Seeking, he said, to give Americans a more complete picture of what’s going on in the Middle East, U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett introduced a resolution in the House last week condemning "the ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians."
Rep. Scott Garrett
"You really don’t see the other side of the story about what the people of Israel are being subjected to on a daily basis from these rocket attacks," he told The Jewish Standard Tuesday, referring to what he described as unbalanced media coverage of Israel’s response to the rocket fire. The resolution will "help bring the issue to light," he said.
Garrett co-sponsored the resolution with Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), and Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). Its text notes that "terrorists have fired more than 4’0 rockets and mortar shells into Israel" since Jan. 1, and "the near-daily rocket fire has been targeted primarily and intentionally at civilian communities in Israel, such as Sderot and Ashkelon, making life in such areas agonizing ."
The United Nations Security Council took up the Gaza crisis last week but failed to reach agreement on a resolution after the United States objected to statements that did not condemn Palestinian rocket fire. The U.N. Human Rights Commission, however, condemned Israeli actions in Gaza, such as reducing the supply of electricity, without mentioning the rocket fire.
"The U.N. historically been hostile to the people of Israel," Garrett said. The representative said that he is a strong advocate of cutting U.S. funding to the United Nations until it takes a more balanced approach to what he called "the cause of peace in that area."
"Until the day comes when the U.N. cleans up its own act, the United States has to continue on its path of doing what is right in the interest of the United States and people who want to live in peace," he said.
In addition to the daily rocket fire from Gaza, Hamas has claimed responsibility for Monday’s suicide bombing in Dimona, which killed at least three Israelis. According to Hamas, the bombers came from the west bank city of Hebron, which is governed by the Palestinian Authority.
Shortly after the bombing, however, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade the military wing of Abbas’ Fatah party claimed responsibility. Whether it emanated from the Fatah-ruled west bank or from the Fatah military wing, this latest act of violence under Abbas’ watch threatens to derail the renewed peace process.
Neither side has lived up to its obligations under the so-called U.S.-backed road map which calls for removing unauthorized settlement outposts and dismantling terror organizations which is another stumbling block in negotiations. Garrett is confident that a strong condemnation from Congress of the daily Palestinian attacks is in line with the renewed U.S. push toward negotiations.
"All this resolution says is the terrorists groups like Hamas should cease their attempted killing rampage, before you can have more debate with an opponent," Garrett said. "Each party at the table has to have respect for the other and not be trying to kill the other."
Although the resolution was introduced last week and has yet to go through the appropriate committees before it moves out of the House, it has already garnered bipartisan support.
"H. Res. 951 is consistent with my position that Israel has the right to defend its territory and its people," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8) in a statement to the Standard. "It is consistent with my stance to hold terrorist organizations and their state sponsors accountable for holding up peace in the region. As with all bills brought before me, I will judiciously examine this proposal, read every line, and give every consideration to supporting it."
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), who has been a vocal critic of the domestic and foreign policies of the Bush administration, hailed the resolution as an example of unity in Washington.
"It is always helpful to remind the world that with all of the disagreements between Democrats and Republicans concerning the Bush-Cheney policies at home and abroad, we are united in our support of Israel and will always be there to defend her in every forum and in every way we need to," he told the Standard Tuesday.
Although he has not yet signed on, Rothman assured the Standard that he intends to support the resolution.
"It is always appropriate to condemn terrorism, especially against America’s closest and most strategic ally in the Middle East, the Jewish State of Israel," he said. "But it is especially timely and necessary when the U.N. Security Council has recently debated whether to condemn Israel for defending itself against the rocket attacks coming from Gaza."