AOC and progressive Democrats issue resolution to block US arms sales to Israel

Progressive lawmaker says US ‘directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement’ of Palestinians

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 19 May 2021 19:10
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Joe Biden tells Rashida Tlaib he is praying for her family in West Bank
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US Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Marc Pocan have issued a resolution opposing the sale of $735m in US weapons to the Israeli government.

The resolution has six co-sponsors and is supported by more than 70 civil rights organisations, the lawmakers announced on 19 May.

It follows reports of Joe Biden’s approval of the sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel on 5 May, a week before the current rise in violence, amid growing demands across the US and among Democratic lawmakers for the president to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue a ceasefire and end the forced removal of Palestinian families in Jerusalem.

“For decades, the US has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” the New York congresswoman said in a statement on Wednesday. “In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions.”

Recent Israeli military strikes have killed at least 219 Palestinians, including dozens of children, according to the Gaza health ministry, and have destroyed homes, medical facilities and other buildings across the region, as the humanitarian crisis deepens for millions of its residents.

Rocket fire from Hamas militants has killed at least 12 people in Israel.

The arms sale reportedly involves Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs, both manufactured by Boeing, which has its headquarters in Chicago.

“Approving this sale now, while failing to even try to use it as leverage for a ceasefire, sends a clear message to the world – the US is not interested in peace, and does not care about the human rights and lives of Palestinians,” US Rep Tlaib said in a statement.

She said that the US “cannot claim to support human rights and peace on Earth and continue to back the extremist Netanyahu regime, it’s that simple.”

The Michigan congresswoman also confronted the president when he visited the state on Tuesday, where his visit was met by thousands of residents who joined three protests across the city – which has a large Arab American population – to demonstrate against Israel’s actions.

Rep Tlaib urged the president to do more to support Palestinian human rights and echoed her statements on the House floor and on social media in recent days as violence has persisted.

On Wednesday, the president “conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a White House description of a phone call between the two men, their fourth conversation within the last week, as violence continues for a 10th day.

The White House reported that the two leaders also discussed “the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States.”

It is unlikely that the resolution will advance in the full House or the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but its introduction could spark an unprecedented debate about the state of the US-Israel relationship, including US support in the form of $3.8bn in foreign military aid.

“This is the worst possible timing for us to be sending munitions that are being dropped on schools, refugee camps, media offices, and Covid clinics in Gaza,” US Rep Ilhan Omar said in a statement. “But let’s make no mistake – even if the current escalation wasn’t raging, Congress should be questioning the sales of these types of weapons to Israel and any country in the world that has committed human rights abuses.”

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