News & Politics

Amid Hamas Rocket Attack, Bernie Sanders and AOC Try to Hamstring Israel's Self-Defense

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

On Thursday, Jewish Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced he would file a resolution to block the planned sale of $735 million in weapons to Israel as Israel defends itself from thousands of Hamas rockets. Sanders will join Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her allies in the House who are leading the effort to block the sale. President Joe Biden has expressed tepid support for Israel but called for a cease-fire in the conflict, as if Hamas were not the clear aggressor.

“At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a congressional debate,” Sanders said in a statement.

“I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the senator added. “We need to take a hard look at whether the sale of these weapons is actually helping do that, or whether it is simply fueling conflict.”

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On May 5, the Biden administration notified Congress that hit had approved selling Israel $735 million in weapons, mostly Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions that can turn so-called “dumb bombs” into precision-guided missiles. These missiles would aid in Israel’s precision strikes to take out terrorist leaders and cripple Hamas’ ability to launch rockets at Israel.

On Wednesday, AOC and Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) filed a House resolution to block the sale. Other co-sponsors include Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and André Carson (D-Ind.).

“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” AOC said in a statement on her resolution. “In so doing, we have directly contributed 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.”

Supporting a ceasefire sounds noble, but calls for ceasefire ignore the reality on the ground.

The current conflict began after Palestinian protesters violently attacked Israeli police while protesting an Israeli Supreme Court case that would likely uphold the lawful eviction of squatters who refused to pay rent after they agreed to acknowledge a Jewish land claim over their homes. The protesters attacked police, who responded with crowd-control measures that injured hundreds.

Hamas responded by firing thousands of rockets into Israel. The Iron Dome interceptor system has blocked the vast majority of the rockets, but the attacks have killed at least ten people in Israeli, including two children.

Israel has responded with rockets of their own, and Gaza has reported at least 201 Palestinians killed, including 58 children. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has claimed to have killed several Hamas commanders in the strikes.

According to the IDF, many of Hamas’ rockets have misfired, so the Palestinian terrorist group may be responsible for many of the deaths in the Gaza Strip. Israel has claimed that Hamas misfired 350 rockets in the first 3 days, killing innocent civilians in Gaza.

Before Israel sends precision-strike rockets, it first warns occupants of the targeted building, allowing people time to leave before destroying buildings that allegedly house Hamas weapons and intelligence. Hamas gives no such warnings to Israeli targets.

Eugene Kontorovich, an Israeli scholar at the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University, explained the situation well.

“International law requires all combatants — Israel and Hamas — to adhere to the principle of distinction. Distinction means military and civilian forces need to be separated and clearly marked, so that both sides can target each other’s military without killing civilians. Mixing the military amongst the civilians, putting military targets — military installations, rocket facilities — in or in proximity to civilian targets, itself is a violation of the law of war, and that’s what Hamas is doing,” Kontorovich explained.

“On the other hand, in fighting a war, the law of war and the Geneva Conventions understand it’s impossible to have a war without civilian casualties and the rule is those civilian casualties need to be proportionate to the military objective. Right now, Israel has destroyed much of Hamas’ capabilities, and the civilian casualties — while regrettable — are both proportionate and a direct result of Hamas’ using civilians as human shields,” he added.

When AOC and Bernie Sanders go after U.S. arms sales to Israel, they are attempting to cripple the Jewish state’s ability to defend itself from Hamas’ rockets. Every death in the conflict is tragic, but there is no moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

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The Bernie Sanders-AOC effort is unlikely to succeed. While the resolution would only require 50 votes in the Senate, it seems unlikely that every Senate Democrat will rally behind it. If President Biden vetoes the legislation, it would require a two-thirds majority to override his veto.

AOC and Bernie Sanders are engaging in nothing more than a symbolic opposition, but even that stance is despicable in this case. Israel has every right to defend itself, and the Jewish state should not back down until Hamas ceases to launch rockets.