The truth is that those deaths could have been avoided had the political leadership of the United States--the Administration and the Congress--ended our country's failed policy of refusing to act to end the Gaza blockade, refusing to demand from Israel that it negotiate seriously an end to the occupation, refusing to act decisively when Israel did not abide by basic international standards of law, and, effectively, continuing a one-sided policy that gave Israel a "green light" for policies that cleared a path that inevitably leads to attacks as the one that just happened.
For years, the U.S. has had ample opportunity to change its one-sided policy which has resulted in the continued warfare, occupation, misery and death of Palestinians and Israelis. Indeed, had we acted properly just two months ago, the deaths of the people on the flotilla might have been avoided. In March, the Israeli government approved the building of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem--a decision by the Israeli government that was counter-productive, done in bad-faith and sent a signal that the Israeli government was not serious about reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East--which must result in the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state for any peace agreement to be long-lasting.
At the time, the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton correctly criticized the Israeli government--and were met with an onslaught of political attacks generated by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and supported by dozen of members of Congress.
The blockade violates international law because it imposes collective punishment on a civilian population as a retaliation for the actions of armed groups which are illegally firing rockets at Israeli civilians. Violence against civilians cannot be tolerated--by either side. As well, the blockade will only serve to make long-term reconciliation more difficult because it further embitters a civilian population, which has already suffered decades of poverty and economic hardship because of the lack of a peace agreement and military conflict.
The Administration did not act. It cowered in the face of attacks by AIPAC and others who I argue are responsible for the death of many civilians by their continued support for a foolish, dangerous and immoral policy that has failed the people of the region.
I speak out not just as a candidate for public office. I speak as a Jew. I speak out as the son of a father who was born in Palestine, and who fought in the Jewish underground. I speak as someone who has had family members killed in the decades-long conflict, and who has lived in Israel and witnessed violence first-hand. And I speak as someone who has many family members still living there--and, therefore, I will not rest nor be silent, as a candidate and as a Member of the House, until our government is clearly an unstinting supporter of a two-state solution and is willing to speak up when international law is violated.
Today is Memorial Day. We must think not only of those who have died--all across the world-- because of the tragedy of war but all those who are living and whose lives can still be saved if we begin to take a moral stance against violence as a tool used by nations to resolve disputes.