Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) introduced a resolution on Thursday to block a weapons sale to Israel — the first legislation seeking to directly block military support to Israel introduced since Israeli forces began their total siege of Gaza last month.
The resolution of disapproval is aimed at stopping a proposed $320 million transfer of guided bomb kits to Israel. The proposal for the transfer of Spice Family Gliding Bomb Assemblies, which can turn unguided bombs into ones with high accuracy, was approved earlier this year, and the State Department notified Congress on October 31 that the transfer is moving ahead. The resolution would revoke the license for the sale.
“Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right ethnonationalist government continue to commit war crimes in their siege of the Gaza Strip,” Omar said in a statement. “From requests to minimize civilian casualties, avoid a ground invasion, avoid reoccupation of Gaza, and institute a meaningful humanitarian pause, Netanyahu continues to thumb his nose at U.S. policy and requests.”
“The United States already provides the Israeli government with $3.8 billion of military aid a year, and holds enormous leverage over their actions. It is the responsibility of Congress to exercise oversight over weapons sales. That is why we must not allow weapons sales that will be used to directly violate U.S. and international law, human rights, and our own moral standing in the world,” Omar continued.
The resolution was cosponsored by five of Omar’s fellow progressives: Representatives Cori Bush (D-Missouri), Summer Lee (D-Pennsylvania), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Delia Ramirez (D-Illinois) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan). It has also been endorsed by over 70 progressive, anti-war and Palestine advocacy groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace Action and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
According to the lawmakers, Spice bombs have already been used in Israel’s current genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign, in which Israeli forces have killed at least 11,500 Palestinians in Gaza so far, including 4,710 children, and injured nearly 30,000.
The weapons are manufactured by Rafael USA, the U.S. branch of a prominent Israeli arms manufacturer. They are similar to joint direct attack munitions, or JDAMs, which the U.S. manufactures and has expedited the transfer of to Israel in the past weeks. JDAMs have likely been used by Israeli forces on Gaza since October 7 as well.
Despite Israel having committed a deluge of what human rights groups have said are likely war crimes, and historians and foreign policy experts saying that Israel’s siege is a “textbook” case of genocide, top U.S. officials are seeking to ramp up U.S. military aid to Israel; the Biden administration has, in fact, sought to make arms transfers to Israel in complete secrecy, circumventing Congress’s power to block them.
The U.S. has been unique in its failure to recognize the deep humanitarian crisis on a global stage; though 12 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council voted to adopt a resolution on Wednesday calling for “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza, the U.S., U.K. and Russia abstained. This was after the U.S. vetoed a similar resolution in the council last month, as the only country voting “no” on the proposal.
A growing number of lawmakers in Congress, including Omar and the other resolution cosponsors, are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
On Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging them to call for an immediate “bilateral ceasefire” in the region.
“We are profoundly shocked by the grave violations of children’s rights in the context of armed conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the lawmakers wrote. The letter was signed by 24 House Democrats in total, including Omar and several lawmakers who had previously not publicly called for a ceasefire.
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