America the Spectator; Time For Less Talk, More Action From Obama

My latest piece in Zeek Magazine explores the implications of the threatened unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians and the Israeli decision to expand the settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem. I explain how it amounts to one of the final challenges and opportunities for the Obama Administration to save the two-state solution.

Goldstone, Pro and Con

In my latest piece in Zeek, I try to untangle the hysteria around the Goldstone Report, and hopefully help move us all away from debating the report and focus again on what is really important–relieving the intense suffering in Gaza that existed before and was exacerbated by Operation Cast Lead and finally attaining security for southern Israel.

Israel and International Law: The Bullet-Proof Vest Has Been Confiscated

Attorney Michael Sfard, who works with numerous Israeli human rights groups, published this op-ed in Hebrew in Yediot Ahoronot last week. To the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been translated on the web, so here it is.

Israel and International Law: The Bullet-Proof Vest Has Been Confiscated

Yedioth Ahronoth – November 5, 2009 – Michael Sfard (op-ed)

The author is legal counsel for the Yesh Din human rights organization.

When the first soldier, officer or Israeli leader is arrested for involvement in the attack on Gaza, Judge Richard Goldstone will not be the only one who can take credit. There are two others who have made a greater legal contribution than he to the process of allowing for judicial procedures against Israelis abroad: Judge Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avi Mandelblit and Attorney General Meni Mazuz.

Michael Sfard at Podium 186x140

Attorney Michael Sfard

The Goldstone report is not the first international document that determines that Israel broke international law. Preceding it were dozens of reports, resolutions, statements legal opinions by the UN, investigative committees and committees of international experts, and even by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Israel ignored all of them, and the statement “It will be all right” proved itself. For now.

So why is there a feeling that the Goldstone report, unlike its predecessors, could really lead to arrests of Israelis? What does it contain that its predecessors did not, and causes hysteria in the corridors of Israeli power? The answer to these questions is hidden in chapter 26 of the report—the chapter that is responsible for the fact that the legal situation of the conflict is measured, and will be measured in future years, in terms of before and after the Goldstone report. Continue reading

And an update from B’Tselem on H. Res. 867

Last week, we at B’Tselem told you about a resolution in the House of Representatives that criticized the Goldstone Report quite harshly, while omitting any reference to the Obama Administration’s repeated calls for a credible Israeli investigation into Operation Cast Lead. If you have not already done so, please click here to send an e-mail to your Representative urging him or her to vote “No” on this resolution.

Israeli human rights groups have sent a letter to Congress explaining why this resolution is counter-productive and harmful to our efforts to ensure accountability in Israel for Israeli actions. You can read the letter by clicking here (it requires the Acrobat reader; if you don’t have it, you can download it here for free).

Also, Judge Goldstone has personally responded to the Resolution. In a letter to Congress (which you can see yourself by clicking here, again requiring the Acrobat reader), Goldstone points out the many factual inaccuracies in the Resolution.

The Resolution is expected to get to the floor of Congress tomorrow, and will be voted on then, or soon thereafter. Please take action today.
Mitchell Plitnick
Director of US Office
B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories


B’Tselem Action on H. Res. 867

Calls are mounting, both inside Israel and from the international community, for a credible, independent investigation into Israel’s conduct in Operation Cast Lead. But a new resolution in Congress calls on President Obama to do everything he can to bury the Goldstone Report, while giving no support to the Obama Administration’s repeated call for a domestic investigation by Israel. Click here to tell your Representative to vote “No” on H. Res. 867.

From day one, B’Tselem and the broader human rights community have been calling for a comprehensive domestic inquiry into Israeli behavior in Operation Cast Lead. Israelis across the political spectrum are now supporting this call. Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor (Likud), Minister of Improvement of Government Services Michael Eitan (Likud), Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor), and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu) have all called for such an inquiry, as has Aryeh Deri, former leader of the Shas party.


Israelis are raising important questions about their country’s conduct in Gaza, and they have a right to answers. The civilian population in Gaza has a right to have their claims heard and addressed.

The Obama administration also supports a credible Israeli investigation, as was repeated by National Security Advisor James Jones at the J Street conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has clearly been feeling the pressure, and if this momentum continues there is a real opportunity to ensure genuine Israeli accountability – and move beyond the polarized debate around the Goldstone report. This irresponsible bill in the House threatens to derail this momentum.

Click here to send an e-mail to your representative asking that they vote no on this bill.

H. Res. 867 is expected to come to the floor of the House next week. Please take action today, and spread the word as far as possible.