The young democratic socialist who won a stunning victory in New York’s Democratic primary is a strong critic of Israel who characterized recent killings of Palestinian protesters in Gaza a “massacre.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, scored an unexpected win on Tuesday night against 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, a powerful figure in New York’s Democratic establishment.
Challenging Crowley from the left as part of the progressive “resistance” movement, she has called for government-funded healthcare for all, a crackdown on Wall Street, and the dismantling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ocasio-Cortez’s foreign policy views did not figure as prominently into the primary campaign as her domestic platform, but she did stake out a clear position on one overseas conflict: the ongoing clashes between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
In mid-May, Ocasio Cortez responded to the Israeli army’s shooting of Palestinian protesters, some of whom were unarmed, by urging fellow Democrats to have the “moral courage” to denounce Israel’s actions.
“This is a massacre. I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such,” she wrote on Twitter. “No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification.”
This is a massacre.
I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such.
No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else.
Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore. https://t.co/wJGATOtDsR
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) May 14, 2018
“Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else,” she went on to say. “Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.”
Mass demonstrations led by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, flared up in May when the U.S. officially moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
More than 100 people, including unarmed medics and journalists, have been killed by Israeli troops during the protests, sparking outrage among pro-Palestinian activists and human rights groups.
Israel argues that it has had to resort to deadly force to repel attempted incursions by militants across the Gaza-Israel border. Indeed, some of the slain protesters have turned out to be Hamas operatives.
When Ocasio-Cortez was asked why she chose to weigh in on the contentious subject, she said she was inspired by the thought of what happened to Palestinian protesters also happening to activists in the U.S.
“I think I was primarily compelled on moral grounds because I could only imagine if 60 people were shot and killed in Ferguson,” she said, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “Or if 60 people were shot and killed in the West Virginia teachers’ strikes. The idea that we are not supposed to talk about people dying when they are engaging in political expression just really moved me.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s political views are closely representative of her deep-blue, near-majority Hispanic district. But her criticism of Israel is somewhat unusual for a Democratic politician from New York, which is home to several powerful pro-Israel Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Especially in New York people say this is political suicide,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald earlier this month, referring to her criticism of Israel. “But I had a lot of my constituents thanking me for taking that position. I had a lot of Jewish Americans who thanked me.”
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