By Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Every nation has the right and the obligation to defend itself and its citizens against unwarranted and unprovoked attacks. If the United States were being hit with rockets from our neighbors, we would expect the president to respond appropriately to defend us. Yet there is this double standard when it comes to Israel. When Israel is attacked, it’s Israel that is met with international opprobrium.
I was in Israel when the bodies of three innocent teenage schoolboys were found murdered by Hamas operatives and when Hamas began firing dozens of rockets indiscriminately at Israel on a daily basis. During this time of incredible sadness and turmoil, I witnessed the nation’s resolve and supported its response. However, it did not use its force unyieldingly. Israel was more measured than many other nations would be in its place. From the beginning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear that silence would be met with silence and that Israel only sought to restore a relative calm for its citizens.
Israel is a strategic partner that shares our mutual security concerns, values and ideals, and it’s important that we help it guard against its threats. When my bill, H.R. 938, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, came to the House floor for a vote earlier this year, it passed with only one dissenting vote. This bill codifies U.S. policy to provide assistance to Israel for defensive systems such as Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow. Iron Dome has protected millions of innocent Israeli civilians from Hamas rocket attacks and is the reason why we’ve witnessed so few fatalities on the Israeli side. The bill also sends an unmistakable message that Congress supports Israel’s right to exist, its right to defend itself, and its need to maintain its qualitative military edge over its foes.
These foes surround Israel – al Qaeda in Sinai, Hezbollah and the Islamic State in Syria and Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and, of course, the regimes that support these groups such as Turkey, Qatar and Iran. Hamas continues to break cease-fire agreements while being emboldened by its benefactors. Turkey reportedly authorized another flotilla to Gaza, Qatar funds Hamas, Iran provides arms and other support, and North Korea is reportedly in negotiations with Hamasover an arms deal. If completed, it would violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, as well as U.S. laws, including the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act. Israel may soon be under siege if Hamas is not crippled.
Hamas isn’t just waging a war against Israel through rockets and bullets; it’s waging a public relations war using the U.N. as its bully pulpit. While Israel goes to great lengths to protect the civilians of Gaza, Hamas intentionally puts the Palestinian people in harm’s way, placing its missile batteries in densely populated areas near schools, mosques and hospitals, and using men, women and children as human shields. The media are helping Hamas spread its propaganda.
Last week, the U.N. Human Rights Council called a special session to vote on an anti-Israel resolution. This resolution failed to mention Hamas’ use of human shields or its indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel. The council is a body that long ago strayed from its noble goals of promoting and protecting human rights globally. Now it’s a platform from which gross human rights violators such as Cuba, Venezuela, China and Vietnam spread their misinformation and mendacity. The U.N. may be profligate, but this continued pursuit to delegitimize Israel must be stopped, and Hamas must not be rewarded by the feckless and corrupt thugs at the U.N.
That is why it’s imperative for the U.S. Congress to act as a counterbalance to those seeking to harm Israel. This is why Wednesday the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution I introduced along with Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat; namely, House Concurrent Resolution 107, denouncing Hamas’ despicable use of human shields. We will continue to protect Israel’s right to self-defense, its eternal right to exist as the Jewish state, and our values and ideals, even more so when they are threatened – because, make no mistake about it, when these radicals attack Israel, they’re also aiming at the United States.
We must also reassess our position in the U.N., especially on bodies such as the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which has long had its hands dirtied with ties to Hamas. In 2008, President Bush refused to have the United States. sit on the council and rightly withheld U.S. funding equivalent to our share of the U.N. Human Rights Council budget from the U.N. When President Obama took office, he reversed that decision and restored funding, arguing we need to have a seat to protect against, presumably, bad resolutions such as the latest anti-Israel one. Clearly, that hasn’t worked as we couldn’t even sway our European allies on the council to vote against the resolution. Congress must urge Mr. Obama to immediately withdraw from, and cut off any assistance to, any U.N. entity that seeks to delegitimize Israel and undermine its, and our, national security – and that should start with the U.N. Human Rights Council and U.N. Relief and Works Agency.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, is chairman emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and current chairman of its Middle East and North Africa subcommittee.