Tuesday was a dark day. The US House of Representatives passed Resolution 867, 344-36. HR 867 is an AIPAC-driven bill which is a litmus test for hard-core Zionist supporters.
Ha’aretz had the story Wednesday morning.
The resolution is co-sponsored by the two senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).
The resolution calls on the President and the Secretary of State:
. . . to continue to strongly and unequivocally oppose any endorsement of the `Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora, including through leading opposition to any United Nations General Assembly resolution and through vetoing, if necessary, any United Nations Security Council resolution that endorses the contents of this report, seeks to act upon the recommendations contained in this report, or calls on any other international body to take further action regarding this report.
Chairman Berman has been in the Congress since 1982. He became chair of Foreign Affairs in 2008. When he became chairman, Rep. Berman told the Jewish publication, Forward, “Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist.”
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who was elected to her House seat from the Miami area in 1989, was the first Cuban American and the first Hispanic woman elected to the Congress.
The language of the resolution describes the report of the UN Human Rights Council, headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, as “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.”
Looking for a sign of hope in this dark moment in congressional history? Here’s one:
Congressman Brian Baird (D-Washington) was one of the 36 House members who voted against the resolution. Baird is one of the few members of the House who has actually visited Gaza, which he did on a recent fact-finding trip following the Gaza invasion.
On his Web site, he asks his colleagues a series of questions:
Why are we bringing this resolution to the floor without ever giving former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone a hearing to explain his findings? Have those who will vote on H.Res. 867 actually read the resolution? Have they read the Goldstone report?
Are they aware that Justice Goldstone has issued a paragraph by paragraph response to H.Res. 867, available (click here) on my web site, pointing out that many of its assertions are factually inaccurate or deeply misleading? . . .
What will it say about this Congress and our country if we so readily seek to block “any further consideration” of a human rights investigation produced by one of the most respected jurists in the world today, a man who led the investigations of abuses in South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Kosovo and worked to identify and prosecute Nazi war criminals as a member of the Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina?
Rarely has an AIPAC-supported resolution in support of Israel been so openly denounced by a member of the House.
Philip Weiss has posted the names of the 36 no voters. This list is an honor roll of wisdom and courage of those House members who refused to be blindly led by AIPAC down a path that is harmful both to Israel and to people of Gaza. (For a complete list of the votes by states, click here.)
There are no corresponding signs of hope emanating from the White House. Is there a connection here?
This is a White House with a domestic agenda (starting with health care) which will go nowhere without strong Congressional support.
Obama was elected on a promise of change. What he has discovered is that the Congress remains in the iron grip of a a congressional majority that is not interested in change.
While George Bush is no longer in the White House, his conservative policies remain, because a congressional majority pays greater homage to the insurance industry and AIPAC, than it does to universal health care and human rights.
President Obama began his engagement with Bibi Netanyahu after a dramatic election victory which should have allowed him to break the control Israel maintained over American policy.
Instead, Obama looked over his shoulder at the Congress, a more formidable opponent than any Israeli prime minister.
He saw the Israeli-dominated US Congress, which he needed on his side to make any progress in either health care or peace making. Instead of confronting Bibi with demands that would have reversed Bush policies, he asked Bibi, politely, to please “freeze” settlement construction.
Bibi agreed, with the usual Israeli caveat that he would continue “natural growth” construction. This was an insult to President Obama and to the Palestinian people who had looked to the new American leader to break the oppression of occupation.
Obama took the insult and then dispatched his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to persuade Netanyahu to reconsider the freeze request as a gesture Obama could use to persuade Israel’s Arab neighbors to take diplomatic steps that would “bolster Israel’s confidence in its security”.
Bibi took a signal from AIPAC and refused even that polite request. Obama’s plan to exert leadership in the region, had failed.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton retreated to a meeting of Arab leaders in Marrakesh, Morocco, where, the New York Times reported, she began “setting the stage for a new phase of Middle East diplomacy, with a more modest goal. She is trying to get the parties talking at any level to avoid a dangerous vacuum until a Plan B emerges.”
Clinton arrived in Morocco and ran into a firestorm caused by what has to be described as ill-chosen praise for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “reasonable compromise” in which the Israeli leader “has proposed a moratorium on new housing units in the West Bank, but would allow building or finishing about 3,000 more units and would exclude East Jerusalem from any building limits.”
Praising Netanyahu to Arab leaders for being “reasonable” with Israel’s settlement projects, was hardly a Clintonian diplomatic high point.
Tony Karon, writing for Time, renders this harsh judgment on the Obama-Clinton duo’s latest Middle East misadventure:
The Obama Administration’s bid to relaunch an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is falling apart faster than you can say settlement freeze — in no small part because President Obama began his effort by saying “settlement freeze.” . . . .
Asking the Arab states to accept Israel’s offer to simply slow down construction in the West Bank and its refusal to stop building and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem — after President Obama publicly and repeatedly demanded it — has battered the Administration’s credibility in Arab capitals.
With the Palestinian January elections looming, this was not a good time for the US to deliver twin blows to Abbas’ public image before and after he met with Secretary of State Clinton in Abu Dhabi, just before her meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
The first blow came from what Politico’s Lauren Rozen described as the “US flip-flop on the settlements freeze issue”. That blow was coupled with the public humiliation Abbas suffered after he initially blocked further consideration by the UN Human Rights Council of the Goldstone Report.
By not standing in support of the Goldstone Report with Hamas and the Gazans who had suffered great losses in life and property, Abbas was immediately subjected to swift and angry reaction from his own Palestinian public.
This reaction forced him to reverse the Goldstone decision and endorse its further consideration.
Rozen quotes one Middle East authority (unnamed), who told her that “There is no strong, capable person navigating this ship. It all seems unprofessional, a policy drifting in different directions, thus projecting weakness to a savvy and cynical region that studies and looks for signs of strength and weakness. Very dangerous and full of implications for Iran and Af-Pak policy.”
This is a harsh indictment, which most likely comes from a “Middle East authority” who is unfriendly to both Obama and Clinton. But the point is undeniable that “signs of strength and weakness” are watched closely in the region.
The Obama-Clinton team has been no help in recent weeks to a battered President Abbas. Praising Bibi for his settlement rigidity, while giving Abbas bad advice on Goldstone, is no way to run a tough-minded foreign policy.
Picture above is by Abdeljalil Bounhar, of the Associated Press.