What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Means for Israel
With her primary-election upset over incumbent Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley, 28-year-old Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is the emerging face of millennial politics and an ardent proponent of modern socialist ideology. While she certainly has mobilized her supporters effectively, Cortez’s campaign was marred by her blatant lack of any knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and her unseemly outspokenness on its intricacies.
Over the course of her campaign to unseat Crowley, Cortez railed against the actions of the Israeli government; yet in her July 13 interview on PBS’s Firing Line — where she referred to “the occupation of Palestine,” the settlements, and drew vague comparisons between Israel and Ferguson, Missouri — Cortez’s criticism culminated with five words: “I am not the expert.”
Cortez was neither pressed nor challenged on her views of the conflict by host Margaret Hoover, but rather was asked to “expand” on her beliefs. She’s committed the anti-Israel playbook to memory — which was on full display during the interview — liberally claiming “occupation” and “massacre” (in a tweet) without comprehension of what she’s spouting: hyper-partisan language that deliberately denies fact. And while Cortez is certainly apt at dishing out this rhetoric with the adroitness of a seasoned politician, during the interview, she often followed her unsubstantiated assertions with a sequence of uh’s and oh’s. She was looking for a way to legitimize her ideas without factual evidence to support it.
All in all, the greatest grievance against Cortez is her enduring stubbornness. Throughout her campaign, she easily could have remained silent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to insufficient research, but rather, she has taken a side in the conflict without truly understanding it. Politicians cannot be blamed for not being savvy in every area of expertise, but they can be faulted for expressing a highly controversial and largely unjust opinion in such circumstances.
What’s more troubling is how Cortez is idolized by a sizable portion of young people, and how she appears to be on the fast-track to become a major fixture in the Democratic party after unseating the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and the long-term, well-respected politician Crowley. Her socialist views and young age bind her to the up-and-coming left-wing generation of voters. To have Cortez’s language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict normalized among her base is particularly unnerving, regardless of whether or not there are facts to back up her claims. Why? Because they will be taken as truths nonetheless.
Cortez, unfortunately, is a part of a growing trend of partisanship and far-leftism among the Democratic Party, a struggle in which support for Israel is caught in the crosshairs.
After her interview with Margaret Hoover, Cortez appeared on Democracy Now! hosted by Amy Goodman, where she, according to The Jerusalem Post, “took a neutral stance on the two-state solution” rather than outright stating her recognition of Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist — a stance she had previously adopted.
The “partisanization” of Israel-related issues over recent decades is undeniable. While there exist notable exceptions to this trend — Chuck Schumer, Jerry Nadler, and some others — Democratic politicians know what vernacular on the conflict is socially acceptable among their supporters and what isn’t. Such partisanship has permeated the highest ranks of the Democratic party: Bernie Sanders — who is currently campaigning with Cortez — took to Twitter in April to pledge his support for the Gaza protesters, while disregarding the violent actions of many protesters and the significant role played by internationally-recognized terrorist organizations.
With Democrats poised to dominate Congress in the midterm elections this November — including Cortez, the clear front-runner in her district — it’s incredibly dangerous and damaging to have untrue statements being taken as fact by policymakers. While Cortez’s PBS interview was a high-profile instance of Democratic lack of awareness on the conflict, it served as a wake-up call to viewers and pro-Israel activists that we must go on the offensive to counter these claims.
Noah Phillips is a young writer with a particular interest in Jewish/Israeli affairs. He writes a column for Elder of Ziyon and is the founder of The Jewish Post, an online Jewish political magazine. Follow Noah on Twitter @noahaphilli.