Government

House Passes Hamas Condemnation Crafted by Florida's Congressional Reps

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: August 1, 2014 3:55 AM
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

This week, a resolution crafted by two of Florida's congressional representatives -- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. -- condemning Hamas and other terrorist organizations for using human shields, passed the U.S. House even as tensions continue to rise in the Middle East. 

Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the current chairwoman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and Deutch, the ranking Democrat on the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, introduced the resolution two weeks ago. The House passed the resolution by unanimous consent on Wednesday and sent it to the Senate. In the upper chamber, U.S. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has teamed up with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to offer a similar resolution. 
Taking to the House floor, Ros-Lehtinen reviewed the current situation, noting that she and Deutch were in the Middle East when the current crisis started. 

“This resolution condemning Hamas’ use of human shields in violation of international humanitarian law is an extremely important and timely measure given the current situation in Israel and Gaza,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “I want to first thank my colleague from South Florida, Ted Deutch, for joining me introducing this legislation. It was at an official fact-finding trip that Ted and I took to the Middle East earlier this month where Ted and I realized how important this resolution is. While we were there, Hamas had already begun to increase the frequency of its indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu was compelled to respond but made it clear from the very beginning that the objective was to restore peace and security for the people of Israel, and that quiet would be met with quiet,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “But Hamas would not relent and only increased its attacks. While Hamas was firing rockets at innocent Israeli civilians, Israel was taking every step imaginable to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas’ response was to intentionally place the Palestinians in harm’s way. It stores its rockets and weapons underneath the homes of Palestinians and even in at least three schools run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, and it uses Palestinian men, women and children as human shields in violation of international humanitarian law by placing its missile batteries in densely populated areas and near schools, near hospitals, near mosques.

“The contrast between Israel, a legitimate sovereign state, and Hamas, a terrorist organization, could not be any clearer,” Ros-Lehtinen concluded. “Israel values and goes to great lengths to protect human life, while Hamas has no respect for human life and goes to great lengths to sacrifice anyone, including the Palestinian people, in the name of its war against Israel. Israel has accepted repeated cease-fire offers, while Hamas has rejected them. And while Israel seeks to combat terrorism, Hamas is an internationally recognized terror organization that is being supported by countries like Qatar in its war against our true democratic ally, Israel. Yet it is Israel that wrongfully faces international condemnation for exercising its right to protect its citizens and defend herself and gets singled out when the world should be condemning Hamas.”

Ros-Lehtinen went on to attack the U.N. Human Rights Council, insisting it was an “institution that has been leading the anti-Israel charge for years now, and has since lost any legitimacy that it might have had" for passing resolutions calling for investigations for Israel’s activities while ignoring Hamas’ efforts.  
“There wasn’t even a word about Hamas’ attacks against innocent Israeli civilians nor about Hamas’ use of Palestinians as human shields,” Ros-Lehtinen continued. “And of the 47 members on this council, you would think that there would be many voices of reason, some voices of reason, to speak out against this obvious anti-Israel bias; But the United States was the lone voice of dissent. Our so-called European allies – they lacked the courage of their convictions and couldn’t even muster the resolve to vote for or against the resolution; instead they abstained. This is a disgrace, and it is a shame.”

Ros-Lehtinen also took to the pages of the Washington Times this week to pen an essay calling on Congress to support Israel, continuing to pound the U.N. Human Rights Council and calling on President Barack Obama to stop supporting it.

Deutch also weighed in, condemning Hamas’ activities.

“It is Hamas that chose to invest money in underground bunkers for its leaders' rockets, terror tunnels and rocket launchers,” said Deutch. “And it is Hamas who uses its own people as human shields to protect those rocket launchers. The use of civilians to protect military objectives is a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields is deplorable and should be condemned by any nation that values human rights.”

Deutch is not the only Florida Democrat to loudly trumpet support for Israel in recent days. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), took to CNN this week to call for support of Israel and spoke on the House floor against rising anti-Semitism growing across the world and in her own South Florida region, noting that this past weekend a Jewish family in Miami Beach had their cars egged and “Hamas” written on the windows while Congregation Torah V’Emunah, a synagogue in North Miami Beach, was hit by vandals who spray painted swastikas on it.

“This recent serge of anti-Semitism is born out of knee-jerk, vitriolic reaction to the conflict raging in Israel and Gaza,” Wasserman Schultz said on the House floor.

Saying Israel was acting in “defense of her people,” Wasserman Schultz ripped into Hamas.

“Israel’s actions are a direct response against attacks from a terrorist organization whose stated mission is Israel’s destruction and who thrives on a continuing narrative of anti-Semitism and hatred,” Wasserman Schultz said, adding Hamas “knowingly and willingly places its citizens, its children, in harm's way.”

Other members of the Florida delegation also stood behind Israel this week. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., took to the floor of Congress on Tuesday to call on America to support Israel in the current crisis in the Middle East.

“I rise in defense of Israel in their defensive war against Hamas,” DeSantis said.

The freshman congressman called Hamas a “terrorist organization” and “an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood” that wants to destroy Israel.

“Hamas desires a second Holocaust although they won’t acknowledge the first one happened,” DeSantis said. “We need to stand with Israel at this critical juncture.”

Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Israel has "surpassed Hitler in barbarism" with its actions in Gaza and that drew the fire of the Florida delegation.

"(Israelis) have no conscience, no honor, no pride,” Erdogan said. “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”

While Erdogan said Turks should not engage in anti-Semitic activities, two congressmen from Florida -- U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Deutch -- condemned the remarks. The two congressmen co-chair the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance.

“The outrageous rhetoric being attributed to Prime Minister Erdogan in his recent public speeches and interviews is par for the course,” Bilirakis said. “Accusing the state of Israel of engaging in systematic genocide and calling the country a terror state is not only wildly inaccurate, but laughable coming from a leader who has exhibited hostility to the rule of law by depriving his own citizens basic human rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech. Israel has endured rocket fire for years yet has shown extraordinary restraint in the face of the existential threats it faces on a daily basis. Still yet, Hamas has refused cease-fire agreements and has continued to attack Israel and her civilians while Erdogan’s inflammatory rhetoric stokes the fires of war. It is shameful and it should be condemned.”

“Prime Minister Erdogan’s accusation that Israel is committing war crimes worse than Hitler’s Nazi regime is despicable and is a disgraceful affront to the memory of the 6 million people who perished in the Holocaust,” Deutch said. “It is Hamas, not Israel, that is refusing to accept a cease-fire and choosing to continue firing rockets indiscriminately at innocent Israelis. It is Hamas, not Israel, that is deliberately using ordinary Palestinians as human shields for their rockets while its terror leaders flee to fortified bunkers. If the prime minister wishes to speak out against violations of international law, he should call on Hamas to accept a cease-fire and recognize Israel’s right to exist, instead of drawing despicable comparisons to the systematic slaughter of millions during the Holocaust.”


Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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