Keith Ellison, US congressman for the state of Minnesota and the only Muslim to be elected to US congress, talks to Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi about the Israeli offensive in Gaza and why he feels so few US politicians understand the Middle East.
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Press Release: Ellison Calls for End to Israel/Hamas Hostilities
U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison
Washington, D.C. — Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) called on both Israel and Hamas to halt the renewed escalation of violence in Gaza. “Over 380 casualties have already been reported,” Ellison stated. “The escalation of violence leaves both parties less secure and with a deeper desire to seek revenge. I believe the following actions must be taken at once if peace and security are to be achieved,” Ellison stated:
- Strong diplomatic intervention by the United States, the European Union (EU), the United Nations, and Russia (the “Quartet”) is necessary to restore the ceasefire that existed before this latest violence. The Quartet should act quickly and decisively to bring all parties to the negotiating table and establish a durable ceasefire.
- The Israeli and Egyptian borders must be opened at once to allow the innocent civilians caught in this violence to seek refuge, and for the flow of food, water and medical supplies into Gaza. Those individuals fleeing the bombing should be allowed to cross borders without harassment by any country.
- The toll on human life is already enormous — over 380 reported killed thus far. The casualties include many non-combatants such as United Nations personnel, and children. If the Israeli Defense Forces engage in a ground offensive, as they have said they will, untold casualties will surely follow. Hamas has already responded to a likely ground assault with the following beligerent defiance: ‘It would be easier to dry the sea of Gaza than to defeat the resistance and uproot Hamas, which is in every house of Gaza.’ The escalation of violence is destructive and counterproductive to efforts underway to achieve peace and stability in the region. It is time for sanity to prevail. The international community must step forward to establish a ceasefire (as the French have offered.)
- I have been to Sderot, Israel and I have seen firsthand both the physical and emotional destruction caused by the rocket attacks. Israeli citizens living near the Gaza border have been repeatedly harassed daily. At the same time, life for the people of Gaza has become increasingly unliveable — with shortages of food, fuel and basic medical supplies. The 1.4 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip exist in a state of dreadful isolation, cut off from the world, often including the world’s media. Earlier this year the people of Gaza broke through the walls separating Gaza and Egypt simply to purchase groceries. Provisions should be made immediately to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza and lessen civilian suffering.
- Inflammatory rhetoric and aggressive actions must stop on both sides. Political one up-manship for the next Israeli election should not be carried out at the expense of the innocent in Gaza. All parties should do everything possible to resume dialogue and negotiations with the goal of restoring and maintaining a lasting peace and security.
- History has shown that ground troops and air strikes have not resolved conflict in the Middle East. If we try to resolve conflict with military might and nothing else, then we will be no safer than we were before. Diplomacy is necessary to save lives and yield a lasting peace with security. If we truly want peace for the citizens of Israel and Gaza, then we will understand that the ability to eradicate the extreme elements fomenting war will be done so with jobs, food, water, medical supplies, schools, books — and not bombs. The United States government must play and active role in pursuing real peace with security in the Middle East.
- I add my voice to those members of the U.N. who have called for an end to the violence of this past week. I agree with those who demand s trict observance of international humanitarian law, which must be observed immediately and without exception.
Ellison called on the Bush Administration to act immediately and forcefully to exercise all diplomatic channels possible to stop the violence. “If the President does not act now, more lives will be lost and the hatred and enmity will deepen,” Ellison stated. “That will be President Bush’s legacy,” Ellison added.
“If the Bush Administration chooses to passively ignore the renewed violence during the waning days of their time in office, then I fully expect to work with President-elect Obama in actively, aggressively, and with full purpose, engaging all parties in the pursuit of both a lasting peace, and a secure future. Nothing less is acceptable,” Ellison concluded.