One rabbi responds to another’s criticism of Ocasio-Cortez’s statements on Israel-Palestine.
As a public figure, Ocasio-Cortez responded to clear human rights abuses in a forthright and courageous manner. She deserved much more than a condescending lecture and a personal invitation to your own “nuanced” tour of Israel/Palestine.
Dear Rabbi Bachman,
While I share your admiration for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent victory in New York’s 14th Congressional District, I am dismayed by the heavy-handed way you chose to convey your congratulations. I’m referring to your open letter to her (Jewish Journal, 7/4/18) in which you expressed your concern that her public statements about Israel and Palestine indicated a “less than nuanced perspective” and invited her to join you on a tour of the region.
While you did not identify which of her public statements you were referring to, I can only assume you meant this recent tweet, which she posted in response to Israel’s violent military response to Palestinian protesters in Gaza:
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.
In a subsequent interview with the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, Ocasio-Cortez clarified the motivation behind her statement:
I think I was primarily compelled [to speak out] on moral grounds because I could only imagine if 60 people were shot and killed in Ferguson 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.
Again, I can only assume these were comments to which you referred. Her tweet was quoted and commented upon extensively in the Jewish press. As far as I can tell, she has made no other public statements on this issue.
Was it her use of the word “massacre” that bothered you? It is admittedly a strong word, but I’m not sure it is inappropriate under the circumstances. Since the weekly protests began in April, the Israeli military has responded by shooting live ammunition directly into crowds of largely nonviolent protesters nearly 1000 meters away. To date, 140 Palestinians have been killed and more than 15,000 have been injured. Almost all causalities have been civilians and over 100 have been children.