Madam Speaker, Israel and Hamas are fighting each other in the Gaza Strip. The question is, what is this fighting all about?
For centuries, the Jews and Muslims have fought over a strip of land in what we call the Holy Land called the Gaza Strip. It's a territorial dispute, but it's also a conflict of a religious nature.
The Gaza Strip is a tiny sliver of land about two times the size of Washington, D.C., with a population of about 1.5 million people. It is bordered by the State of Israel on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea to the West.
The modern war between Israel and the Palestinians began after Israel became a sovereign nation in 1948, after the end of World War II. After the Egyptian invasion of Israel in May of 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the Gaza Strip, large groups of Palestinian refugees began to arrive and live in Gaza.
In the last half of the 20th century, territorial control bounced back and forth between Israel and its Muslim neighboring countries. In the 1990s, Israel transferred security and civilian responsibility for the Palestinian-populated areas of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. After that transfer, Palestinians elected Yasser Arafat to be their leader, a person who was by no means pro-Israel, but a leader at the very least who worked for peace between Israel and Palestine.
In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip on the condition that the Palestinian terrorist groups, like Hamas, would stop terrorizing innocent civilians in Israel near the Gaza border, but that did not happen. Hamas continued its relentless attacks against the Jews, causing an escalation of tension in that region.
Then in January of 2006, the people of Palestine elected Hamas to head the Palestine Legislative Council. The international community did not accept the Hamas-led government because it refused to renounce violence, refused to recognize the State of Israel, and refused to honor previous peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
After a series of infighting between Hamas and more moderate Palestinians, Hamas militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all the military and government institutions in the Gaza Strip.
So since 2000, Hamas terrorists have targeted over 1 million Israeli civilians in Gaza and Israel literally firing thousands of rockets, missiles and mortar shells into Israel. In just the past 10 days, Hamas has fired more than 500 rockets at innocent Israeli civilians, and there is no end in sight.
The anti-Semitic hate speech propagated by Hamas leaders is no figment of anyone's imagination. It is real. It's enticing an entire generation of young people to become terrorists, all in the name of religion. Even our State Department has designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization for as long as that list has existed.
But we don't have to take our own government's word for it. In 2005, a Hamas leader in Gaza told the media that, ``Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don't recognize the State of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims.''
Later in 2006, another leader said, ``Israel is not a legitimate entity, and no amount of pressure can force us to recognize its right to exist. Israel must be humiliated and degraded.''
These are not the words of a people who desire peace and reconciliation. These are the words of a people who blatantly call for the complete destruction of Israel and will not stop at anything until that happens.
What's worse, Hamas doesn't care what it takes to make this happen, even if that means killing its own people.
Since the fighting began, Israel has allowed over 200 truckloads of food and medicine to enter Gaza, even under shellfire. Just today, Israel agreed to cease its ground operations for 3 hours every day so that humanitarian supplies can be taken into Gaza.
But meanwhile, Hamas is not only preventing its own wounded civilians from crossing into Egypt to receive medical treatment, but they're stealing medicine and supplies meant for civilians and using them for their wounded terrorists.
What makes Hamas even more inhumane is their willingness to put their own people in harm's way. Time and time again, Hamas has intentionally launched missiles into school yards and residential areas, putting Palestinians at risk, daring Israel to try and come after them, even hoping for Palestinian civilian lives to be lost in these attacks.
It's time for the rest of the world to stand in solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism and demand that Hamas immediately end its rocket fire attacks on Israel and stop smuggling through tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. However, Hamas says it will never end their war against Israel until Israel ceases to exist.
In the face of such hate, Madam Speaker, Israel is left with no other choice but to defend its people and its sovereign territory from these murderous terrorists.
And that's just the way it is.
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