Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gary Peters (D-MI) announced today that 338 bipartisan Members of Congress have joined them in sending aletter to President Obama expressing Congress strong support for Israels right to defend itself and unequivocally reiterate that the United States stands behind our longtime friend and ally.

I would like to thank my colleague Rep. Peters for his leadership and the overwhelming support we have received in Congress on this important issue, said Poe.

With more signatures than any other congressional letter supporting Israel, we are sending an unmistakable message that the United States must make it clear to Israel and the rest of the world that Israel had the absolute right to defend itself in this situation and support Israels blockade, continued Poe. Our letter urges the White House to ensure that this is clear to all concerned throughout the world, especially Hamas and Hezbollah.

The letter additionally urges the president to remain steadfast in the defense of Israel in the face of the international communitys rush to unfairly judge and condemn Israel before the United Nations Security Council and continue to use our influence and, if necessary, veto power to prevent any biased or one-sided resolutions from passing.

I am dismayed at the selective outrage of the world community. Though Israel faces constant terrorist threats from Hamas, rocket attacks from Hezbollah and a growing nuclear threat from Iran, the world is often silent or indifferent, said Rep. Peters. Israel needs to know that its ally the United States does and will always stand firmly in support of Israels right to self-defense. I am pleased that 336 members of Congress have joined me in signing this bipartisan letter supporting Israels right to self defense and asking President Obama to continue to use U.S. influence to prevent anti-Israeli bias.

Members also stated that the U.S. should make every effort to thwart international condemnation and focus the international community on the crimes of the Iran-backed Hamas leadership against Israel and the Palestinian people. As Israel faces increased threats, most recently from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which announced that it could provide a naval escort to any additional aid ships wishing to reach Gaza, the United States must continue to stand by Israel, one of our strongest allies.

The letter came in response to the May 2010 flotilla incident. After repeated warnings, Israeli forces intercepted a flotilla attempting to break through its naval blockade of Gaza. Over the course of its blockade, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident. The same was true for five of the six ships in this flotilla. They were commandeered peacefully and directed to the Israeli port of Ashdod. However, those aboard the largest ship, the Mavi Marmara, violently resisted. With their lives threatened, Israeli forces used necessary force as an act of self-defense and of last resort.

The letter was supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and United Jewish Communities.

In supporting the Poe/Peters letter, AIPAC spokesman Josh Block said, At a time when so many countries are seeking to unfairly stigmatize and isolate the Jewish State, challenge its right to self-defense and judge it by a double standard, this letter serves one critical goal: demonstrating unswerving American support for our allies in Israel and their right to self-defense, while making clear to all concerned that as the leaders of the free world, the United States of America will not allow Israel to be attacked, isolated or slandered. We strongly applaud this effort.

William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America said, [We] appreciate your efforts to urge the United States to continue to actively to defend Israel in international bodies such as the United Nations Security Council, and the international community as a whole. (Click here to view a letter of support from the Jewish Federations).

Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations added, We are grateful to Representatives Ted Poe and Gary Peters and the leaders in the House as well as to the representatives who have signed or will sign on to show their support for this statement. Similar to the letter authored by Senators Reid and McConnell, this statement illustrates the deep commitment of the American people to the special U.S.-Israel relationship and to Israels need to protect its citizens from terrorism in all forms. (Click here to view a news release from the Conference in support of the Peters/Poe letter).

Jason Isaacson of the American Jewish Committee said, [T]he U.S. should stand firm at the UN Security Council against biased or one-sided resolutions presented to that body, and make every effort to thwart international condemnation and focus the international community on the crimes of the Iran-backed Hamas leadership against Israel and the Palestinian people. (Click here to view a letter of support from AJC).

Click here to view a PDF copy of the letter with all signatories.

The full text of the letter sent to President Obama follows below:

June 29, 2010

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express our strong support for Israels right to defend itself. We believe that it is in the national security interest of the United States to unequivocally reiterate that the United States stands behind its longtime friend and ally. Further, we urge you to remain steadfast in the defense of Israel in the face of the international communitys rush to unfairly judge and condemn Israel in international fora such as the United Nations Security Council. We urge you to continue to use U.S. influence and, if necessary, veto power to prevent any biased or one-sided resolutions from passing.

On May 31, after repeated warnings, Israeli forces intercepted a flotilla attempting to break through its naval blockade of Gaza. The blockade of Gaza was instituted to stop terrorists from smuggling weapons into Gaza to murder innocent civilians. Since Israels disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortars at Israels civilian population. Acknowledging the seriousness of the problem, Egypt also initiated its own blockade of Gaza along the Rafah crossing in 2007.

Over the course of its blockade, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident. The same was true for five of the six ships in this flotilla. They were commandeered peacefully and directed to the Israeli port of Ashdod. However, those aboard the largest ship, Mavi Marmara, violently resisted. As dramatic video depicts, the passengers on the ship attacked Israeli soldiers with clubs, metal rods, and iron bars as they attempted to board the ship. The soldiers were brutally beaten and one even thrown off the top deck. With their lives threatened, Israeli forces used necessary force as an act of self-defense and of last resort.

The several dozen who attacked the Israeli soldiers were not peaceful aid workers, but extremists who sought to aid the Iran-backed terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza. Days before, as broadcast on al-Jazeera, they proclaimed their willingness to be martyrs for the destruction of Israel, revealing a sinister element of premeditated violence. Furthermore, as confirmed by the State Department and intelligence agencies around the world, the Turkish aid group that sent out the flotilla, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), has met with senior officials of recognized terrorist groups over the last three years.

If the flotilla was truly intent on bringing aid to Gaza, it could have done that. Israeli officials repeatedly offered their ports to harbor the ships and disperse the aid so that it would not go into the hands of corrupt Hamas officials but directly to the people living in Gaza. But the flotilla refused these overtures, instead revealing their intent to break the blockade and sail unchecked into Gaza. As you know, Hamas even refused the aid that was aboard the Mavi Marmara after it was inspected by Israeli officials.

The U.S. should make every effort to thwart international condemnation and focus the international community on the crimes of the Iran-backed Hamas leadership against Israel and the Palestinian people. As Israel faces increased threats, most recently from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which announced that it could provide a naval escort to any additional aid ships wishing to reach Gaza, the United States must continue to stand by Israel, one of our strongest allies.

We look forward to working with you on these vital issues affecting the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Sincerely,

TED POE GARY PETERS
Member of CongressMember of Congress
TEXAS MICHIGAN

(336 more signatories)