Congressman Weiner made an impassioned plea on behalf of our brothers in Sderot on the floor of the US House of Representatives last night. His efforts are laudable and are deserving of coverage on YW. Text From the Congressional Record:
Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to ponder a hypothetical. Imagine for a moment that a small town in your district, whether you represent a rural or urban district or suburban district you can imagine this hypothetical, but it’s an unimaginable concept to many of us in the United States. Imagine if a town in that district was hit by a rocket, just landed out of the sky, launched from a neighboring town, or if you’re near the border, launched from a neighboring country. Imagine for a moment how you would react as an elected official in that town, imagine for a moment how you would act as a parent of people in that town, imagine how you would act if you were government from that town.
Well, for one small town in the southern part of Israel, it’s not something they need to imagine. Let me show you a map of Israel and point to a small town called Sderot. It’s right down here near the Negev, right along the border of the Gaza Strip.
Sderot is a town of 24,000 people. It is not a wealthy town; it’s basically a working class town. Like I said, not very big. But in the last 5 years, not one, not two, but 2,000 rockets have landed on that town, all of them launched from the Gaza Strip.
Now, as you ponder what it is that you would do, let me tell you a little bit about the effect it has had to the people of Sderot. Eight people have been killed as these qassam rockets have fallen. What is a qassam rocket? A qassam rocket is a fairly primitive rocket that is made out of basically a plumbing pipe with four stabilizers and filled with about a pound or so of shrapnel, that when it explodes, it blows the shrapnel all around.
This is a picture of some of the qassam rockets that have landed in Sderot over the last 5 years. This is what the back of the local police station looks like. They keep them all and they mark it when they land. Now, eight people have been killed by these rockets, three of them children, dozens have been wounded. There have been 155 of these rockets landing in this town just since June, when Hamas was elected as the representative party of the people of the West Bank, and some would argue Gaza as well. You see this small strip of land? That’s the Gaza Strip. Lobbed one by one by one into this town of Sderot. Well, as you think about how your citizens might deal, let me tell you a little bit about how the citizens of Sderot have dealt.
For one thing, when there is any kind of notice that they get, and they have a rather primitive system of lasers that detect when there is heat out in the desert that seems extraordinary, a notice goes to the local police department and then they send out tzeva adom, tzeva adom, which just means “code red.” Then you have about 15 seconds. That’s how much time the people of Sderot have to respond. They can do a couple of things. They can run into these concrete shells that have been built all throughout town. The way we might have phone booths in our towns, they have concrete structures that are called life shields. They are supposed to pull over or stop their car where they are and run to a building or wall. It’s the only part of Israel where it’s illegal to wear your seat belt because you have to be able to run out of your car as quickly as possible to avoid the rocket attacks.
And kids, of course, they’re taught the old 1950s-era American idea of “duck and cover,” except when it comes to the children of Sderot, it would be more aptly described as “duck and suffer.” One in three children in that town suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. It is not coincidental or accidental that seven rockets landed in that town on the first day of school this past Sunday. There was a rocket attack today.
It is hard to find pictures that truly can express what it is like when a rocket falls on an elementary school; but this is a picture that was taken during a rocket attack last year, children essentially cowering in a corner of their school and holding their heads for their lives.
You know, it is easy to describe in dry terms what you’re supposed to do when a rocket lands on your town, and thank God many of us will never know what that is like. But imagine what it is like when there are hundreds of them, and now thousands of them over the course of the last couple of years.
Now, we here in Washington, we frequently think of things through the lens of what should the government response be. Well, what would your town’s government response be if it was attacked by a foreign power day after day after day with rockets? Well, unfortunately for the people of Israel, there isn’t a great deal that they can do, particularly since the international community has shown very little concern about the matter.
The United Nations, perhaps we can urge them to pass a resolution of condemnation. They’ve been unwilling to do anything. You might try to figure out what ways you can make your residents more safe. The Israeli Government sent 200 soldiers to this town of 24,000 people to escort their hundreds of kids to school. You might want to try to figure out where they’re getting the artillery necessary to be launching these attacks. As you can see here, the border is only with one other country, and that’s Egypt. Time and time again there have been found tunnels that lead into the Gaza Strip providing weaponry. You might want to crack down on Egypt to make sure that they stop providing the artillery.
But one thing for sure is you would do something. And sooner or later, I think it’s fair to say that all of us, if we were put in this circumstance where there was one or even two or three at most rockets falling in our districts, we would demand that something be done. Well, I believe that it is time for those of us in the United States to realize that terrorism falls in all kinds of ways every day that barely gets a notice.
When several of these rockets fell in Sderot on the first day of school, you might have missed it in your neighborhood newspaper because it is so commonplace. It should never be, in 2007, commonplace for one nation to lob missiles down on the other.
Now, it comes as little surprise that just in the several months that Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip that there has been an escalation in the number of rockets. But I also think that we need, as a country that is in solidarity with Israel and the many things that they’re trying to do, you know, it’s not the purpose of this map, but you can see that this is a nation that is surrounded with enemies. On the northern border they face Hezbollah, which declared war across the international border and lobbed weapons upon them in the Lebanese war.
You see here they’re dealing with problems in the Gaza Strip. Now, I should point out that much of the escalation has happened in the period since Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip. There are no Israeli forces there anymore. Since the Israeli forces left, the rocket attacks have gone up.
So what can the Israelis do? Well, I guess they could reoccupy the Gaza Strip, and you can imagine the public condemnation and hue and cry that might occur if that happened. I guess they could try as best they could to track where these rockets are being fired from and try to go in as quickly as possible and counterattack. Well, it’s not a very practical thing to do, perhaps they would argue. But one of the things they are considering doing is saying, look, we’re going to cut off the power and supply to the Gaza Strip; we’re going to make the citizens of Gaza Strip make a choice whether they’re going to have terrorists in their midst or not.
Well, one thing that we can do, as far away from the front of the Sderot conflict as we are, is we could make it very clear that if we were in the same position, we would not be calling upon ourselves to show great restraint. We would try to figure out how do we solve this problem.
And so we, as the United States of America and the State Department, when they call upon Israel, show restraint, show restraint, don’t retaliate, maybe that’s a reasonable argument after one or two or 10 rockets. Now, I think we have to realize that what Israel is engaged in, what this tiny town is engaged in is playing defense in the war on terrorism every single day without much support and without much help.
So I take the floor today with my good friend from Nevada to say that, while we are not being asked to live in a town like Sderot, we should be mindful of the idea that such towns exist in Israel, that it is not just the province of people who live along the Lebanese border that are facing terrorism, it’s not just the province of people who drive along the roads even in the inner country of Israel who find themselves being under attack. It’s a daily attack on this tiny town.
Now, they don’t have C-SPAN; I doubt they have C-SPAN in Sderot. But they do listen very carefully when the United States of America, when the Secretary of State, when the President, when elected officials stand up and say, listen, we don’t envy the situation that Israel is in, but we understand it. And we understand that retaliation is sometimes a difficult thing to contemplate, but sometimes it’s necessary. We know that if we were put in the same position and suddenly the good folks in Canada started lobbing missiles over the New York border, I would be demanding that we respond. If the folks who live in Arizona or Texas started getting attacked with missiles coming over the border, certainly none of us would be saying, show forbearance.
If these children were being forced to cower at rocket attacks day after day after day in any town in the United States, we would understand perfectly well that something needed to be done to stem the tide. But there are other things we can do. We can say we are not going to continue to be a supporter of Egypt, as we have, if they continue to allow their nation to be essentially a wide open font for terrorist activities. We are going to understand that, while it was every right, and sometimes I’m criticized for making this image, it’s every right of the people of the Palestinian territories to choose to elect Hamas as their leaders, but it is also the right of the international community to say that this is what we expected would happen. We would have an increase in the international terrorism that emerged from the Gaza Strip, and now it has happened. And if we had a terrorist government in Canada, we wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to see it as a threat to our security.
We can also understand that the people of Sderot’s fight is all of our fight. When the United Nations is, resolution after resolution, condemning Israel for its heavy hand in this or its heavy hand in that, when it convenes a conference to talk about the plight of the Palestinians, putting aside the plight of the Israelis, they do a disservice to the basic common sense about who it is that is doing the attacking, who it is that is launching the missiles and who it is that is on the other side.
The other thing that we can do is make sure that weapons like this are never armed with high-tech guidance systems. Right now, the administration is putting the final touches on a plan to present to the United States Congress that would sell missile guidance systems, $20 million worth, to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been one of the foremost advocates for Hamas in the world. They fund them. They support them. They provide them aid and comfort.
Imagine for a moment if these missiles weren’t being lobbed relatively indiscriminately in the direction of schools, hospitals, shopping centers and synagogues, but imagine if they had laser guidance systems provided to the Saudis and then leaked to them, because that is what happens in that part of the world. Imagine this number of rockets that are hitting people and installations and churches, well, synagogues and not just falling to the Earth.
We can stop that sale. We in Congress can stop that sale. And we should do everything we can to do so. Ms. Berkley and I circulated a letter that over 115 Members of Congress signed onto saying this is a bad idea to be selling weapons, high-tech weapons, to the foremost exporter of terrorism in the world. But tonight when we lay down our heads, we should know that not far away, 2,000 miles away in Sderot, children are going to be walking to school, and most likely if tomorrow is like today was, they are going to hear a siren go off. They are going to hear a voice over the loudspeakers saying in Hebrew, “condition red, condition red” which meant that they have to go find cover somewhere. Imagine raising your child in that kind of environment.
Imagine the outrage that you would feel as a parent or resident of that town.
We should never forget that we are not going to be safe just because we don’t have rockets falling on us every single day. So long as there are entities in the world that find comfort in being able to do that day in and day out, we all suffer. We admire Israel for what it does. It is probably the last remaining country besides the United States of America that every day is trying to fight terrorism. Our friends in Europe turn it on and turn it off as they might be willing to. Frankly, it is the United States and Israel every day.
But as much as we fight and as much as we invest in resources, as much as we honor the men and women of the armed services, 150,000 fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, imagine if every single day we weren’t having to go out and fight that fight, but it was landing in our community. That should be the lens that we look at this conflict through. There are complications. It is a nuanced and difficult thing. It is difficult trying to persuade people who are democracies in Lebanon, democracies in the West Bank and Gaza, that they shouldn’t be voting for people whose campaign slogan is “I want to drive Israel into the sea.” It is discouraging.
It is complicated when you have a nation like Jordan for whom many of these people would consider their home country and have them take little responsibility for those people who are in the West Bank, as well as for those people who are in Gaza. It is a difficult, complicated part of the world. But there are some things that are immutable. And I would hope that we would all agree that one of the immutable things is that under no circumstance should any country have to withstand tens and tens, and hundreds, eventually thousands of rocket attacks on its land just because it is a small town and just because most people have never heard of it. My colleague, Congressman Wexler, and I had a long debate about how to pronounce it. He said “Sderot.” I said “Sderot.” It is unclear. It was written originally in Hebrew. It probably appears in the Bible somewhere. Perhaps we can find an authority on that.
These are not the most influential people even in Israel. But it is troubling to me. I think I speak for my colleague, Ms. Berkley, that day in and day out these attacks happen, and none of us even notice any more. Well, the children and the adults and the people of that community notice. They notice. They are traumatized by it. I think it is our obligation as citizens of the world to say that while you can have different viewpoints about where borders should be and you can have different viewpoints about the relative gripes of the Palestinians or the gripes of Hamas or who should prevail, Fatah or Hamas, or whether or not the Egyptians are doing enough, or whether or not the Syrians are doing enough, or whether or not they are all just exporting terrorism in one form or the other, I would hope that we could agree that it is an international abomination that this is allowed to happen.
I would be glad to yield to my colleague from Nevada……..