AOC moves to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel, saying the US has a 'responsibility to protect human rights'

AOC moves to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel, saying the US has a 'responsibility to protect human rights'
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday, August 24, 2020.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/Pool
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution to block a $735 million weapons sale to Israel.
  • Progressives have been heavily critical of Israel's military tactics in recent fighting with Hamas.
  • "We should not be sending 'direct attack' weaponry to ... Netanyahu to prolong this violence," she said.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday led other progressive Democrats in the introduction of resolution to block a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel.

The Biden administration approved the sale before the recent fighting in the Middle East began, and officially notified Congress of the deal on May 5. Lawmakers are running out of time to stop the sale, with a 15-day review period ending on May 20.

In a statement on the joint resolution, Ocasio-Cortez said that the US has been selling billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel for decades "without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights." In doing so, she said, the US has contributed directly to "the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions."

"At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending 'direct attack' weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence," Ocasio-Cortez added.

Separately, in a tweet on the resolution the New York lawmaker said the US should "not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing."


"We have a responsibility to protect human rights," Ocasio-Cortez added.

Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan and Rashida Tlaib joined Ocasio-Cortez in introducing the joint resolution.

With time running out to formally object to the sale, the resolution is largely symbolic. Moreover, Congress has never successfully blocked a proposed arms sale via a joint resolution of disapproval, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Progressive Democrats have increasingly criticized Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and treatment of Palestinians, with Ocasio-Cortez recently referring to it as an "apartheid state." She noted that a growing number of top human rights groups have also accused Israel of committing apartheid.

Amid the recent fighting, Biden has faced mounting pressure from progressives like Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib to be more critical of Israel and show more concern for Palestinian human rights. Some Democrats have called for Biden to condition or limit aid to Israel in an effort to change its behavior.


When asked on Wednesday whether the evident and growing schism in the Democratic party regarding US-Israeli relations is concerning to the Israeli government, Itay Milner, a spokesperson for the Consulate General of Israel in New York, told Insider, "Our relations with the Democratic party are very strong."

"It's true that there are some disagreements between some parts of the Democratic party, but that does not mean we are in dispute with them and we are not in contact with them," Milner added. "Here in New York, for example, we are meeting with progressive leaders all the time." Milner said the consulate has had meetings with members of The Squad, which Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib are a part of, but not in the past week.

Biden has apparent "challenges" from his own party, Milner went on to say, but he's continued to be "very firm on Israel" and his "commitment to Israel is stronger than any political pressure."

As Biden's Democratic critics have accused him of being too soft on Israel amid the recent bloodshed, they've also pushed for the president to make a more forceful call for a cease-fire. The White House on Wednesday said that Biden conveyed to Netanyahu that "he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire." Soon thereafter, however, the Israeli prime minister said he's "determined" to continue the operation "until its aim is met."

As of Wednesday, at least 227 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children, as Israel has pummeled Gaza with airstrikes over the past 10 days, The New York Times reported, citing Gaza's health ministry. Meanwhile, Hamas rocket attacks have killed at least 12 people in Israel, including two children.