Ellison urges investigation of Israeli attack on aid flotilla, end to Gaza blockade

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Rep. Keith Ellison backed up his rhetoric of Wednesday, when he called for an investigation into the assault on a flotilla bringing relief supplies to Gaza that left nine people dead, including one American. In a letter to the president co-authored with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the Minnesota Democrat called for a full investigation into the raid, which occurred in international waters, and urged a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. “We urge you to take this tragedy as a catalyst to end the blockade on Gaza and to honor the dead and wounded on both sides by working to ensure a full, fair, and transparent investigation,” they wrote. 


Read the full letter:



June 3, 2010


The Honorable Barack Obama


President of the United States


The White House


1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.


Washington, D.C. 20500


Dear Mr. President,


As Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we are deeply troubled by the military action aboard the aid flotilla en route to Gaza earlier this week, resulting in the death of nine civilians, including one American. We welcome your call for full disclosure of the facts of this incident. We also ask you to do two things: first, do everything in your power to support a thorough investigation into the incidents on the flotilla; second, call for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.


This tragedy did not need to happen. We are dismayed by the use of force, both by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) members and the individuals on the Mavi Marmara ship, that left both IDF soldiers and individuals from the flotilla injured. We denounce the use of unnecessary force and we believe that no good can come out of the harming of innocents. With that in mind, we strongly support the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s call for a prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent investigation.


The United States must also work with its allies to address the on-going humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Recent events are undoubtedly linked to the counterproductive blockade on Gaza, which punishes ordinary citizens, and strengthens Hamas’ control over commerce. The Israeli blockade on Gaza has left more than 80 percent of Gazan dependent on some form of food aid. Cement is still being prevented from entering and as a result, many of the schools and homes destroyed in the ongoing conflict have not been rebuilt. This situation is unsustainable, and undermines the efforts of peacemakers seeking to improve the lives and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.


As friends of Israel, we are concerned for Israel’s security and we believe that an undernourished and unemployed Gazan population does not promote this goal. Israel’s long-term security interests are not served by the blockade of civilian goods to Gaza as it provides fodder for those who promote extremism against innocent Israelis. In your historic Cairo address one year ago, you stated: “Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society…the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security.”


We could not agree more.


United States leadership in the Middle East must show a commitment to ending the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We urge you to take this tragedy as a catalyst to end the blockade on Gaza and to honor the dead and wounded on both sides by working to ensure a full, fair, and transparent investigation. Further, the United States should take immediate steps to ensure that this incident does not escalate into broader violence in the region.


We still believe that a durable, meaningful two-state solution is possible and we remain deeply committed to this goal. We look forward to working with you toward that end.


Sincerely,


Barbara Lee                                                        Keith Ellison


Member of Congress                                          Member of Congress