AOC decries ‘unfolding genocide’ in Gaza, urges halting weapons to Israel

Progressive US legislator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivers impassioned speech condemning abuses against Palestinians.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
'The time is now ... to suspend the transfer of US weapons to the Israeli government,' US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says [File: Kevin Wurm/Reuters]

Washington, DC – Describing the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza as a genocide, progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called on the United States to suspend weapons transfers to Israel.

In an impassioned speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez condemned the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which the United Nations says has put the territory on the verge of famine.

“This is a mass starvation of people, engineered and orchestrated following the killing of another 30,000, 70 percent of whom were women and children killed. There is hardly a single hospital left. And this was all accomplished, much of this accomplished, with US resources and weapons,” Ocasio-Cortez, a US representative from New York, said.

“If you want to know what an unfolding genocide looks like, open your eyes. It looks like the forced famine of 1.1 million innocents. It looks like thousands of children eating grass as their bodies consume themselves, while trucks of food are slowed and halted just miles away.

“It looks like good and decent people who do nothing, or too little, too late.”

Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most recognised names in Congress and a rising star in President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, had previously faced criticism from the left for failing to join many of her fellow progressive in accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

The Biden administration rejects allegations that Israel is systematically committing human rights violations in Gaza. Earlier this year, it called South Africa’s petition to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of genocide unfounded.

Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday that the US cannot continue to “facilitate” mass killings in Gaza in the name of honouring its alliance with Israel.

“The time is now to force compliance with US law and the standards of humanity, and fulfill our obligations to the American people to suspend the transfer of US weapons to the Israeli government in order to stop and prevent further atrocity,” the congresswoman said.

The US is Israel’s top weapons supplier.

Washington provides at least $3.8bn in aid to Israel annually, and Biden is working with Congress to secure $14bn in additional aid to the US ally.

Public opinion polls, however, show that the Biden administration’s steadfast support for Israel may cost the president votes as the election season gets under way, and Biden and key Democrats have in recent weeks been more forceful in their criticism of the Israeli government siege of Gaza.

US officials have repeatedly warned Israel against invading Rafah in southern Gaza, where more than one million displaced Palestinians have taken shelter.

But White House national security spokesperson John Kirby suggested on Friday that Washington will not halt its weapon transfers to Israel. US officials have said that they share Israel’s goals of eliminating Hamas in Gaza.

Asked whether the US will use its “leverage” to dissuade Israel from launching a major ground operation in Rafah, Kirby said, “We’re going to continue to approach this with Israel as we have in the past, which is to make sure that they have the tools they need to defend themselves against a still-viable threat.”

Kirby added that, at the same time, the US will use its ties with Israel and the relationship between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “urge them to minimise civilian casualties” and allow more humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Earlier on Friday, the UN Security Council failed to adopt a US-authored proposal around a ceasefire in Gaza. The measure backed the “imperative” for “an immediate and sustained ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides” but fell short of explicitly demanding an end to the war.

Kirby said the draft resolution signals no change in the Biden administration’s position, which has been to push for a temporary cessation of hostilities as part of a deal that would see the release of Israeli captives in Gaza.

“It is in line with our longstanding calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza over a period of at least six weeks as part of our hostage deal – nothing new there,” he said.

The White House spokesperson added that progress is being made in the talks to reach a truce agreement. “Nothing is negotiated until it’s all negotiated. But we do believe that the gaps are narrowing and we are getting closer,” he told reporters.

However, US progressives have long argued that a temporary halt in fighting is not sufficient, calling on Washington to revise its unconditional support for Israel.

“This is not just about Israel or Gaza. This is about us. The world will never be the same,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday of the mounting death toll and hunger in the Palestinian territory.

“Our story must be not that we were good men who did nothing, but that we were a committed democracy that did something.”

Source: Al Jazeera