WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum expressed strong concern today over a House resolution that reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks.
“I come to the floor today torn about this resolution,” said Ellison, a Democrat who became the first Muslim member of Congress in 2006 and represents Minnesota’s 5th district.
Ellison mentioned his first-hand encounters during a trip to Israel with the “physical and emotional destruction” caused by Hamas, but added that the United States needs “to have compassion for the people of Gaza and the tremendous human suffering there.”
In an interview afterward, Ellison, who issued a statement earlier this week calling for an immediate ceasefire, elaborated on his statements from the house floor.
“For the U.S. Congress to simply reiterate its statement that Israel has a right to defend itself, to me misses the critical issue before the world at this moment, which is the humanitarian crisis,” Ellison said.
The House passed the resolution by 390 votes to five.
About 750 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have died in the 13 days of fighting in Gaza, according to news service reports.
The fighting has left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza desperate for food, water, and medical assistance.
The United Nations suspended food deliveries to Gaza Thursday and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance.
McCollum, a Democrat who represents Minnesota’s 4th District, echoed Ellison’s concerns with the resolution on Friday.
“I recognize Israel’s right to protect its citizens from the persistent and growing threat of rocket attacks,” McCollum said from the House floor. “However, as an unwavering proponent of peace, and as an advocate for the rights and security of the Israeli and Palestinian people, I seriously question the proportionality of Israel’s response.”
McCollum added that the resolution did not go far enough in immediately calling for a cease-fire. Instead, McCollum said, the resolution “justifies Israel’s bombardment of the citizens of Gaza, sanctions the incursion of Israeli troops into Gaza to clear this occupied territory of Hamas fighters regardless of the human cost, and calls for “supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process” while innocent Palestinian women and children are being killed in Gaza.”
Ellison and McCollum were among 22 House members who voted “present.” The rest of the Minnesota delegation voted for the resolution.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican who represents the 6th District, said during the House debate over the resolution today that the United States must stand behind Israel and its right to defend itself.
“Now, it is time that Congress put its words into action and stand strong behind our most valuable ally, Israel,” she said.
Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota’s congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes[at]minnpost[dot]com.