Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor earlier this afternoon in support of Israel as it defends itself from attacks by Hamas. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here for the video.
"Mr. Speaker, I rise in solidarity with our good ally and friend Israel as it defends its people from Hamas' deadly rockets. Every nation, Mr. Speaker, has the right to defend its citizens. Indeed, it has a moral obligation to do so. And no people ever ought to live in constant fear that their homes, schools, businesses, places of worship, and hospitals might be the target of terrorist rockets.
"Mr. Speaker, there's a town in southern Israel, whose name is Sderot, that's been the target of over 6,300 rockets since 2007. Mr. Speaker, I've been to Sderot, and I've talked to some of the families there. As the rockets fall, they gather their children in bomb shelters and sing them songs. I've been in the recreational gymnasium. It is itself a bomb shelter. Preschoolers learn to run for cover before they learn to read and write. If American communities were subjected to what the residents of Sderot – and even cities as far north as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – have had to endure, I doubt very seriously whether we'd show as much restraint as Israel has shown.
"There are two major challenges I hear to Israel's exercise of its legitimate self-defense. I want to address both of them.
"First, undertaking this necessary response was not an easy choice for Israel. Nor was the decision to agree to a cease fire on Tuesday. Israel abided by the cease fire without any commitment from Hamas, and Prime Minister Netanyahu even fired, removed, his Deputy Defense Minister for questioning that decision – so committed is the Israeli government to trying to reach a cease fire and cessation of danger to Israelis and Palestinians. Tragically, appallingly, but, I suggest, not so surprisingly, Hamas not only rejected the cease fire but continued to rain missiles on Israeli communities – even while Israel had unilaterally stopped its defensive strikes.
"Secondly, Israeli forces have continued to do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties as they strike Hamas's leadership and its rocket launchers. Mr. Speaker, it's shameful that Hamas's reign of terror extends not only to Israelis, but to their own people, the Palestinians in Gaza, where Hamas continues to use innocent civilians as human shields while firing rocket after rocket after rocket after rocket at Israel.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu summed up his country's struggle early this week in the following way: 'We' – meaning the Israelis, and I'm quoting Prime Minister Netanyahu – 'are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they are using civilians to protect their missiles.'
"'We are using,' the Prime Minister said, 'missile defense to protect our citizens, while Hamas is using its own citizens to protect its missiles.' How sad. Just today, while Israel was observing a five-hour cease fire to allow humanitarian supplies to reach Gaza, we've seen news reports that Hamas continued firing mortar shells into Israel in violation of that truce.
"This week has seen bitter tragedy for both Israelis and Palestinians. We have to listen carefully to the words of Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of one of the three murdered Israeli teenagers. When she learned of the brutal killing of a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, she said this -- and I quote: 'There is no difference between blood and blood.' And, of course, what she meant by that -- the loss of her son and the loss of the Palestinian young man was an equal tragedy. Gunned down by people angry, motivated by the acts of terrorists, seeking revenge on innocent, noncombatants – in this case, on children.
"Mr. Speaker, Hamas has the power to end this violence. I call on them to do so before more innocent blood on both sides is shed. The United States, of course, will continue to stand by its ally, Israel. And we will continue to hold in our hearts all of the families, including Rachel Fraenkel and the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who are grieving the loss of loved ones as a result of Hamas's reprehensible and criminal actions."