AOC says House leadership's 'reckless' rush to vote on an extra $1 billion for Israel's 'Iron Dome' was 'deeply unjust' and 'created a tinderbox of vitriol'
- On Thursday, the House passed a bill providing an extra $1 billion for Israel's "Iron Dome."
- AOC voted "present" as 8 other Democrats voted against the bill, and was later seen crying after the vote.
- She blamed House leadership for creating "a tinderbox of vitriol" after Hoyer ignored her request to delay the vote.
In an email to constituents Friday afternoon, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called out House leadership for rushing a vote to provide $1 billion in additional funding for the Iron Dome defense system and explained why she was crying following the vote.
Calling the process for bringing the floor to a vote "deeply unjust," Ocasio-Cortez said that she'd asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to delay the vote for 24 hours to "bring down the temperature" but was ultimately rebuked.
"The reckless decision by House leadership to rush this controversial vote within a matter of hours and without true consideration created a tinderbox of vitriol, disingenuous framing, deeply racist accusations and depictions, and lack of substantive discussion on this matter," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I want to be clear that the decision to rush this vote… was both intentional and unnecessary."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) September 24, 2021
In an emotionally charged debate on Thursday, the House overwhelmingly approved the new funding for Israel's Iron Dome after House Democrats stripped the funding out of a government-funding bill due to progressives' objections.
At one point during the debate, Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who is of Palestinian descent, cited Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights group B'Tselem in labelling the Jewish nation an "apartheid state."
Iron Dome is an Israeli-developed air defense system that targets rockets in-flight with missiles. It has played a critical role in defending population centers in Israel from projectiles fired from Gaza, although militants during the conflict in May discovered a weakness in the system's ability to shootdown large numbers of rockets fired simultaneously.
—Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) September 23, 2021
Tlaib's remarks prompted an angry reaction from Democratic Rep. Ted Deutsch of Florida, who suggested that she was anti-Semitic.
—Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) September 23, 2021
The bill ultimately passed 420-9, with 8 Democrats – including the rest of the "Squad" – and 1 Republican voting no. Democrat Hank Johnson joined Ocasio Cortez in voting "present." After the vote, Ocasio-Cortez cried on the House floor as some of her Democratic colleagues sought to comfort her.
—Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) September 23, 2021
"Yes, I wept," wrote the congresswoman. "I wept at the complete lack of care for the human beings that are impacted by these decisions, I wept at an institution choosing a path of maximum volatility and minimum consideration for its own political convenience."
She argued that more time was needed to engage with constituents over the politically charged vote, saying that she felt a "real sense of panic and horror among those in our community who otherwise engage thoughtfully in these discussions."
The congresswoman also highlighted the enormity of the sum and Israel's "persistent human rights abuses against the Palestinian people," asking why such a country should by given "unconditional aid" comparing it to US aid to Saudi Arabia and Colombia.
Ultimately, she did not precisely explain why she voted "present," though she said she was opposed to the legislation. "To those who believe this reasoning is insufficient or cowardice - I understand," she said.
Over the past few years, there's been a growing schism in the Democratic party on US-Israel relations, as more congressional Democrats have broken the taboo of criticizing America's closest Middle East ally.
Progressive Democrats have become increasingly critical of the Israeli government's policy toward Palestinians and pushed for the US to condition aid to Israel, often putting them at odds with party leadership.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has frequently butted heads with the Squad on this issue — particularly Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Pelosi has also, however, defended Omar against allegations of anti-Semitism from Republicans.
Prominent lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, have also stepped forward to defend Omar against such attacks. Sanders, who is Jewish and briefly lived in Israel, has warned against equating "legitimate criticism" of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism.
The growing divide among Democrats over relations with the Israeli government was especially evident during the Israel-Hamas conflict in May. Progressive lawmakers like Ocasio-Cortez excoriated the Biden administration for defending Israeli airstrikes in Gaza amid reports of civilian casualties and residential buildings getting demolished. When President Joe Biden responded to the escalating violence by stating that Israel had a right to defend itself, Ocasio-Cortez accused him of dehumanizing Palestinians.
"By only stepping in to name Hamas' actions — which are condemnable — & refusing to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians, Biden reinforces the false idea that Palestinians instigated this cycle of violence. This is not neutral language. It takes a side — the side of occupation," Ocasio-Cortez said at the time.
During the fighting in May, Israel's Iron Dome defense system intercepted the vast majority of the thousands of rockets — more than 90% — fired by Hamas. Israel responded to the rocket fire by pummeling Gaza with airstrikes. Twelve people in Israel were killed during the fighting in May.
The 11-day conflict killed 260 Palestinians, according to the UN. "About 249 of these, including 63 children and 41 women, were seemingly killed by Israeli Forces. Over 2,200 Palestinians were injured during the hostilities, including 685 children and 480 women, some of whom may suffer from a long-term disability requiring rehabilitation," the UN said in June.
Top human rights groups have said that both the Israeli government and Hamas likely committed war crimes during the violence.