Remarks at a Second Committee General Discussion on Item 59-Permanent Sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Andrew Weinstein
U.S. Public Delegate
New York, New York
October 16, 2023


Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We cannot forget how this started. The United States is outraged by and condemns unequivocally the appalling attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza.

Terrorism is never justified. Hamas’s terrorist acts are acts of sheer evil. Families slain. People massacred. Thousands killed and wounded. It’s an appalling human tragedy that has brought to the surface painful memories of antisemitism.

More than 1,300 civilians were murdered, including at least 30 American citizens, and there are U.S. citizens who are among those being held hostage by Hamas. More than 3,400 civilians have also been injured, and over 200 were captured and taken by Hamas.

We urge all countries, and all people, to unequivocally condemn the brutal atrocities of Hamas, which are akin to those we saw from ISIS, including the hostage taking of women and elderly civilians.

Let us be crystal clear: The United States stands with Israel as they defend themselves from terrorism. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens and defend itself from terrorist attacks effectively, consistent with the rule of law and the law of war.

As Secretary Blinken said, “We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard – even when it’s difficult – and holding ourselves to account when we fall short. Our humanity – the value that we place on human life and human dignity – that’s what makes us who we are. And we can count them among our greatest strengths. That’s why it’s so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”

One key difference between terrorists and countries like the United States and Israel is that we do not deliberately target civilians.

I must point out that details continue to emerge about the brutality of Hamas terrorists’ attacks on Israeli citizens – from babies to aging Holocaust survivors. Hamas, and its supporters, are responsible for this war. They brought this tragic war to the Gaza Strip.

As President Biden has told Prime Minister Netanyahu, if the United States experienced what Israel is experiencing, our response would be swift and decisive. Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to defend — indeed, has a duty to defend — itself from vicious attacks. Israel is doing what it must do in response to an attack targeting civilians that Hamas chose to do.

The United States is grieving the loss of life among Israeli, Palestinian, American, and other civilians. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and to the families of all those affected and wish those injured a speedy recovery.

Mr. Chair: The United States is working hard to address the tragic humanitarian consequences Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Israel have spawned for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. We reiterate that, in any armed conflict, all parties must comply with international humanitarian law.

As Secretary Blinken said, “We are now very actively engaged with countries in the region, with the United Nations, with Israel, to make sure to the best of our ability that people can get out of harm’s way and that the assistance they need, the food and water and medicine, can get in.”

Mr. Chair: Civilians are not to blame for Hamas’ horrific terrorism. Civilians are protected under Laws of Armed Conflict and should be given every opportunity to avoid the fighting.

All of us recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and support equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike. But make no mistake: Hamas does not represent those aspirations, and it offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and more bloodshed.

Mr. Chair: The bottom line is, the United States supports Israel taking necessary action to defend its country and protect its people from Hamas terrorists consistent with the rule of law and the law of war.

Thank you.