(May 12, 2021 / JNS) With Israel coming under the fire of more than 1,300 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, many U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have vocalized their support for Israel. As to be expected, some in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party harshly criticized Israel’s response.
Three Muslim lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives released a joint statement characterizing the violence Monday as “attacks on Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.”
“We are horrified by the violent assault by Israeli forces on the Al-Aqsa mosque and the continued violent attacks on the Palestinian people during the holy month of Ramadan,” said a statement from Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and André Carson (D-Ind.).
“More than 300 people were injured in the attack, 200 of whom have been hospitalized. Everyone, regardless of their faith, deserves refuge and peace in their places of worship. The same should apply to Palestinians, especially during the holy month of Ramadan,” it continued.
Mark Mellman, president and CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, said in an interview on Tuesday that the statement does not represent the views of most Democrats.
“I mean, this particular [statement] is largely propaganda that’s really coming on the heels of other charges that they’ve leveled that have been proven false, but which they still haven’t retracted anyway,” he said.
The statement blamed the violence on the Israeli government’s plans to evict Palestinian squatters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.
The three members of Congress called this potential court action a direct violation of international law, the Geneva Convention and basic human rights.
Additionally, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) have in recent days used Sheikh Jarrah to call for the United States to pressure Israel against evicting the Palestinians.
“I am extremely concerned by the growing conflict in Israel and Palestine. Once again we are seeing how the irresponsible actions of government-allied right-wing extremists in Jerusalem can escalate quickly into a devastating war,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
Mellman dismissed this, saying that their views do not represent the majority of Democrats.
“The reality is there have been a host of statements from Democrats, as well as from Republicans, condemning the missiles, condemning the rocket attacks and making clear that Israel has the right to defend itself,” he said. “And that’s come from Democrats in Congress, it’s come from the Biden administration, it’s coming from the Secretary of State directly, and we’re very pleased about that.”
‘When our friends are under attack, we stand with them’
Indeed, dozens of U.S. lawmakers have been weighing in through statements and social media to support Israel. As comments from members of Congress rolled in, AIPAC retweeted its own tweets and statements.
“There is absolutely no justification for these indiscriminate Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians,” AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittman said in an email to JNS. “The United States must continue to condemn the attacks unequivocally, and we appreciate the bipartisan support from Congress and the Biden administration for Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense.”
“The barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas are terrorism and no country should have to tolerate this kind of threat against its population. These brazen acts threaten the safety & security of Israelis & Palestinians,” wrote Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“When our friends are under attack, we stand with them,” wrote Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).
“Equating massive Hamas attacks on Israeli citizens to Israeli efforts to target Hamas militants (with prior civilian warning) is reckless and irresponsible. There must be an immediate de-escalation of violence,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Jake Auchincloss met with the Israeli general consul in Boston on Monday to express his concern over the violence, posting in a tweet that he condemns Hamas rocket attacks and affirms Israel’s right to defend itself.
He called for both sides to end provocation, including calling for evictions and demolitions to end.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) spoke plainly in his tweet: “Hamas’ attacks into Israel are terrorism, plain and simple. It must stop immediately.”
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), tweeted on Tuesday: “My heart is with the Israeli people as they shelter from rockets fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.”
She continued, writing, “This situation highlights the importance of American security assistance to Israel, as Iron Dome intercepts many of these rockets and saves lives. As a sovereign nation and our strongest democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel must defend itself from terrorist attacks and Hamas must end their deadly assault.”
‘We implore Israelis and Palestinians to restore calm’
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said in a statement on Monday that Jewish Democrats “strongly and unequivocally condemn the escalation of violence caused by Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel,” and that these attacks had no justification.
She also said that Israel had the right to defend itself in the face of these attacks, adding that the investment from the United States into Israel’s Iron Dome system was saving lives.
“No nation should be subjected to the barrage of rocket fire, and we urge restraint in the face of rising tension and violence in and around Jerusalem,” Soifer said in the statement. “It is incumbent on all sides to refrain from provocations that inflame an already volatile situation, and we implore Israelis and Palestinians to restore calm.”
However, in what can only be seen as a slap on Israel, she added, “for decades, we have paid lip service to a Palestinian state, while land seizures, settlement expansion and forced displacement continue, making a future home for Palestinians more and more out of reach. It is long past time we finally take action to protect Palestinian human rights and save lives.”
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