My HR 867 Postmortem

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed Resolution 867 by the whopping margin of 344 to 36.  For all you non-House watchers, HR 867 was the one that called upon

…the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the “Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” in multilateral fora.

In plain English this means that the US Congress has, for all intents and purposes, quashed the Goldstone report.

A few thoughts post-mortem:

– In this age of non-partisan Congressional gridlock, what do we make of the eye-popping rapidity in which this resolution was crafted, brought to the floor, and passed in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner?  For me at least, it proves only this:  Walt and Mearshimer are right. (If you haven’t read their book yet, check it out – I believe it’s becoming more relevant by the day.)

– During the House debate, Goldstone wrote a letter to the sponsors, addressing the resolution point by point and identifying numerous factual inaccuracies. Even though the vote is now history, I encourage you to read it.  I wonder how many of the 344 yeas voters actually took the time to do so (or if it would have made a difference if they had?)

– I commend to you this powerful Huff Post article, written by Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch. An excerpt:

The resolution succumbs to predictable American politics, in which criticisms of Israeli actions are rejected as delegitimizing attacks on Israel, and even as anti-Semitism. It misses a chance to break the impunity on all sides that has dogged the conflict and impeded efforts at peace. And, most significant for US foreign policy, it gives abusive governments around the world a handy excuse to deflect US criticism of their own unlawful conduct.

–  These are the House members who voted nay:

Baird, Baldwin, Blumenauer, Boustany, Capps, Carson (IN), Clarke, Clay, Davis (KY), Dingell, Doggett, Edwards (MD), Ellison, Filner, Grijalva, Hinchey, Johnson, E. B., Kilpatrick (MI), Kucinich, Lee (CA), Lynch, McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, Miller, George, Moran (VA), Olver, Pastor (AZ), Paul, Price (NC), Rahall, Snyder, Stark, Waters, Watt, Woolsey.

If your rep is on the list above, I encourage you to write him/her the following letter:

Dear Rep. _________ ,

As one of your constituents and as an American Jew who believes very firmly in the need for a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I want to thank you for your vote against House Resolution 867. I was deeply disappointed that the Congress passed this resolution regarding the Goldstone Report and the situation in Gaza. Turning our eyes away from ugly truths will not make them any less true, and it’s time that the Jewish people and the American political class understand the truth of Gaza.

Thank you again and all the best,

NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE

If your Congressional rep is not on the list above, please consider sending him/her this letter:

Dear Rep. _________ ,

As one of your constituents and as an American Jew who believes very firmly in the need for a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I was deeply disappointed that you voted in favor of House Resolution 867.  I believe the Goldstone Report raised troubling concerns about Israel (and Hamas’) wartime behavior during in Gaza. At the very least we should, as this report does, ask that both Israelis and Palestinians hold independent investigations and hold any guilty parties accountable. Turning our eyes away from ugly truths will not make them any less true, and it’s time that the Jewish people and the American political class understand the truth of Gaza.

Thank you for your consideration and all the best,

NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE

–  One particularly shining moment during this whole sad affair came from Rep. Brian Baird (WA), whose expression of personal moral conviction on the House floor (above) was truly breathtaking.

(H/T to my friend Emily Hauser, whose letter I’ve adapted above.)

7 thoughts on “My HR 867 Postmortem

  1. Brant –

    A respectful question in pursuit of clarification – in the suggested text for the second letter, you write:

    I believe the Goldstone Report raised troubling about Israel (and Hamas’) wartime behavior during in Gaza.

    how did you decide to place “and Hamas'” in parentheses? this may seem like a small point, but I find it rich in implication and emblematic of aspects about *how* – not *what* – you think that I do not understand.

  2. Anyone interested in a balanced and rational examination of the Goldstone Report and the issues that it raises would benefit from reading Moshe Halbertal’s essay in the current issue of The New Republic. Halbertal starts his essay with the statement:

    In 2000, I was asked by the Israel Defense Forces to join a group of philosophers, lawyers, and generals for the purpose of drafting the army’s ethics code. Since then, I have been deeply involved in the analysis of the moral issues that Israel faces in its war on terrorism. I have spent many hours in discussions with soldiers and officers in order to better grasp the dilemmas that they tackle in the field, and in an attempt to help facilitate the internalization of the code of ethics in war. A link to the full essay is: http://www.tnr.com/article/world/the-goldstone-illusion.

    Brant, I am sure you could provide us with a link to the Hamas equivalent of the group Harbertal describes. It should be an interesting read.

    • Michael,

      I was interested to read Halbertal’s essay. I also recommend Jerry Haber’s detailed response, both Pt. 1 and Pt. 2.

      Of course we could play this rhetorical ping pong forever. The bottom line, upon which Goldstone and Halbertal both agree, is that Israel and Hamas need to conduct their own independent, transparent and credible investigations of their wartime conduct. At this point, all the rest is commentary.

  3. Dear Rabbi Rosen,

    As one of your congregants and an American Jew who believes very firmly in the need for a well informed and balanced perspective when a thought leader in our community recommends political action, I was deeply disappointed that you encouraged readers of your blog to use inflammatory language to communicate their opinions to their elected representatives. Using incitive catch phrases like “turning our eyes away from ugly truths” is unhelpful to the debate and does nothing to help our representatives get at the truth and make an informed judgement. It’s time to make our voices heard whatever our opinion but not in an inflammatory manner.
    I would rather you had recommended your readers write a letter along these lines.
    “Dear Rep. _____
    I agree (disagree) with your vote for (against) House Resolution 867. I know that many issues are brought to your attention and I thank you for taking a stand on this very important and complicated matter.”

  4. Regarding the “Hamas equivalent” clearly we are not privy to their discussions, but there is clearly some major conflict within the organization that led to the cessation of suicide bombings, the adoption of rocket attacks, and then the cessation of those. The coup against Hamas, encouraged by the US, encouraged them to be less transparent, not more, I am sure. I would also recommend people read the Mondoweiss analysis of the vote, in which it is clear that JStreet provided cover for the increased number of “no” votes, even though they did not heavily lobby against the bill. In particular, three of their four Congressional panelists voted no, including one of the few Repubs to do so.
    http://mondoweiss.net/2009/11/post-gaza-the-lobby-lost-46-votes-in-the-house.html

  5. We must indeed be careful in our word choices. As it seems, one person’s “ugly truths” are probably another person’s anti-semitic rants. Rather than focus upon word choice, it would be an improved situation when we could focus on the deeper truths of Goldstone. For all the comments on the “flaws” of Goldstone, the underlying “ugly truths” are often lost in the debate. Certainly Goldstone is not perfect. No complex, value-loaded endeavor ever is, especially when all the implicated parties were uncooperative and have an interest in disparaging it. Instead, we must get past the of merit of minor details, including tit-for-tat accusations and charges of inappropriate words, and get to the heart of the matter so we can improve for the future of all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s