A message from fearful relatives moved Sen. Jon Ossoff to lead a call for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
“Over the weekend I got an email update on the safety of my family in Jerusalem. With the constant sirens, my three-year-old cousin has been very afraid and very upset, and they told me they were fervently hoping for an announcement of peace by the end of Shavuot,” the first-term Democrat said in an email. [Shavuot ended in Israel at sunset Monday, without that announcement.]
“The escalating violence, rising civilian death toll in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and my family’s plea for peace motivated me to build Senate support for a cease-fire. By Sunday evening, 29 Democrats and independents from across the ideological spectrum united to urge a cease-fire. The singular purpose of our statement was to call with clarity for a cease-fire,” Ossoff said.
That statement read: “To prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, we urge an immediate ceasefire.”
The 34-year-old Ossoff, a DeKalb County native who became a bar mitzvah at The Temple, told the AJT that Israel’s right to self-defense “is unquestionable and inherent to Israel’s statehood under international law.”
Hamas and a smaller group Islamic Jihad have launched more than 3,000 rockets into Israel in the past week. The Iron Dome missile defense system, the product of a joint U.S.-Israel effort, knocked down many, but a still large number struck occupied areas of Israeli towns and cities. In response to the continued rocket fire, the Israeli air force launched punishing air strikes on targets in densely packed Gaza.
When asked about the rockets, Ossoff said, “I condemn in the strongest terms violence that targets civilians, and these rockets target and threaten millions of Israeli civilians, including members of my family.”
Not long after release of the statement crafted by Ossoff, the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism issued a joint bipartisan call for a cease-fire. The White House said Monday that President Joe Biden had “expressed his support for a cease-fire” during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The senators signing onto the statement led by Ossoff included his fellow first-term Democratic colleague from Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock.
In a May 14 statement, Warnock said: “The tragic escalation of violence this week in Israel and the Palestinian territories is heartbreaking. I condemn the rocket attacks from Hamas and other groups against Israeli civilians, and support Israel’s right to defend its innocent citizens. Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorism, but it also has an increased duty to prevent the death of Palestinian civilians. I also recognize the deep, legitimate pain and suffering of the Palestinian community.”
Several metro Atlanta members of the U.S. House also issued statements related to the crisis.
Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, who succeeded the late John Lewis in the 5th District, said May 17: “The United States must do all it can diplomatically to promote stability, focusing on the safety and wellbeing of the families and communities that have been devastated by this conflict. Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorism, but it must prevent the further loss of civilian life. The killing of innocent civilians and children, regardless of national origin or location of residence, is unacceptable and can never be tolerated,” she said.
Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, who represents the 4th District, posted May 14 on Twitter that he was “proud to join” a May 12 letter by House colleagues to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that opposed Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes and the controversial legal efforts by Israel to evict Palestinian residents from disputed properties in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in the eastern side of Jerusalem. The letter also asked Blinken to “investigate whether Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes, possibly with U.S. weapons, violates the Arms Export Control Act.”
In a May 14 statement, 6th District Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath said: “As the world watches in horror as rockets and flares light up the night sky, my heart breaks for the terror and anguish so many now feel — the violence targeted at every day families must stop. Israel has a right to defend itself and its allies. The terrorism Hamas perpetuates onto the world must be held to account. For the safety of the Israeli and Palestinian communities — I am praying this comes to a peaceful resolution. The violence does nothing to bring the region closer to peace.”
Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, who represents the 7th District, said in a May 13 statement: “I share the Biden Administration’s concerns with Israel’s planned evictions of Palestinians from their longtime homes in east Jerusalem. I also condemn, in the strongest possible terms, Hamas’ targeting of Israeli civilians. . . . Israel has the right to defend itself. Palestinians have the right to live free from violence and to have a future of hope and economic prosperity. The two are not mutually exclusive.”
Democrat Rep. David Scott, who represents the 13th District, said in a May 16 statement: “Israel’s right to secure the safety of its citizens is incontestable and while I pray for the day that military assistance and arms are no longer needed anywhere in the world, no nation can be expected to look past rocket attacks that terrorize its people.”
Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk, representing the 11th District, said May 12 on Twitter: “The United States has never wavered in our support of Israel. Israel has every right to defend itself from the rockets Hamas is firing at innocent civilians and schools.”
- Jon Ossoff
- Dave Schechter
- DeKalb County
- The Temple
- Community Partners
- Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee
- The White House
- President Joe Biden
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
- Raphael Warnock
- Nikema Williams
- John Lewis
- Hank Johnson
- Antony Blinken
- Sheikh Jarrah
- Arms Export Control Act
- Lucy McBath
- David Scott
- Carolyn Bourdeaux
- Barry Loudermilk
- israel-gaza conflict