WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., strongly criticized America’s United Nations ambassador Wednesday for blocking a Security Council proposal to investigate Israeli military shootings that left over 60 Palestinians dead on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.
“I’m deeply disappointed,” said Feinstein referring to Ambassador Nikki Haley’s moves to prevent a U.N. inquiry into Israel’s firing on mostly unarmed protesters as they massed in the thousands along the border and sought to storm Israel’s security fence there. “Without question there should be an independent investigation when the lives of so many are lost.”
The violence, which also left over 2,500 wounded, took place Monday, the same day that the United States dedicated its new embassy in Jerusalem.
The protests at the fence have been held weekly for close to two months, but intensified on the day of the embassy opening, leading to condemnations worldwide of Israel and the United States. Most of the international community views recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a violation of international law. Its status remains contested.
Haley used the threat of the U.S. veto on the Security Council to block proposals for an inquiry and berated the council for even considering the issue.
“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?” Haley said.
“No one would,” she said. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained.”
Haley said that those who blame the embassy opening for the Gaza violence are “sorely mistaken.”
“The violence comes from those who reject the existence of the state of Israel in any location,” she said. “Such a motivation – the destruction of a United Nations Member State – is so illegitimate as to not be worth our time in the Security Council, other than the time it takes to denounce it.”
Feinstein called on protesters to “remain peaceful,” but appeared to lay much of the blame on the embassy opening and what she suggested was a lack of restraint by Israel.
“While protests must remain peaceful, Israeli forces must exercise greater restraint in the use of live ammunition,” she said. “President Trump’s decision to move the U.S embassy was a serious mistake that will reverberate throughout the region. U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should have been resolved in the context of broader peace negotiations where both sides benefit.”
Israeli authorities stated that some of the protesters were armed and that they attempted to attack Israeli troops.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a video posted on social media, also juxtaposed the embassy opening with the violence on the Gaza border. “The embassy move brought tensions to a boiling point,” the Sanders video said.
The video described the protesters’ demands as “an end to the ten-year blockade” Israel imposed on the Strip after a season of intensive rocket fire on Israel, “an end to the occupation, and the right to return to their former homes inside Israel.”
Sanders, who in 2016 challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, is the first Jewish candidate to win major-party nominating contests.
“Young American Jewish activists protested the embassy move,” the video said, running footage of an IfNotNow protest in Washington DC on Monday.
The video said that Sanders and another 12 Democratic senators, including Feinstein, have written to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to take steps to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.