairly at the UN."
On September 15, the UN Human Rights Council released a 575 page report overseen by Judge Richard Goldstone which accused Israel of committing war crimes during last winter's war in Gaza. Israel took military action in Gaza in direct response to nearly a decade of rocket attacks by Hamas. The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice has denounced the report calling it an "unbalanced, one-sided and unacceptable" mandate.
By October 2, 47 members of the Human Rights Council will decide whether or not the report will be referred to the Security Council, a group which holds the power to authorize an international investigation. The United States began its term as a member of the Human Rights Council in May.
The Senators cited four key failures to the UN report, including the report's failure to recognize Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism and omission of the fact that Israeli soldiers went to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
The letter was co-signed by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), John Ensign (R-NV), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), David Vitter (D-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dan Inouye(D-HI), John McCain (R-AZ), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Thune (R-SD), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
The full text of the letter is below:
September 29, 2009
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary,
We appreciate the State Department publicly raising significant concerns about the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone. We believe it is critical that the U.S. continue to work very hard to block any punitive actions against Israel that this report mentions, whether at the Security Council or other U.N. bodies. The loss of innocent lives is unfortunate wherever it occurs - in Israel or in Gaza. But this biased report ignores many of the key facts, and this should be recognized by the international community.
We commend the State Department statements criticizing the one-sided mandate directing the Goldstone report and highlighting the real causes of the war between Israel and Hamas. In particular, we are gratified that the Department has very serious concerns about the report's recommendations, including calls that this issue be taken up in international fora outside the Human Rights Council and in national courts of countries not party to the conflict. As the United Nations Human Rights Council moves toward a resolution on the Goldstone report, we trust you and your team will denounce the unbalanced nature of this investigation.
There are many serious flaws with the Goldstone report and the investigatory process. The Goldstone mission's mandate was problematic from the start. The fact that the mission exceeded this mandate by also criticizing some of Hamas' activities does not diminish the problem that the vast majority of the report focuses on Israel's conduct, rather than that of Hamas. The report further fails to acknowledge Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism and other external threats, a right of all UN Members under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The report ignores the fact that Israel acted in self-defense only after its civilian population suffered eight years of attacks by rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately from Gaza. Furthermore, the report does not adequately recognize the extraordinary measures taken by the Israel Defense Forces to minimize civilian casualties, which frequently put Israeli soldiers at risk.
As the State Department has stated, Israel is a democratic country, like the United States, with an independent judiciary and democratic institutions to investigate and prosecute abuses. The Israel Defense Forces have a reputation for investigating alleged violations of international law and its internal military code of conduct. As a law-abiding state, Israel is in the process of conducting numerous investigations for which it should be commended not condemned.
We hope you will succeed in your efforts to ensure that consideration of the report at the current meetings of the UN Human Rights Council will not provide an opportunity for Israel's critics to unfairly use the Council and the report to bring this matter to the UN Security Council.