Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Blog

By Elizabeth Adams
Summer Intern, 2014

In a frenzied hurry before the Hill entered its five week long recess, Senators and Congressmen rushed to pass H.J. Res. 76, “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Resolution, 2014”. This bill is the vehicle that legalizes giving U.S. aid in the sum of 225 million dollars to Israel for its much celebrated “Iron Dome” missile defense system.  The Iron Dome is lauded among Israelis and Westerners alike, being seen as the only thing stopping Hamas’s rockets from causing wanton death and destruction within Israel.

Having bought into this narrative, and in many cases supported its creation, the United States has given over 700 million dollars to support the Iron Dome system. In spite of this funding, recent reports suggest that the highly cited figure of the Iron Dome’s ability to intercept “90 percent” of incoming rockets is blown way out of proportion. In an article published in The Bulletin of Atomic Sciences, MIT professor Theodore A. Postol stated that in 2012, the systems success rate was closer to 5%, possibly even less. He attributes the low Israeli casualties to the Israeli civil defense efforts. Postol’s study focused on the Iron Dome’s performance during the 2012 Israeli offensive, Operation Cast Lead, but the data from the 2014 conflict shows that the system’s performance has not markedly improved.

Regardless, H.J. Res. 76 was an opportunity for U.S. policymakers to show their unwavering support for Israel, therefore it passed unanimously in the Senate and with a margin of 395-8 in the House, (29 members did not vote). Upon its passage Senator Graham (R-SC) stated, “As dysfunctional as the Congress has been, this is one of our finer moments. We’re about to leave here soon with a lot of work undone, but let it be said that we did have foresight and the ability- and quite frankly the moral decency- to end on a positive note.”

Indeed, policymakers summoned the moral decency to fast track the funding for Israel by sidelining the sections of the original bill, (S. 2648) which dealt with emergency issues here in America, such as funding for fighting wildfires on the West Coast and the border crisis in the South. Some have postulated that the bill did not need to be so rushed, and that it was fast-tracked as a method of showing U.S. solidarity with Israel during Operation Protective Edge. This is backed up by the language in the bill itself, which allows for the funds to remain available to Israel through the U.S. Secretary of Defense all the way until September 30, 2015. Additionally, no information was given to members of Congress as to the necessity of the funding, as Congressman O’Rourke (R-TX) stated while defending his “nay” vote. He said,  

…there was no backup material, no information, no discussion, and no debate. Just five minutes to cast your vote… We could not even get the basic questions answered of how many batteries were left? How much money, over $1 billion for Iron Dome, has been unspent? Is this money needed? I think these are some basic questions that could have been answered.

This comes on the heels of numerous other resolutions that either support Israel or condemn Palestinians. Examples of bills that have been introduced recently are:

  • S. Res. 526, “Supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, and for other purposes”,
  • S. Res. 537, “A resolution reaffirming support for Israel's right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel, and for other purposes”
  • S. 2766, “A bill to combat terrorism and promote reform in the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations, and for other purposes”,
  • H. Con. Res. 107, “Denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law”,
  • S. 2763, “United States- Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014”

Another one of the eight people on the Hill without the “moral decency” to pass this funding for the Iron Dome was Rep. Keith Ellison, (D- MN). He opted instead to support efforts to prioritize a ceasefire. According to Ellison, “A cease-fire protects civilians on both sides-it doesn’t just say, ‘we’re only concerned about people on one side.’” The remaining members of congress who voted “nay” were Amash (R-MI), Lofgren (D-CA), O’Rourke (R-TX), Massie (R-KY), Sanford, (R-SC), Jones (R-NC), and Moran (D-VA).

Rep. Ellison raises an important point: why is the United States so willing to shell out money to try to protect Israeli civilians but does nothing to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians? Over 70% of the approximately 1,900 Palestinians that the Israeli military has killed were civilians. Where are the resolutions condemning Israel’s indiscriminate killing and maiming of Palestinian children? No, Senator Graham, there was no humanity, no equality, and no “moral decency” to the passage of H.J. Res 76.


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