In light of press reports that Israeli forces fired on a United Nations school where civilians were taking shelter, I sent notice today to Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, that Israel's actions in Gaza since December 27th, 2008 may constitute a violation of the requirements of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA).
When the president is aware of the possibility of such violations, the AECA requires a report to Congress on the potential violation(s). The AECA outlines the conditions under which countries may use military articles or services obtained from the U.S. government, which include "internal security" or "legitimate self defense." But the AECA prohibits actions that "increase the possibility of an outbreak or escalation of conflict."
The Israeli assault on Gaza creates such a possibility because it is a vastly disproportionate response to the provocation, and the Palestinian population is suffering from those military attacks in numbers far exceeding Israeli losses in life and property.
The full text of my letter follows:
January 5, 2009
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Dear Dr. Rice:
I am writing concerning Israel's military offensive against Gaza, which began on December 27th. I support Israel's security and its right to exist in peace, without the fear of rocket attacks from Hamas. Moreover, I abhor the violence being visited upon the citizens of our firm ally. However, no nation is immune from the legal conditions placed on the receipt of U.S. military assistance. I believe that with the current escalation of violence in Gaza, a legal threshold has been reached, warranting a Presidential examination and report to Congress. I hereby request an examination of Israel's compliance with the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA).
While neither the AECA nor the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) define "internal security" and "legitimate self-defense," I believe that Israel's most recent
attacks neither further internal security nor do they constitute "legitimate" acts of self-defense. They do, however, "increase the possibility of an outbreak or escalation of conflict," because they are a vastly disproportionate response to the provocation, and because the Palestinian population is suffering from those military attacks in numbers far exceeding Israeli losses in life and property.
Israel's current military campaign in Gaza has inflicted a significant toll on Palestinian civilians and society. Israel's recent aerial and ground offensive against Gaza has killed nearly 600 and injured over 2,500. The Associated Press reported: "children are paying the price. . . . The United Nations has said the death toll includes 34 children. . . . But the broad range of Israel's targets--police compounds, fire stations, homes of militants, Hamas-run mosques and university buildings--means most shelling is occurring in residential areas." The extensive destruction of such civilian institutions violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the wanton destruction of property and collective punishment of a civilian population. There have also been reports of bombings of United Nations (UN) schools, despite the fact that Israeli Defense Forces were allegedly given coordinates of the facilities prior to the current escalation in violence. The blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2006 has further exacerbated the extent of collateral damage, as hospitals and morgues have been unable to cope with the magnitude of deaths and injuries as a result of the current escalation in violence and hospitals lack proper supplies needed to treat the injured.
I believe that Israel's use of defense articles provided by the U.S in the current Gaza military attacks may constitute a violation of the AECA. At a minimum, the conflict is sufficient to warrant an immediate report to Congress as required by 22 U.S.C. §2753. Please contact my office by close of business on January 7, 2009 with the date the report will be submitted.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress