The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning a report by a United Nations fact-finding panel that criticized Israel as part of an assessment of the conflict in Gaza in 2008 between Israel and Hamas. House lawmakers approved the symbolic measure by a vote of 344 to 36.
In its report, the U.N. panel headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone said Israeli forces and Palestinian Hamas forces committed violations of international law, including war crimes, during the 22-day conflict which left 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
Among its recommendations, the panel said Israel, and Hamas which controls Gaza, should face potential prosecution in The Hague if they do not conduct independent and credible investigations within six months.
But the report provoked angry reaction in Congress, where many lawmakers condemned it as biased, while others asserted it contained balanced criticism of Israel and Hamas.
The House resolution calls the commission's report irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy and urges the Obama administration, which has already condemned it, to strongly oppose its endorsement by the United Nations.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was among Democrats and Republicans characterizing the Goldstone report as biased, and taking aim at the U.N. Human Rights Council which established its mandates.
"The Human Rights Council mandates for the report specifically targeted Israeli actions, ignoring, ignoring the deliberate Hamas attacks on civilians [in Israel] that provoked Israel's self-defense in Operation Cast Lead [Israeli military operation in Gaza in 2008," said Steny Hoyer.
However, Republicans and Democratic opponents said the resolution itself was biased, asserting that by passing it the House would be demonstrating it wants to cover up the truth about actions in Gaza by both Hamas and Israel.
Democratic Representative Betty McCollum:
"This resolution is blatantly biased and it damages U.S. credibility," said Betty McCollum. "This resolution seeks to hide the ugliness of the Gaza war by covering up violent excesses committed against innocent civilians by both Hamas and the Israeli Defense [Forces]."
Republican Representative David Price asserted that passage would also complicate U.S. efforts for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and negatively impact Israel's own investigations:
"Israel is a strong and resilient democracy," saidd David Price. "Successfully investigating this episode could only make it stronger, but we shouldn't pass this resolution now which could actually hinder the wheels of justice before they have ever begun to turn."
Richard Goldstone, who headed the U.N. inquiry, wrote last week to the Democratic chairman and senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, demanding changes to correct what he called serious factual inaccuracies.
Though he and Ros-Lehtinen agreed to some changes, Congressman Berman asserted that the commission's conclusions remain flawed. He said lawmakers needed to voice a position before Wednesday's U.N. General Assembly consideration of a resolution supported by Arab countries on the Goldstone report.
"The fact is, I truly believe the report is flawed," said Howard Berman.
Israel and the United States have urged foreign governments to vote against the resolution on the Goldstone report.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for implementation of its recommendations. Human Rights Watch urged U.S lawmakers to vote against resolution in the House of Representatives.
Besides urging the Obama administration to oppose any further consideration of the Goldstone report in multi-lateral forums, or measures stemming from it, the resolution also reaffirms support for Israel's security and right to self-defense, and its right to defend its citizens from violent militant groups and their state sponsors.