Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nation’s (U.N.) General Assembly, giving Israel a chance to refute comments made last Friday by Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. During his speech, Abbas characterized Israel’s self-defense against Hamas, a terrorist organization, as “war crimes.” Fatah and Hamas, two main Palestinian political factions, united in April and recently reaffirmed their unity government in the Gaza Strip. In June the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to investigate Israel on war crimes. The only country to reject this resolution was the United States.
Such allegations, against a country whose first priority is to protect the safety of their citizens, are appalling. Unfortunately, President Obama’s choice words for our ally during his remarks at the U.N. did not help. Obama referred to the summer’s conflict as one between “Palestinians and Israelis.” He stated, “… the violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza.”
Where is the outrage over a terrorist organization fighting from civilian areas, Mr. President? Let’s be clear, the conflict in Gaza was not a war among peaceful Palestinians. Instead, it was a war waged by a group of Palestinians, one that is internationally categorized as a terrorist organization. Hamas put innocent lives in Gaza at risk by choosing conflict over diplomacy while using civilian populated areas to their advantage.
Americans should be aware that more transparency is required if looking to the UN to find a diplomatic solution. For example, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) played a role in Gaza during the summer. UNRWA prides itself on public service for Palestinian refugees, an effort largely funded by American taxpayers. However, three times throughout the recent conflict in Gaza, UNRWA schools were found to be in possession of Hamas rockets.
During these three instances where weapons were found in UNRWA schools (July 17, 22, and 30), Congress was working on passing $225 million in emergency funds for Israel’s defense system, the Iron Dome. So let’s be clear; while Congress was working to help Israel defend itself from Hamas rockets, those very rockets were being stored on property occupied by an agency that is largely funded by the United States. The action item here should be that someone investigates UNRWA’s ties with Hamas.
Naturally, UNRWA issued a statement condemning the use of the school as a warehouse for the terrorist group’s weapons on July 17. Despite that condemnation, UNRWA’s solution seems to have been to allow Hamas to simply relocate their rockets. To no one’s surprise, two other incidences followed the first. The statement after the July 17 incident announced that “immediately after discovery, the Agency informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the object in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.” However, weaponry was discovered within UNRWA schools on two other occasions.
After the third incident, UNRWA issued a situation report outlining the hardship that the people of Gaza were enduring under the current conflict. Within this report, UNRWA depicted how “displaced persons” were finding shelter in 85 UNRWA schools. This came out on July 30, the same day as the last known discovery of rockets within these schools. This information alone should warrant an investigation. Thankfully, unlike some centers of leadership in the U.S., Congress has not been silent. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) saw the need to address this conundrum and sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the State Department to start an independent investigation into UNRWA’s actions.
America’s support for Israel during this time needs to be absolute. The war in Gaza may be over, but the unity between Fatah and Hamas has just restarted. To ensure the best interest of Israel, Americans need to understand what is transpiring abroad and what our role in that region entails. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated in his speech at the U.N., “Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just our fight. It’s your fight.” Concerned Women for America (CWA) acknowledges this. That is the reason why this Sunday, October 5, in Washington, D.C., CWA alongside Gov. Mike Huckabee, will be holding a Stand for Israel rally to show support for the state of Israel and her people.
Alexandria Paolozzi serves as the Issue Specialist on Israel and Senate Legislative Director for Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.