Shooting down Iron Dome funding is part of 'enduring' Durban

The Iron Dome anti-rocket system needs a civilian equivalent to intercept anti-Israel lies and libel, distortion and demonization.

 STREAKS OF LIGHT are seen from Ashkelon as the Iron Dome intercepts a rocke launched from the Gaza Strip on September 11. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
STREAKS OF LIGHT are seen from Ashkelon as the Iron Dome intercepts a rocke launched from the Gaza Strip on September 11.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Israel this week got caught up in another war. Not another round of hostilities with the Palestinians, at least not in the direct sense. Israel was drawn into the battle between the so-called Progressives of the US Democrats and the majority of the party. Even if it is a short skirmish, it does not bode well – and Israel is not the only country monitoring what happens next.

While Israel was busy celebrating Sukkot – sitting in flimsy booths that serve as a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago and the birth of the Jewish people as a nation – a political drama was taking place in Washington. The leadership of the Democratic Party dropped $1 billion of funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system after the regressive Progressives refused to vote for the broader budget bill necessary to keep the US government going if it included the defense funds.

The Democrats could not get the bill passed without the Progressives’ backing, because Republicans, still smarting from the administration change, also would not support it, citing the debt ceiling. (The polar divide between the Democrats and Republicans – and attempts to turn Israel into a partisan issue – is also cause for concern.)

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), with the backing of Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Pramila Jayapal, is largely seen as being behind the move, in keeping with her demands during the May mini-war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. During that operation, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched 4,500 rockets and mortars on Israel within 11 days, every one a war crime aimed indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. 

US REPS. (from left) Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, four members of ‘the Squad,’ have made a name for themselves in their bashing of Israel over the last few years.  (credit: ERIN SCOTT/REUTERS)US REPS. (from left) Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, four members of ‘the Squad,’ have made a name for themselves in their bashing of Israel over the last few years. (credit: ERIN SCOTT/REUTERS)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer spoke to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday to discuss his “strong support for Iron Dome funding,” reiterating his commitment to ensuring Israel receives this aid and “reaffirmed the importance of bipartisan support for Israel.” But the fact that the funding initially had been dropped gave out a negative message – one picked up by Israel and other US allies including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states as well as by countries such as Iran and its terrorist proxies including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Russia, China and North Korea.

This is not so much a matter of funding as a matter of trust. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly promised that the US will help restock the Iron Dome batteries supplies, which were seriously depleted in the May war.

There is no doubt that the Iron Dome has saved thousands of lives – which is exactly what it is intended to do. It is not an offensive system. It tracks incoming rockets and intercepts those that are on a course likely to take a serious toll on lives or infrastructure while letting the ones heading for open spaces and the sea fall, hopefully without harm. The Iron Dome is not foolproof but it has a reported success rate of 95% and has earned its moniker as a game-changer.

It is priceless in its function but pricey in its operating costs. Each battery reportedly costs $100 million and each interceptor missile around $50,000.

AOC et al obviously think that the cost of saving Israeli lives (Jewish and Arab) is not worth it. As someone who lives in the country that has experienced round after round of terrorist rocket barrages, obviously I have a different take. Of course I prefer having the safety net that the Iron Dome offers to the hit-and-miss situation that existed before 2011, but this is not just personal. 

The question is: Is the world a safer place when US allies can trust the US and when there is a defense system in place for attacks by terrorist armies? Will letting Hamas and Islamic Jihad literally get away with mass murder ensure the free world remains free?

This week’s battle of the Iron Dome budget was just the opening shot as far as the Progressives are concerned. And it wasn’t a bolt in the dark, a rocket launched without warning. Clearly, the Progressives, while small in number, represent a disturbing trend.

Given that the funding decision came the day before the UN Durban Conference redux – marking 20 years since the infamous anti-racism conference turned into an anti-Israel hate fest – it is natural to see that event as the early warning signs. Two decades ago at Durban, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was born. Israel is deliberately, incessantly and malevolently falsely presented as an “apartheid” state, a “colonialist” usurper with no connection to the Promised Land. 

Yet, particularly this time of year, I can’t help but think of the super-Israeli combination of sukkot and shelters. Israel is the only country where one of the selling points of luxury residential buildings in many neighborhoods is that apartments are built with staggered “sukkah balconies,” suitable for building the temporary tabernacles for the weeklong holiday. Israel is also probably the only country where all new buildings are equipped with anti-rocket safe rooms.

Last week, AOC reintroduced an amendment aimed at blocking the transfer of Boeing JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) kits to Israel. “For decades, the US has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement in May when she first raised the matter along with representatives Mark Pocan and Tlaib.

Israel needs to be able to both defend itself and retain its moral edge – for its own sake and for the Palestinians’. AOC and her friends deliberately distort facts and figures to promote a black-and-white narrative in which the Palestinians can do no wrong and Israel can do no good.

Israel makes every effort to prevent civilian casualties – even when Hamas is using them as human shields; that’s why the precision-guided missiles could help save lives. 

The “proportionate response” motto has been blown out of proportion. As I have found myself telling interviewers in war after war: I don’t have to apologize that, thanks to the Iron Dome, not enough of my friends, family and neighbors are being killed to satisfy an overseas audience. I don’t want to imagine what the death toll would be if the Iron Dome didn’t safely intercept the vast majority of the thousands of rockets launched on Israel.

And what would be an acceptable response, then? Would the death of more Israelis end the “cycle of violence” or encourage Hamas to sacrifice a few more “martyrs” for the cause? And it’s not relevant just for the well-published rounds of hostilities. There are intermittent rocket attacks on Israel that are under the international media radar, including some this month.

Shooting down the Iron Dome funding is part of “enduring” Durban in both senses of the word, ongoing and having to suffer.

Although this week’s 20th anniversary conference at the UN was boycotted by 34 countries, the spirit of the original Durban Conference is alive and being taught to the next generation in campuses across the world. A survey commissioned by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law to specifically examine rates of antisemitism among US college students who claim a strong sense of Jewish identity and connection to Israel was published this week. It found that large numbers of students are feeling unsafe and nearly 70% had either personally experienced antisemitism on campus or was aware of an antisemitic incident within 120 days of being interviewed for the survey.

The Iron Dome anti-rocket system needs a civilian equivalent to intercept anti-Israel lies and libel, distortion and demonization. It should be fueled by buy-cotts instead of boycotts of the Start-Up Nation. Above all, it must normalize normalization. The Abraham Accords, now celebrating their first anniversary, are doing more to bring about peace and fight terrorism than anything that came out of the Durban Conference 20 years ago. Giving Israel the cold shoulder does nothing to create a warm peace. 

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