Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez: Critical or Anti-Semitic?
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made headlines over numerous issues since being elected in 2018. One of the most controversial stances of this progressive representative has been her perspective on Israel-Palestine.

The executive director of StopAntisemitism, a U.S.-based watchdog organization which focuses on exposing incitement toward Jewish people and Israel, has condemned Ocasio-Cortez for her critique of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and said, “Ocasio-Cortez’s ongoing obsession with both AIPAC and the Jewish state is shameful.”

The American Jewish Congress has also denounced the congresswoman, accusing her of being a “harsh critic of Israel” and “attacking” the Israel Defense Forces for “committing a ‘massacre’” during the 2018 Gaza War.

How Has Ocasio-Cortez Criticized Israel?

Ocasio-Cortez stated in 2019 that she does not believe criticizing Israeli policies equates to anti-Semitism. Haaretz quoted the freshman congresswoman: “Criticizing the occupation doesn’t make you anti-Israel, frankly. It doesn’t mean that you are against the existence of a nation. It means that you believe in human rights, and it’s about making sure that Palestinian human rights are equal to Israeli human rights, and there are a lot of troubling things happening there.”

2018

In 2018, on PBS’s “Firing Line,” Ocasio-Cortez shared: “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of a two-state solution.” However, she explained that she found “the occupation of Palestine” was becoming “an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition.”

When she was accused of not being an expert on Israel-Palestine, she responded: “I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue. I just look at things through a human rights lens and I may not use the right words… Middle Eastern politics is not exactly at my kitchen table every night.”

2019

In 2019, Ocasio-Cortez gave what the Jewish Telegraphic Agency called “the most Jewish interview ever,” in which she discussed Israel and anti-Semitism in depth.

She described how accusations of anti-Semitism have become indiscriminate silencing tactics which cover and distract from truly anti-Semitic words and acts. She clarified that she is critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his rightist political agenda, and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Ocasio-Cortez also shared her experience of Jewish culture being raised in New York City: “New York Jews have been such staunch advocates for marginalized communities. Jewish communities have long stood for civil rights. They’ve long stood for people who are economically marginalized, for low-income people, for the arts, for all of these things, because it is literally in the culture to say, “We don’t let anyone get left behind.”

2020

In 2020, Ocasio-Cortez was slated to speak at the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin memorial event organized by American for Peace Now. Alex Kane, Senior Staff Reporter at Jewish Currents, shared his disappointment in a tweet that read: “In the US Rabin is viewed as a liberal peacemaker but Palestinians remember him for his brutal rule suppressing Palestinian protest during the First Intifada, as someone who reportedly ordered the breaking of Palestinian bones.”

Ocasio-Cortez promptly replied, “[T]his event and my involvement was presented to my team differently from how it’s now being promoted. Thanks for pointing it out. Taking a look into this now,” before withdrawing from the event.

The same year, Ocasio-Cortez abstained from voting on an amendment which would have conditioned U.S. aid against being used for “annexation or violation of Palestinian rights.” She did not comment on her reasons for abstaining.

2021

In May 2021, Israel conducted a campaign of airstrikes in Gaza which leveled high-rise buildings and destroyed neighborhoods, killing at least 260 people including 66 children according to the United Nations. Armed Palestinian groups also launched thousands of rockets into Israel, killing 12 civilians including 2 children.

Ocasio-Cortez criticized U.S. President Biden for refusing to condemn the airstrikes in favor of arguing that Israel “has a right to defend itself.” She tweeted that his statement ignored the context that preceded the violence—“ the  expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on Al Aqsa”—and “dehumanize[s] Palestinians [and implies that] the US will look the other way at human rights violations.”

She continued in another tweet, “If Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to?” Referencing a Human Rights Watch report which found Israel guilty of the crimes of apartheid and persecution, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Apartheid states aren’t democracies.” Offline, Ocasio-Cortez gave a speech on the House floor about the crisis: “The president and many other[s] stated that Israel has a right to defend itself […]. But do Palestinians have a right to survive?”

A few days later, Ocasio-Cortez co-led a joint resolution to oppose the sale of $735 million in U.S.-made weapons to the Israeli government. She said, “For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian human rights. In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions. At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence.” By September, the U.S. House approved funding $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system—a bill Ocasio-Cortez voted “present” on and wept for.

2022

Ocasio-Cortez responded to a heckler at an Austin Democratic Socialists of America event in 2022, thanking the heckler for bringing up Palestine, because “Palestine is basically a banned word. It’s censored. We don’t talk about it. […] We shouldn’t have to tiptoe around these things. We should be able to talk about it. And we shouldn’t allow people’s humanity to be censored.” She reiterated her support for “the rights of Palestinians and Palestinian children” and her belief in “the basic human dignity and the ability for a person to not be jailed or beaten for who they are, it does not mean that you are bigoted against any other community.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s Message

Ocasio-Cortez’s statements on Israel-Palestine have sparked debates across the country about U.S. policy and foreign aid. While she has admitted to lacking a depth of geopolitical knowledge, she has consistently focused on global, human issues:

“Once someone doesn’t have access to clean water, they have no choice but to riot, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m not even just talking about Palestinians, I’m talking about communities in poverty in the United States, I’m talking about Latin America, I’m talking about all over the world.”

 

To learn more about the Israel-Palestine conflict and how you can get involved,

Visit The Promised Land Museum and consider hosting an exhibit to promote peace.

Latest Posts

Canada Park

Canada Park

This rare film, shared online is two parts by Palestine Diary, reveals the history behind the demolition and destruction of several Palestinian villages. The documentary details how the land of 'Imwas, Yahu and Bayt Nuba became an Israeli public park. Several new...

read more
PeaceCast Podcast

PeaceCast Podcast

PeaceCast is a podcast produced by Americans for Peace Now (APN), the sister-organization of Israel’s preeminent peace movement Shalom Achshav (“Peace Now “in Hebrew). The podcast explores issues and trends relating to peace and security for Israeli and Palestinian...

read more
Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi is a Buddhist scholar and translator who has spoken out against Israel’s injustice in Palestine. In a 2024 article published on Common Dreams, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi calls Israeli’s attack on Gaza “the gravest moral crisis of our time.” A...

read more
Jerusalem