The House vote on Fri., Jan. 9, came on day 14 of Israel’s air and ground assault on Gaza which has taken the lives of more than 800 Palestinians, including 257 children and 85 women, and injured thousands more. Eleven Israelis have been killed during the two-week attack called “Cast Lead." Eight of those killed were soldiers, four of whom were killed by “friendly fire” by comrades, according to Reuters.
The House vote (390 in support, 5 opposed) followed the Senate which the day before unanimously passed its non-binding resolution supporting Israel’s “right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza.”
Twenty-two representatives refrained from voting, responding as “present” when their names were called. Another 16 did not take any part in the vote. Four Democratic representatives voted against the resolution: Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (California), Gwen Moore (Wisconsin), Nick Rahall (West Virginia). They were joined by one Republican, Ron Paul of Texas.
Rep. Kucinich, one of the five who voted against the resolution, said the U.S. was ignoring the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while facilitating Israel's actions with arms deals worth billions.
Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, one of the 22 who responded as “present,” stated she couldn’t vote for the measure because it failed to call for an immediate cease fire by all parties in the war in Gaza.
‘The world is watching’
McCollum said world public opinion “is hardening against Israel as desperate images of destruction reach the media. The world is watching as Israel’s bombardment in Gaza continues to escalate.”
In her statement on the House floor 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. This resolution strongly and justifiably condemns Hamas, but the resolution’s intent and substance are void of any relation to the hellish reality that is being inflicted on the citizens of Gaza right now or the deprivation inflicted upon Gaza families by Israel’s harsh denial of food, medicine and fuel over the past year.”
Rep. Keith Ellison, another representative from Minnesota who refused to vote for the resolution, said it barely acknowledged the human suffering in Gaza.
Earlier in the week Ellison had called on President Bush to act immediately in the exercising of 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. That will be President Bush's legacy," Ellison said.
The House resolution went beyond the Senate version in calling for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, “who has been illegally held in Gaza since June 2006,″ according to the resolution. The House resolution also calls on Egypt to take steps to prevent cross-border smuggling into Gaza.