Tuesday, March 18, 2008

keith ellison speaks against terror in the name of islam

From Tariq Nelon's blog:

This is the kind of balance that I am speaking of. NEVER condone the insanity of the indiscriminate blowing up and killing people in the name of Islam, while acknowledging that the plight of the Gazans is bad. You can do both. Condemnation of terror does not equal support of oppression. Keep repeating that until it is understood

The text of the speech is below:

Mr. Speaker, today I voted in favor of House Resolution 951 to condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and the death and fear those attacks have caused. These rocket attacks must be condemned, and they must be stopped. I’ve been to Sderot, and I have seen how these rocket attacks cause fear and suffering among the people there, where it is extremely difficult to carry on anything approaching a normal life. The residents of Sderot and now Ashkelon face a daily barrage of rockets, and that is intolerable. Terrorists are bombing citizens, not soldiers. There is nothing in Islam to justify hurting innocent civilians. Bombers cannot use religion to justify what they’re doing, and I condemn it.

But this resolution is not enough. If we want to be morally consistent, we must condemn rocket attacks on Israel and also condemn the humanitarian crisis in Gaza too. The 1.4 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip exist in a state of dreadful isolation, quite literally cut off from the world. Basic supplies and necessities are at a minimum. Ninety percent of the industry has closed down. Unemployment is rampant, and poverty and disease are endemic. Only a few weeks ago, the people of Gaza broke through walls to buy groceries in Egypt. I regret the resolution we voted on today did not devote adequate attention, in my view, to the plight of the people of Gaza.

To suggest that this is the Gazans’ just desserts for voting the wrong way in the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 does nothing to improve the quality or alleviate the human suffering on either side of the border. We in Congress need to show compassion for the people of Gaza, Sderot, and Ashkelon and the tremendous human suffering they are undergoing. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he does not want the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to continue, and the Bush administration should do all it can to help him meet that commitment.

This resolution criticizes one of the leading advocates for stability and peace in the region: Egypt. The Egyptian Government has made it clear that it is doing all it can to close off smuggling. What’s needed is a greater degree of cooperation with Egypt. This resolution does nothing to advance that cooperation. We need to engage Egypt, not pass resolutions that publicly offend or diminish our relations with them. Absent strong evidence that Egypt is complicit in allowing weapons smuggling to occur, I am not in favor of Egypt bashing.

I understand Egypt is doing what it can to control the border despite restrictions on its security forces imposed by Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. If Egypt had direct contact or diplomatic channels with all parties involved in the conflict, the United States should prevail upon Egypt to help effect a prisoner exchange, stop the rocket attacks on Israeli citizens, and improve the humanitarian conditions for citizens of Gaza.

It’s a fortunate coincidence that the Secretary of State is in the region right now, and I am supportive of her taking an active role in resolving this conflict. Beyond resolutions and expressions of sympathy, we need real actions from the Bush administration to solidify and advance the commitments of leaders in the Middle East to a lasting peace through the two-state solution envisioned well before Annapolis. I ask my colleagues here in the House to join me in urging the Secretary of State to highlight the humanitarian needs of ordinary citizens of Gaza alongside the fear and death among ordinary Israelis as she seeks to mediate the situation so tragic for all involved.

Finally, as a Member of Congress, I am concerned about the resolution’s references to Iran. Now, I agree that Iran is playing a negative role in the region, but we have seen what the Bush administration has done with past congressional resolutions. I want to repeat that there is nothing in the resolution that should be construed as a justification for military action. I remain opposed to military action against Iran. We need to start a bilateral dialogue. That has been and will continue to be my position. The most effective way to stop Iran’s harmful activities is to engage them directly.

Mr. Speaker, though I wholeheartedly condemn the rocket attacks on Israel, I urge my colleagues to consider the suffering of all of the people, including the people of Sderot, Ashkelon, and Gaza.”

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