Rebuttal of Senate Resolution

Following is the text of the nonbinding US Senate resolution in support of Israel, which was passed by voice vote on January 8th, along with a point-by-point rebuttal. The House of Representatives passed a virtually identical resolution on January 9th.

Sweep Down the Walls Teleconference Forum [1]
A coalition formed by the Rebuilding Alliance
January 8, 2009



Recognizing the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel in its battle with Hamas, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


Mr. REID (for himself and Mr. MCCONNELL) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on


Recognizing the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel in its battle with Hamas, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace

Israel has the right to defend its citizens but according to the laws of occupation[2], namely the Geneva Conventions, Israel has the responsibility to protect the population it occupies and its civilian infrastructures. The 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza did not legally end the occupation. This view is unanimously shared by human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch[3] and world governments such as the EU[4]. Israel controls Gaza's northern and eastern border crossings, its access to sea and its airspace. The Rafah agreement contends that Israel continues to control who enters and exits Gaza[5]. Therefore, it should be added to the text that alongside Israel's right to defend itself, it has too responsibilities towards the Palestinian population in Gaza, which it occupies.

Whereas Hamas was founded with the stated goal of destroying the State of Israel;

Whereas Hamas is a reactionary movement which emerged largely with the encouragement of Israel in its opposition to the secular Fatah party back in the 1980's[6], it has evolved to become also a political movement, enjoying wide support from the Palestinian population for its welfare programs and honest governance. This was in stark contrast to the Fatah leadership, seen as corrupt by many. Hamas has also shown pragmatism and willingness to negotiate with Israel on fair terms. Hamas' leadership offered Israel a long-term hudna (truce), the first offer back in 2004, in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories. Hamas also confirmed that they would accept any peace agreement for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, provided that this decision is ratified by a popular referendum[7].

Whereas Hamas has been designated by the Secretary of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization;

Whereas Hamas has refused to comply with the requirements of the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations) that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and agree to accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians;

The Quartet has provided a list of demands to Hamas as a precondition to any negotiations. Hamas argues that similar preconditions were never presented to Israel. What are the borders of the Israel Hamas is supposed to recognize? Would Israel be asked to end its inherently violent (and illegal) occupation before it can enter negotiations? In fact, immediately after the Quartet presented the Road Map for peace in 2002, the Israeli cabinet, then under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, presented a list of 14 reservations to the Quartet[8], which included more conditions on the Palestinians. The Palestinians, on the other hand, accepted the Road Map without reservations.

Whereas, in June 2006, Hamas crossed into Israel, attacked Israeli forces and kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit, whom they continue to hold today;

According to B'Tselem[9], Israel currently holds over 8200 Palestinian prisoners, many of them arrested in extra-judicial operations and imprisoned inside Israel, violating the Geneva Conventions which states that the occupied population should not be transferred out of the occupied territories. Many are arrested without charge whilst others are tried in military courts. According to DCI[10], in 2007 alone, Israel imprisoned some 700 children, in violation of international law. Israel often refuses visits to prisoners by family members[11].

Whereas Hamas has launched thousands of rockets and mortars since Israel dismantled settlements and withdrew from Gaza in 2005;

Please see argument above regarding continuing legal recognition of Israel as an occupying power in Gaza. Further, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,[12] Israeli aerial bombardments and mortar fire against Palestinian civilian targets[13] have continued unabated despite the disengagement. Fatalities resulting from the hostilities have been heavily disproportionate with hundreds of Palestinians killed and thousands injured. The latest attacks in Gaza have been the rule rather than the exception.

Whereas Hamas has increased the range of its rockets, reportedly with support from Iran and others, putting additional large numbersof Israelis in danger of rocket attacks from Gaza;

Despite the sad loss of 16 lives in the last 8 years from rocket fire[14] Israel's attacks on Gaza have been disproportionate and illegal. Most human rights organizations consider Israel guilty of "war crimes"[15] for its bombings of civilian infrastructure and the high civilian death toll that it caries. In the last 4 years alone, and excluding the death toll from the current war, Israel killed 1,339 Palestinians from Gaza[16].

Whereas Hamas locates elements of its terrorist infrastructure in civilian population centers, thus using innocent civilians as human shields;

Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories in the world. Israel has shown by its actions that it is willing to contravene international law by targeting civilian infrastructures: mosques, universities, schools, police stations, airports (in 2001), residential buildings and a crowded market just last week. Human Rights Watch[17] has accused Israel in the past of indiscriminately targeting civilians. (I guess that makes Hamas and Israel not so different from each other after all.)

Whereas Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement on December 27, 2008, that ''[w]e strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there'';

This is not true. Israel has never abided by the cease fire in the first place. As soon as the cease fire began in June 19th, the IDF established a "special security zone" within the Gaza strip and it announced that the Palestinians who enter this area will be fired upon. Israel had shot against farmers who were tilling their land or other civilians who have simply "violated" the unilaterally imposed area[18]. Hamas never accepted this. Furthermore, Israel bombarded Gaza, first on November 4th, killing six Palestinians and then again on November 17 killing 4 others (in addition to the wounded). Hamas retaliated by firing rockets at Israel, initiating a new round of violence.

Whereas, on December 27, 2008, Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert said, ''For approximately seven years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the south have been suffering from missiles being fired at them.. . . In such a situation we had no alternative but to respond. We do not rejoice in battle but neither will we be deterred from it.. . .The operation in the Gaza Strip is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south of the country.'';

A very biased statement which de-historicizes the conflict whilst failing to distinguish the power dynamics of an occupying power, fourth biggest military superpower in the world and an occupied population, deprived of their basic human rights. This dehumanization of Palestinians, serves to legitimize the actions of the state of Israel, who increasingly view the "other" as less than human, who can be deprived of food, water, electricity, etc. As Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, once said: 'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger' summing up the policy of the state of Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza[19].

Whereas, on January 2, 2009, Secretary of State Rice stated that ''Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas, the legitimate President of the Palestinian people. Hamas has used Gaza as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli cities and has contributed deeply to a very bad daily life for the Palestinian people in Gaza, and to a humanitarian situation that we have all been trying to address'';

This puts the blame on Hamas for the misfortunes of the Palestinian people. As reported earlier by Vanity Fair[20], the US and Israel armed Fatah to overthrow the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. However, this "contra-style operation" by the US went wrong, leading to the de-facto political separation of the West Bank and Gaza strip.

Whereas the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including shortages of food, water, electricity, and adequate medical care, is becoming more acute;

"Acute" is an understatement. The UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories, Richard Falk, said that the siege of Gaza is a "crime against humanity[21]" This is one of the many voices of condemnation to the inhumane siege that has starved the Palestinian population and has put them in the brink of collapse. On Dec. 14, 2008, the Sunday Times reported that some Gaza families were eating grass[22]. "The economy has been crushed and there are no imports or exports," said John Ging, director of its {UN} relief and works agency. "Two weeks ago, for the first time in 60 years, we ran out of food," he said. "We used to get 70 to 80 trucks per day, now we are getting 15 trucks a day, and only when the border opens. We're living hand to mouth."

Whereas Israel has facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza with over 500 trucks and numerous ambulances entering the Gaza Strip sinceDecember 26, 2008;

Again, not true. The UN announced several times that it would have to stop humanitarian due to Israel's border closures and lack of fuel[23]. During the week of Jan. 1-8, UNOCHA reports six medical staff were killed and 30 injured; eleven ambulances were hit[24]. Today, Dec. 9th, the UN announced that it would stop aid delivery to the 80% of the Palestinian population in Gaza who depend on that aid, because Israel had attacked and killed their staff in clearly marked U.N. trucks[25].

Whereas, on January 2, 2009, Secretary of State Rice stated that it was ''Hamas that rejected the Egyptian and Arab calls for an extension of the tahadiya that Egypt had negotiated'' and that the United States was ''working toward a cease-fire that would not allow a reestablishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza. It is obvious that that ceasefire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a cease-fire that is durable and sustainable''; and

Israel had refused cease fire proposals in the past[26] but that is not a excuse for such a merciless attack against Gaza. In any case, Hamas was willing to negotiate a new cease fire, to include this time an ease to the illegal siege against the Palestinian civilian population. Israel refused these terms[27]. Despite the low levels of violence since June 19th, Israel had only tightened the siege on Gaza and Hamas was given no motivation to continue in restraint.

Whereas the ultimate goal of the United States is a sustainable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will allow for a viable and independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel, which will not be possible as long as Israeli civilians are under threat from within Gaza:

Again, absence of any acknowledgement of Palestinians as people with human rights too.

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) expresses vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and recognizes its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism;

Right to self-defense is an internationally recognized right however, the Palestinians too have the right to live in freedom, with their basic human rights respected (no mention of this). The freedom of the Israelis should not be at the expense of the freedoms of the Palestinians. This mentality will only fuel more radicalism and reactionary behavior. It is time that Congress recognizes that the Palestinians too have the right to live without harassment in their land.

(2) reiterates that Hamas must end the rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and agree to accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians;

Israel should also end its daily violence against the Palestinian population, end the illegal siege, recognize Hamas as the democratically elected government of the Palestinians and accept Israel's commitments under international law as an occupying power. Whilst Israel in theory recognizes its agreements with the Palestinians, in practice it never did. Settlement construction, restrictions on movement, land confiscation, curfews and incursions are a daily reality for the Palestinian population.

(3) encourages the President to work actively to support a durable, enforceable, and sustainable cease-fire in Gaza, as soon as possible, that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding the capability to launch rockets and mortars against Israel and allows for the long term improvement of daily living conditions for the ordinary people of Gaza;

Cease fire conditionality should be mutual. However, there are no cease fire conditions for Israel, only for Hamas. There is no direct reference to the siege, only speaking of an "improvement" which is not difficult under the dire conditions the Palestinians are living today. The challenge for the international community should be to lift the siege not just call for an "improvement". There is no recognition of Hamas as a legitimate negotiating partner to this cease fire or any consideration of Hamas' wishes as a partner to this cease-fire. The cease fire proposed here would therefore be seen as an imposition rather than a cease fire which contradicts the stated premise of "sustainability", "durability" and "enforceability".

Robert Naiman at the Huffington Post: "In particular, the resolution does not call for an 'immediate ceasefire,' but for a 'durable and sustainable ceasefire,' which is the Bush Administration's code for continuing the war – the excuse the Administration has given for why the war must go on. Nor does the resolution call for ending the blockade on Gaza, even though the blockade is also an act of war[28]."

(4) believes strongly that the lives of innocent civilians must be protected and all appropriate measures should be taken to diminish civilian casualties and that all involved should continue to work to address humanitarian needs in Gaza;

(5) supports and encourages efforts to diminish the appeal and influence of extremists in the Palestinian territories and to strengthen moderate Palestinians who are committed to a secure and lasting peace with Israel; and

Long-lasting peace is unattainable until there is inclusion of all parties. Bypassing Hamas will only contribute towards the further alienation of the Palestinian population. Mahmood Abbas is already been seen as a "collaborator" by many Palestinians, for his readiness to embrace Israel and the US and his shunning of Hamas. There should therefore be a mentioning to efforts to promote internal Palestinian reconciliation, being the only road towards a "lasting peace" with Israel.

(6) reiterates its strong support for United States Government efforts to promote a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a serious and sustained peace process that leads to the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure State of Israel.

No mentioning of formal monitoring mechanisms. During the so-called peace process, Israel has been allowed a free hand in the West Bank, contributing to the Bantustanization of the Palestinian population and increase in settlements, making a contiguous Palestinian state almost impossible. Congress has got to do better than this.


  1. "Sweep Down the Walls" is a forum to connect people throughout the world who are working to end the bombing, end the siege, open Gaza's borders, press for a ceasefire, and so build justice, peace, and real security. The forum draws its name from a quote by Robert F. Kennedy in South Africa, June 1966, "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
  2. The laws of occupation:
  6. (Khaled Hroub is a professor at Cambridge University UK and an expert on Hamas)
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