WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement on the House Floor tonight. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“In the early morning hours of Monday, May 31, Israeli naval forces intercepted six ships, carrying mostly Turkish demonstrators, attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. While five of the six ships complied with IDF requests, the largest of them, the Mavi Marmara, refused—clearly bent on a violent confrontation—and was boarded by Israeli Defense Forces.
“These IDF troops were violently attacked with knives, clubs, and other weapons. At the end of the skirmish, seven members of the IDF had suffered injuries including gunshot wounds and head trauma, and nine demonstrators on the Mavi Marmara had been killed.
“Those deaths are tragic. The events leading up to them deserve and a full and scrupulous investigation. But this much is already clear: to call all the passengers of the Mavi Marmara nonviolent ‘peace activists’ would be a victory for propaganda, not for fact. Peace activists don’t launch attacks with knives and guns—and they certainly don’t do so while chanting slogans calling for the death of Jews, as an Al Jazeera broadcast showed. However much we lament those nine deaths, the fact is that the IDF was faced with an organized, violent assault and responded in self-defense.
“Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, this incident has renewed international condemnation for Israel’s blockade of Gaza. But that blockade exists for a reason: to keep weapons out of the hands of Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and to random attacks on Israeli civilians. The blockade was launched, with the cooperation of Israel’s neighbor Egypt, when Hamas staged a violent coup to expel its political rivals and seize total control of Gaza; and the blockade could end today, if Hamas recognized Israel’s right to exist, gave up its commitment to murdering civilians, and released the Israeli soldier it holds captive.
“To the extent that life is hard for those in Gaza, the prime cause is the terrorist organization that keeps them hostage, holds power through violence, and monopolizes the food and humanitarian supplies that Israel allows across the border. Indeed, it is Hamas, not Israel, that is currently preventing the humanitarian goods from this very flotilla from reaching the Palestinians in Gaza.
“Finally, the United States should and will resist all one-sided attempts to condemn Israel at the United Nations. The UN, a body committed by its Charter to universal human rights, has for much of its history been sadly fixated on singling Israel out for condemnation, as much more serious crises have gone unaddressed. That biased record extends beyond the infamous 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism. The UN General Assembly has convened in emergency special session ten times: six of them focused on Israel, while no emergency session was ever held on the Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, or genocide in Sudan. The 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism neglected racism around the world to again single out, almost exclusively, Israel and Zionism. The UN Human Rights Council—whose members include Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba—has only one permanent topic on its official agenda: Israel. Even Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the Human Rights Council for its ‘disproportionate focus on violations by Israel.’
“This troubled history is exactly why I am skeptical that the United Nations will treat Israel justly now. What happened on the Mavi Marmara needs a real investigation—not one colored by years of one-sided bias.
“Mr. Speaker, despite what happened last Monday, the fundamentals of this conflict remain just as they were the day before: the overwhelming majority of Israelis want to live in peace with the Palestinians, side-by-side in two states. So do most Palestinians—but the extremism and hate of groups like Hamas stands in the way.
“Finding a way to peace is fiercely difficult; it should not be made more difficult by those who see more propaganda value than human value in these lost lives.”