Bipartisan Group of 35 Senators Denounce One-sided UN Inquiry into Gaza Conflict

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee, and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, were joined by a bipartisan group of 33 Senators in condemning the decision by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to launch a one-sided investigation into Israel’s actions during the current conflict while ignoring actions by Hamas that threaten the lives of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including indiscriminate rocket attacks and the widespread use of human shields in Gaza.

In addition to Senators Boxer and Ayotte, the letter was signed by: Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Boozman (R-AR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Lee (R-UT), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). 

In a special session last week, the UNHRC voted to approve a resolution introduced by Pakistan establishing a Commission of Inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes, while neglecting to hold Hamas accountable for human rights violations committed during the conflict. 

In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemning the unbalanced approach to the human rights investigation, the Senators wrote, “The fact that there was no call for an investigation into actions by Hamas—including indiscriminate and deliberate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and intentionally putting Palestinians in harm’s way—is clearly irresponsible. The Human Rights Council’s decision was wholly unacceptable as it turned a blind eye to Hamas’ brazen and depraved use of civilians as human shields, the tunnels it has built to cause mayhem in Israel, and its deliberate targeting of civilians... Tragically, such a one-sided approach has inflamed tensions and fueled distrust. This clearly political and biased agenda is not just unproductive—it is destructive.” 

The UN has discovered rockets hidden in at least two of its schools in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas has also been known to store rockets in or near hospitals, mosques, and civilian homes. Israel’s military has made every effort to warn Gaza residents of impending strikes on these targets. In response, Hamas has used official media channels to urge residents of Gaza to ignore Israeli instructions to evacuate, while indiscriminately launching hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians with no warning. Such actions are violations of the Geneva Conventions and reinforce the United States’ and European Union’s designations of Hamas as a terrorist organization. 

“Over the past two weeks, Hamas has put Palestinians in danger, refused to adhere to multiple cease-fire agreements, and launched more than 2,000 rockets into Israel. What country could sit idly by without responding? Israel has a right to defend itself against these vicious attacks and has worked assiduously to minimize civilian casualties by warning Gaza residents of impending air strikes,” the Senators wrote. 

The Senators reminded the UN Secretary General that the success of Israel’s Iron Dome system in defending Israeli civilians from Hamas rocket attacks does not absolve Hamas of responsibility for human rights violations, noting, “The fact that Israel has effective defenses against the rockets aimed at its citizens is no excuse to overlook Hamas’ hostile behavior. The United Nations has an obligation to unequivocally condemn any and all actions that endanger the lives of civilians. Anything less damages any meaningful efforts to achieve a resolution to this conflict.” 

The full text of the letter follows: 

July 31, 2014  

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon
Secretary General of the United Nations
United Nations
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017  

Dear Mr. Secretary General:  

We write to express our profound concern about the response of the United Nations Human Rights Council to the recent tragic events in Israel and Gaza. As Members of the United States Senate, we are chagrined that the Human Rights Council has taken a biased approach—criticizing Israel’s actions while failing to condemn Hamas’ brutal tactics including the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.  

On Wednesday, the Human Rights Council convened a special session on Gaza and voted to establish a Commission of Inquiry into Israel’s actions during the current conflict. The fact that there was no call for an investigation into actions by Hamas—including indiscriminate and deliberate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and intentionally putting Palestinians in harm’s way—is clearly irresponsible. The Human Rights Council’s decision was wholly unacceptable as it turned a blind eye to Hamas’ brazen and depraved use of civilians as human shields, the tunnels it has built to cause mayhem in Israel, and its deliberate targeting of civilians.  

In addition, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay accused Israel of “disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life” and argued that there was a “strong possibility” Israeli actions “could amount to war crimes.” At the same time, she failed to specifically acknowledge violations of international humanitarian law by Hamas for recklessly endangering the safety of Palestinian men, women, and children as a means to deter Israeli attacks. Such actions are a blatant violation of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and reinforce why the United States and the European Union have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.  

We are deeply troubled by these events. Tragically, such a one-sided approach has inflamed tensions and fueled distrust. This clearly political and biased agenda is not just unproductive—it is destructive.  

Over the past two weeks, Hamas has put Palestinians in danger, refused to adhere to multiple cease-fire agreements, and launched more than 2,000 rockets into Israel. What country could sit idly by without responding? Israel has a right to defend itself against these vicious attacks and has worked assiduously to minimize civilian casualties by warning Gaza residents of impending air strikes. 

The fact that Israel has effective defenses against the rockets aimed at its citizens is no excuse to overlook Hamas’ hostile behavior. The United Nations has an obligation to unequivocally condemn any and all actions that endanger the lives of civilians. Anything less damages any meaningful efforts to achieve a resolution to this conflict.  

We look forward to you speaking out clearly on this important matter.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Kelly Ayotte
United States Senator

Robert Menendez
United States Senator

Ted Cruz
United States Senator

John Boozman
United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

Deb Fischer
United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator

Marco Rubio
United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator

Barbara Mikulski
United States Senator

Mike Johanns
United States Senator

Cory Booker
United States Senator

Roger Wicker
United States Senator  

Mike Lee
United States Senator  

Kay Hagan
United States Senator  

Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator  

Mark Warner
United States Senator

Mark Kirk
United States Senator

Dean Heller
United States Senator

Mary Landrieu
United States Senator

Tim Kaine
United States Senator

Susan Collins
United States Senator

Thad Cochran
United States Senator

Tom Coburn
United States Senator

Lindsey Graham
United States Senator

Joe Manchin III
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Ron Johnson
United States Senator

Chuck Grassley
United States Senator

Mark Begich
United States Senator

Ron Wyden
United States Senator

Christopher Murphy
United States Senator

Jerry Moran
United States Senator

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