Sixty eight members of the United States Congress have banded together to petition the United Nations to take action and disarm Hamas, which, according to the document, is singularly responsible for the current conflict that has cost numerous Palestinian lives since early July.
“We, the elected representatives of the American people, call on the United Nations to formally recognize Gaza’s rockets as an impenetrable barrier to regional peace, and to make their immediate removal a top priority,” reads the petition to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Roughly two thirds of the signatories are Republicans.
The petition holds Hamas accountable for war crimes such as bombarding Israeli citizens with rockets and using its own people cynically as human shields. Since 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza, the tiny Jewish country has faced between 9,000 and 11,000 rockets, depending on reports.
As reported by US News, the petition was organized by the pro-Israel group the Israel Allies Foundation, with the support of six other pro-Israel organizations, including J Street, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Committee.
The goal is add some clarity to the conflict, which has left some 1,000 Palestinians dead, many of them civilians. What was sparked by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli students has since turned into a ground incursion into Gaza designed to seal off terror tunnels into Israel and destroy Hamas’ ability to fire on Israel.
“Until Hamas is disarmed, until those rocket stockpiles are eliminated from Gaza, the prospect for not just calm but true peace and quiet in the region is untenable,” says Rep. Brad Schneider, (D-IL), one of the letter’s two sponsors and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “If Hamas stops firing the rockets, the shooting ends. It’s just that simple.”
The task of convincing the UN is not an easy one. “We’re under no illusions that the UN is going to adopt a call to action here as the letter proposes it,” says Aaron Menenberg with the Israel Allies Foundation. “We thought it was important to make the statement, to draw attention to the fact that this time is different from other Israel-Hamas conflicts. The fact that they’re more advanced, they’re underground.”
“Hamas has been the vanguard for eliminating the Jewish presence on the earth, and by extension wiping out Israel,” he says. “Whether it’s diplomatically or forcefully, even if it doesn’t eliminate them all, it would be hugely symbolic. It would take Hamas down a notch.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the letter’s other co-sponsor, pointed out the double standard that is frequently applied to Israel. “It would be wonderful if they responded in a fair way and decided to look at Hamas,” he said of the recent UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza. “But if they don’t do that, I hope they’re aware that there are people in Congress who are watching over their shoulder and asking why they are not being fair and looking at Hamas, and not just looking at Israel.” The US was the only country to vote against the resolution.
Critics of Israel call the country’s response “disproportionate”, citing a lower death toll in Israel and superior Israeli technology as proof. Schneider, however, dismisses these claims.
“Hamas hasn’t killed a smaller number of Israelis than Gazans for lack of trying,” says Schneider, who has previously lived in Israel. “Hamas is firing at school buses, at schools, factories, community centers. They are launching their rockets at literally every community within Israel.”
“No nation, anywhere, would accept an unrelenting indiscriminate barrage of rockets. Can you imagine this country, or any other country, accepting nine, or 90, or 900 rockets without responding, and responding in force?”