On August 10, 2010, Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to clarify his statement equating Gaza with a "prison camp." Rep. Rothman's letter was also signed by Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Dan Burton (R-IN), Ron Klein (D-FL), and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY).
The full text of the letter:
The Right Honorable David Cameron, MP
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
Dear Prime Minister Cameron:
Congratulations on your recent election as Prime Minister. The United States and the United Kingdom share a deep history with a truly special relationship and we look forward to working with you to advance the common goals of both our countries.
A central foreign policy goal shared by both of our nations is the achievement of a peace agreement in the Middle East that allows the Jewish State of Israel to live in peace and prosperity alongside a viable Palestinian State. In this regard, we believe that your recent comment in Turkey equating Gaza with a "prison camp" is detrimental to the peace process and ignores the history and reality of the situation in Gaza.
As you know, the Egyptian and Israeli weapons blockade of the Gaza Strip is a direct result of the brutal takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007. As Hamas violently forced Fatah out of the Gaza strip, hundreds of innocent Palestinians were killed and many more wounded. Furthermore, since 2001 Hamas has fired thousands and thousands of rockets at civilian targets in Israel. The rockets have killed dozens of Israelis and injured hundreds more. In the Israeli town of Sderot, 90% of residents have had a missile explode in their neighborhood. It is unfathomable, that for nearly a decade now, Israelis living on the Gaza border have had to live in constant fear of rocket fire killing them or their children.
The strict Egyptian/Israeli blockade of Gaza prevents the entry of weapons and materials that could help the brutal Hamas regime continue its terrorist campaign and prevents Iran (Hamas's patron) from gaining another foothold in the region. Furthermore, while the blockade policy has been in place, hundreds of thousands of tons of humanitarian assistance have been provided to Gazans. In addition, on June 20, 2010, Israel implemented a new humanitarian aid policy for Gaza, which allows many more food and luxury items into Gaza as well as dual-use construction materials for approved Palestinian Authority authorized projects such as construction of schools, health facilities, water plants, and sanitation services.
Hamas has no one to blame for the situation in Gaza other than itself. Israel has shown time and time again that it is willing to work with the Palestinians and the Quartet toward a two state solution. However, when Israel fully withdrew from Gaza in 2005, their act of good faith was met by a violent uprising from Hamas and an increase of rocket fire into Israel. Israel, like any other nation, has every right to defend itself and to prevent weapons and other potential harmful materials from falling into the hands of terrorist organizations determined to destroy it.
We therefore respectfully urge you to clarify your "prison camp" statement and let us know if this statement reflects your personal view or the official position of the United Kingdom. We also hope you will join us in working to encourage direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians so that a final and lasting peace can be achieved for Israelis and Palestinians.
We thank you for your consideration, look forward to your response, and wish you all the best in your new post as Prime Minister.