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AOC, Say it ain’t so!

By Ralph Seliger

Superstar leftwing Member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, backed out of speaking at an online memorial for Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin, sponsored by Americans for Peace Now.  To start the ball rolling backwards, an anti-Israel comment on Twitter apparently shook her up, questioning why she’d participate in a memorial for an Israeli leader who, as Defense Minister during the First Intifada, spoke of “breaking the bones” of Palestinian rioters and demonstrators.  She then claimed that APN had misled her on the nature of her appearance.  

This is how NY Jewish Week has summed things up, quoting from a couple of different sources:

The popular progressive New York congresswoman had been scheduled to take part in the event organized by Americans for Peace Now, but pulled out after a number of pro-Palestinian groups and figures had lacerated Ocasio-Cortez for agreeing to attend.

Reactions: CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted: “@AOC is being attacked for participating in a Memorial Event for Yitzhak Rabin who was literally assassinated by a right-wing Israeli zealot for his peace efforts with the Palestinians, especially Oslo.”

Democratic Majority for Israel tweeted: “Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to renege on her agreement to speak at a memorial to Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin, who was slain trying to make peace, is wholly wrong and deeply regrettable.”

Michael Koplow of Israel Policy Forum tweeted: “There is no such thing as a peacemaker without war, which is inherently nasty and blood-soaked. There is no such thing as peace without complexity and compromise. This sends a terrible message.”

Unfortunately, Israel’s rightward turn for more than a decade under Netanyahu has made this task of influencing people on the left, who in previous generations were either critical supporters of Israel or less fixated on Israel’s shortcomings, more difficult.  At this 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Second (Al-Aqsa) Intifada, however, we should know that this bloody period left its mark on Israel’s politics.  

Still, since Rabin gave his life to try to forge peace with the Palestinians, this episode with Ocasio-Cortez is particularly vexing.  His openness to Oslo reflected his growth as a political leader from the man who made that one unfortunate utterance at a time of extreme pressure at the outset of the First Intifada.  He was murdered as he exited a massive peace rally in Tel Aviv.

There’s evidence that AOC is persuadable to back a pro-2-state peace perspective, but she has to be rationally convinced.  Disparaging her as beyond our reach is to give up the fight.  It would be great if APN reached out to Bernie Sanders, not just to talk to AOC, but maybe to replace her as a speaker.

I feel it’s more productive to reach out and discourse with people than to simply cut them off, as if placing them in Kherem.  Obviously, there are people with whom one cannot make a dent, who are beyond reason.  I don’t think that AOC is one of them.

In the eyes of most Israelis, the Palestinians have never redeemed themselves to rekindle the trust destroyed by the Al-Aqsa Intifada.  This trust was further eroded by the Hamas electoral victory in 2006 and its takeover of Gaza shortly afterwards, periodically attacking Israel even after all settlers and troops had left.  I’m not blind to Israel’s share of blame, with Israel undermining Palestinian trust from the first and second invasions of Gaza onwards (mostly under Netanyahu).   It’s this rightward turn in recent years that explains why Millennials like AOC are so easily influenced toward anti-Israel positions.  

But a problem Palestinians have had continually is that they’ve long been playing as if they hold the high hand when nothing could be further from the truth.  Practically speaking, they seem to think that being “right” is better than achieving statehood.  

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