The NGO Congressional Campaign Against Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome
On September 23, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. The bill was passed days after a group of lawmakers, including Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), objected to the inclusion of Iron Dome funding in a broader budget bill and forced its removal. Under a cooperation agreement, the Iron Dome interceptors (developed by Israel) are manufactured in the US; the resupply is necessary after the May 2021 Gaza conflict, during which a large number were used to intercept over 4000 rockets and missiles used by Hamas to attack Israelis.
One week earlier, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Budget Bill that would block the sale of precision-guided munitions to Israel.
For years, pro-BDS NGOs, some with links to terror groups, have lobbied Congress against American security assistance to Israel, including Iron Dome and other defensive systems. Although their efforts have failed to impact policy, the NGOs have gained support from high-profile progressive Representatives and garnered media attention for the anti-Israel agenda.
In the specific campaign against the Iron Dome funding, as reflected in the quotes below, NGOs and NGO officials falsely portrayed this as an offensive weapons system, mixed with accusations of “apartheid” and implying that it would be better if Hamas missiles and rockets could more easily reach Israeli civilians targets.
Earlier in 2021, Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) , Human Rights Watch (HRW), and others partnered with Betty McCollum (D-MN) on a draft bill targeting Israeli companies and defense forces. Additionally, during the May Gaza conflict, the NGO network intensified its attacks, demanding that the United States impose an arms embargo on Israel and halt military assistance. In June 2021, 100 organizations – including PFLP-tied NGOs Addameer, Al-Dameer, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, Defense for Children International – Palestine, as well as US-BDS NGOs Adalah Justice Project, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Center for Constitutional Rights, IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestine Legal, and Samidoun – publicized their letter to President Biden to “Halt Weapons Sales to Israel.” The attack against Iron Dome funding is a continuation of these campaigns.
- In June 2021, DCI-P published an article calling on President Biden to “halt $735 million U.S. weapons sale to Israel.” According to DCI-P, “Israel is permitted to engage in direct commercial sales with weapons manufacturers, which results in a process with little to no transparency.”
- In June 2021, DCI-P launched a petition calling for “No More Weapons for Israel.”
- In September 2021, a DCI-P official tweeted, “The Iron Dome talking points are wild. People are like ‘It saves Palestinian lives because if it didn’t exist Israel would be forced to bomb the shit out of Gaza and kill a bunch of people’ as if a) that’s proportionate and b) doesn’t already happen and c) makes any sense at all.”
- In September 2021, AJP tweeted, “The Iron Dome is not a defense system. It is the weapons system that allows Israel to maintain its deadly siege and imprisonment of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza without resistance. #freegaza #GazaUnderAttack #FreePalestine.”
- In September 2021, AJP tweeted, “If today’s vote to give apartheid Israel another $1 billion enrages you, channel that anger by boycotting and divesting from every company that makes this racist system possible.”
- In September 2021, Al-Shabaka published an article titled “Restricting US Military Aid to Israel in the Age of Normalization.” According to the article, “In June 2021, Israel was also forecasted to ask US Congress for another $1 billion to restock the Iron Dome and to upgrade the system… Fundamentally, Israel will continue to lie at the center of US interests in the Middle East, and the US will continue to hold Israel’s military actions to different standards than any other country.” Al-Shabaka called for “Activists and lobbyists must pressure policymakers and the international community to restrict US military aid to Israel, including through sanctions.”
- In September 2021, AFSC Education and Policy Associate Jehad Abusalim termed deliberations regarding funding to the Iron Dome in the House of Representatives an indicator of the “level of dehumanization of Palestinians.”
- In June 2021, AMP National Development Coordinator Mohamad Habehh stated that “To come to the United States and ask for another $1bn after the wholesale destruction of Gaza, after the murder of over 60 children, is unfathomable.”
- In September 2021, AMP National Director Osama Abuirshaid participated in a webinar titled “Ending Blank Check to Israel.”
- In September 2021, CODEPINK “applaud[ed]” the decision to remove $1 billion from the key funding bill. According to CODEPINK national co-director and Middle East analyst Ariel Gold, “Removing an additional $1 billion for Israel is an incredible success towards our goals of ending the blank check and impunity that Israel, an apartheid state, has enjoyed for far too long.”
- In September 2021, FMEP President Lara Friedman tweeted, “Also: Iron Dome is a system that perpetuates conflict & injustice, by enabling Israel/Israelis to ignore Palestinians (except when rockets are fired & then Israelis see themselves, exclusively, as the victimized party).”
- Friedman also tweeted, “’Fully fund’ in this context meaning adding $1 BILLION for Israel on top of $3.8 BILLION in regular annual funding. Fascinating seeing this proposed extraordinary, massive aid windfall treated as a sacred Israeli entitlement.”
- On September 21, 2021, IfNotNow tweeted, “It is long past time for the US to stop giving unconditional military aid to Israel while it maintains apartheid and occupation.”
- On September 22, 2021, IfNotNow tweeted, “The US already gives $3.8 billion in military funding to Israel on an annual basis + has given $1.6 billion towards the Iron Dome already. It’s ridiculous that anyone’s arguing that our government should give MORE unconditional $$ to Israel at this time.”
- Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)9
- In September 2021, Jewish Voice for Peace Action’s Government Affairs Manager Beth Miller stated, “This is DC at its worst. Steny Hoyer is trying to sneak an extra $1 billion in weapons money to Israel at the last minute because he knows that Democratic voters don’t want to keep sending more and more of our money to the Israeli military, especially after a summer of seeing Israel’s military attacks on Gaza and forced displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem.”
- In September 2021, Miller tweeted, “This vote was not for Jews or Jewish safety It was about further inflating the bloated sack of cash we give the Israeli government so they can spend it on US weapons & then use those to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their land.”
- In September 2021, JVP launched a petition to “Say NO to another $1 billion in military funding to Israel.” The petition called for representatives to “oppose the additional $1 billion dollars in military funding for the Iron Dome to the Israeli government that is coming for a vote today. We already send the Israeli military $3.8 billion a year, and under no circumstances should the congressperson support sending an additional $1 billion dollars.”
- In June 2021, co-chair of the Palestine subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild Huwaida Arraf stated, “We are knowingly transferring weapons to a country that is not only engaged in aggression but also a massive violation of human rights…Our government is enabling Israel, not just with the billions of dollars that we send to Israel, but by shielding Israel from any kind of accountability.”
- In September 2021, in response to $1 billion originally being removed from the bill, Palestine Legal tweeted, “Great news for the movement and great news for Palestine! Keep pushing until there is no more military aid to Israel!”
- In June 2021, USCPR published a statement writing, “The past month has exposed how merchants of death, like Boeing who are selling $735 million in bombs to Israel, and heads of empire, like President Biden who said he would give $1 billion more in military funding to Israel, work hand in hand to keep our tax dollars funds weapons flows to Israel’s occupation and apartheid–while we demand reinvestment in life-giving policies like housing and healthcare…We will build a people’s arms embargo to stop the flow of U.S. weapons that arm Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their homeland.”
- In September 2021, USCPR published a press release stating “the movement for Palestinian rights drove eight progressives to vote for justice, and two to vote present, while remaining representatives shamefully voted to send another $1 billion of military funding to the apartheid state of Israel, actively enabling Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.” According to USCPR’s Manager of Policy and Advocacy Campaigns Sana Siddiq, “Over the past week some true progressives have actually represented the people’s voice to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli aggression. All of us who call for justice know we cannot continue sending billions in military funding to an apartheid state.”
- In September 2021, in response to $1 billion originally being removed from the bill, USCPR tweeted, “Let’s continue to hold our government accountable as we push for foreign policy initiatives that invest in justice & community care & defund the weapons & militaries that are perpetuating violence.”
- Donors include European Union, Italy, Netherlands, Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Save the Children, and UNICEF.
- Donors include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Tides Center
- Donors include Switzerland, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Foundation, Foundation for Middle East Peace, Heinrich Boell Stiftung, and the Hassib J. Sabbagh Foundation
- Donors include Switzerland, Bread for the World-EED (Germany), Ford Foundation, and the United Nations Population Fund
- AMP does not publish financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability
- CODEPINK does not publish financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability
- FMEP receives funding from an endowment from its founder, the late Merle Thorpe, Jr., and from donations.
- Donors include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- JVP’s donors include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Tides Foundation, Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, and the Firedoll Foundation
- National Lawyers Guild does not publish financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability
- Palestine Legal does not publish financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability
- Donors include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Open Society Foundation