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What they’re saying about the Goldstone resolution

Several Jewish groups are backing a bipartisan congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone report on the Gaza war, but J Street and Americans for Peace Now say they cannot support the measure as written.

AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, the Orthodox Union and the Zionist Organization of America are among the pro-Israel organizations who are supporting the legislation, co-sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). The resolution calls the report "irredeemably biased" and urges the Obama administration to oppose any endorsement or further consideration of the report in multilateral forums. The Goldstone report charged that both Israel and Hamas were guilty of war crimes during last winter’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

"We agree with the Obama Administration which has clearly said the biased and flawed Goldstone Report is based on an anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council madate, makes unacceptable recommendations and undermines the peace process," said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. "In echoing the administration’s condemnation and calling for concrete action,  Congress will be sending the strong message that the United States will not stand for turning the victim into the perpetrator," said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block.

Both J Street and Americans for Peace Now came out with statements on Friday saying they didn’t like the resolution, although they took different tacks: J Street compiled a list of changes they’d like, while APN didn’t propose changes but simply said the resolution was not helpful in the quest for peace.

J Street said it was not urging Congress to oppose the resolution, but said it would instead support an amended version calling on the United States to "oppose and work actively to defeat one-sided and biased action" in the United Nations regarding the Goldstone report.

Among other things, J Street wants the resolution to include a call for both the Palestinians and Israelis to launch independent investigations into their conduct during the Gaza conflict. J Street also rejects the idea of opposing any further consideration of the report by the United Nations, the United States will oppose any U.N. resolution that "unfairly focuses" on Israel or refers charges against Israel to the International Criminal Court.

APN also called on Israel to launch its own independent investigation of alleged human rights violation during Operation Cast Lead, and said it had "serious reservations" about the congressional resolution, while also saying it would not oppose the legislation

"We do not believe that Israel or the cause of peace is aided by a Congressional effort that, however well-intentioned, is focused solely on denouncing the Goldstone Report and its authors and dismissing its findings," said the group in a statement.

After the jump, J Street’s statement and proposed changes, and APN’s statement. The Orthodox Union also released a statement in support of the resolution, which is also below:[[READMORE]]

First, J Street’s statement:

J Street supports passage of a resolution by the U.S. Congress calling for the United States to oppose and work actively to defeat one-sided and biased action in the United Nations when it comes to Israel and the Goldstone Report.

We are not urging members of Congress to oppose H. Res. 867.  We are urging thoughtful amendment of the Resolution before passage to bring it in line with the principles we articulate in our statement on the legislation.

J Street would support and urges passage of a balanced, thoughtful Congressional resolution urging strong US opposition against biased, one-sided actions regarding the Goldstone Report and the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

J Street also echoes the call of many Israelis – including Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, MKs Nachman Shai and Michael Eitan, and others – for an independent Israeli investigation into the allegations in the Goldstone Report.  Only by undertaking an independent and credible investigation can Israel ensure that these matters are not left in the hands of international bodies that have traditionally demonstrated their bias against Israel.

And its list of changes:

J Street is unable to support House Resolution 867 regarding the Goldstone Commission report on Operation Cast Lead.

J Street would be able to support a resolution that:

    * Recognizes the history of bias against Israel at the United Nations, the flaws in the original mandate to the Goldstone Commission, and the dangers in pursuing resolutions in multilateral fora with a track record of anti-Israel bias;

    * Condemns the series of one-sided resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council;

    * Expresses support for the people of southern Israel who were traumatized by years of constant rocket and mortar fire as well as for the people of Gaza who are suffering greatly from the effects of both the military operation and the ongoing blockade of Gaza;

    * Correctly acknowledges that the Commission’s original mandate was adjusted by Judge Goldstone himself and accepted by the Human Rights Council to include a focus on the conduct of both sides, and that the report included the first-ever exposure by a UN body of war crimes and human rights violations by Hamas;

    * Calls on both the Palestinians and Israelis to launch independent investigations into their conduct during Operation Cast Lead;

    * Calls on the US government to attempt to defeat in the General Assembly any resolution which unfairly focuses only on Israel and

    * Calls on the US government to state unequivocally that it will veto in the Security Council any resolution which refers charges against Israel and Israelis to the International Criminal Court.

We urge members of the House to consider changes in the Resolution in line with the positions above and to call for independent investigations by both Israelis and Palestinians, adding their voices to those in Israel such as Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor.

J Street further urges the Obama Administration to make every effort to oppose and defeat the one-sided and biased resolution that is likely to be presented next week in the General Assembly and to work actively for the adoption of a better, balanced resolution.  We urge the United States to make clear that it will use its veto to prevent any referral of this matter to the International Criminal Court.

Finally, we urge Congress to express support for the President’s efforts to prioritize swift resumption and conclusion of permanent status negotiations.  No matter what happens at the United Nations, Israel’s future as a democratic home for the Jewish people depends on achieving a two-state solution before the window of opportunity closes and the Administration must urgently press forward toward a comprehensive regional peace.

And APN’s statement:

APN has serious reservations about H. Res. 867.  We do not believe that Israel or the cause of peace is aided by a Congressional effort that, however well-intentioned, is focused solely on denouncing the Goldstone Report and its authors and dismissing its findings. 

APN is not a human rights organization, nor an organization that has any resources on the ground to judge the veracity, or lack thereof, of the information detailed in the report.  We therefore do not presume to make any such assessment.

However, there is much in the resolution that reflects legitimate and longstanding concerns about the UN Human Rights Council and its treatment of Israel.  The recent US decision to join the council is a promising development.  The resolution, too, accurately reflects serious and legitimate concerns about the original mandate of the Goldstone mission, as well as the implications the Goldstone Report and its findings may have for Israel in the international arena.  We urge the Obama Administration to show leadership in the UN and other multilateral fora in order to ensure that the Goldstone Report becomes a basis for moving forward toward peace and reconciliation, rather than a new obstacle to peace or a new weapon for some in the international community to wield to cynically attack Israel.

We believe that the correct course now is for Israel’s government to launch its own independent investigation of alleged violations of human rights and international law that may have taken place in the context of the Gaza war, including those documented in the Goldstone Report.  We strongly believe that such an investigation is in the interests of Israel. 

We believe that the correct course for friends of Israel in Congress is to focus now on moving forward toward negotiations and peace.  In doing so, they can ensure that Israel will not find itself in a similarly untenable situation with respect to Gaza or any of its neighbors in the future. 

Regardless of how one judges the Goldstone Report and its findings, the report serves as a clear reminder of both the horrors of war and the critical importance of President Barack Obama’s efforts to renew peace talks.   Whatever Members of Congress may feel about the Gaza war or the Goldstone Report, the reality is that absent progress towards peace, it is only a matter of time before another war breaks out and more lives are lost.  We believe that H. Res. 867 does not serve the cause of peace and therefore, regrettably, cannot support it.

And the OU:

We commend Reps. Berman, Ros-Lehtinen, Ackerman and Burton for sponsoring this legislation. We thank those legislators who stand firm on Israel’s right to defend itself and correctly recognize this Report as biased. We urge House members to join in cosponsorship of this important resolution and ask that it be brought swiftly to the House floor for a vote.

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