How can someone know so little about a topic yet be so passionate about it? That’s what I kept asking myself while re-watching a clip of media darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez discussing Gaza and Israel.
After dramatically defeating Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, there was a rush to proclaim the young, dynamic socialist Ocasio-Cortez the future of the Democratic Party. Well, if she portends the future, then it’s worth taking her words seriously. Even if we overlook the fact that Ocasio-Cortez’s self-identified ideology has led to more suffering and death than any other in history, her propensity to embrace positions she knows absolutely nothing about is, well, curious.
This week on the new “Firing Line” on PBS — a program claiming to be a reboot of the famous debate show, where William Buckley once politely dismantled his guests’ weak arguments — Ocasio-Cortez was asked about Israel. A few months ago, she claimed that Israel Defense Forces was mass murdering civilians, and that Democrats should not silent on the crimes of Israel anymore.
Ocasio-Cortez: Well, yes, but I also think that what people are starting to see in the occupation of Palestine is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian conditions and that to me is just where I tend to come from on this issue.
Margaret Hoover: You use the term the “occupation of Palestine,” what did you mean by that?
Ocasio-Cortez: Oh, I think, what I meant is that the settlements that are increasing in some of these areas and places where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to housing and homes.
Hoover: Do you think you can expand on that?
Ocasio-Cortez: Yeah I think … [laughing] I am not the expert on geo-politics on this issue. You now, for me, I’m a firm believer in finding a two-state solution in this issue. And I’m happy to sit down with leaders on both of these… for me, I just look at things through a human rights lens, and I may not use the right words– I know this is a very intense issue.
Hoover nods and smiles through Ocasio-Cortez’s string of barely coherent platitudes, without challenging her in any genuine way.
For one thing, there’s no such thing, nor has there ever been such a thing, as an Arab “Palestine.” There are a number of books Ocasio-Cortez could read about Arab history — or about the Turks or the Ottomans or the Jewish presence in Israel going back to 1500 BC, or even about situation that existed from 1947-1967 — but nowhere will she ever find a chapter on an independent Arab nation-state called “Palestine.” The idea itself is largely a post-World War II invention. You might hope that a Palestine will one day exist, but none has ever existed before.
Second, Ocasio-Cortez might not know this, but there are no “increasing settlements” in Gaza, the topic of the initial tweet Hoover was asking about, because there are no settlements in Gaza. In 2005, Israel conceded Gaza a large amount of autonomy, and with it the ability to conduct multi-party elections and live peacefully with its neighbors. In the process Israel dismantled all Israeli “settlements” in the Gaza Strip and expelled around 8,000 Jews who would have been massacred otherwise.
It’s debatable that Gaza can even be described as “occupied.” It was the Palestinians who decided to elect Hamas, and Hamas that decided to engage in the murder of its political opponents and then a suicidal struggle with Israel, rather than concern itself in any serious way with the humanitarian conditions of its own people.
Then again, maybe Ocasio-Cortez is just conflating Gaza with the West Bank, and believes in the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the latter area. Perhaps she believes, like Hamas, that Israel itself is a “settlement”? Ocasio-Cortez says she supports Israel’s “right to exist,” but perhaps one day she can clarify what that means to her.
Ocasio-Cortez might also be unaware that it’s not only Israel that implements sanctions against Gaza — because, after all, every time it loosens them, the first thing Hamas does is import weapons — but Egypt and the internationally recognized Palestinian authority of the West Bank. They all impose sanctions against Gaza because Gaza isn’t merely the home of a terror organization, it allies with other terror organizations around the world and Iran (but I repeat myself).
Worst of all, though, after admitting she really doesn’t know anything about the situation, Ocasio-Cortez still argues that what the IDF did to thousands of violent rioters, who attempted to bum rush the border and attack civilians on the other side, was no different than a domestic police force massacring peaceful protesters in the United States.
The lens through which I saw this incident as an activist, as an organizer — 60 people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, 60 people were killed in the South Bronx, unarmed, 60 people were killed in Puerto Rico — I just look at that incident … just as an incident, and to me it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened on our shores.
We know that Hamas was using civilians as human shields and cannon fodder, and the resulting death tolls as propaganda. We know that many of the most dramatic instances of Israeli violence, including a young child dying at the riots, were more examples of Hamas playing the Western media. We know that at least 20 of those shot by IDF snipers were members of the military wing of Hamas, which is to say the terror wing.
The problem with seeing things through the lens of an “activist” or an “organizer” first is that you’re enticed to take positions that align with your preconceived ideological notions about oppression and “colonizers” rather than the facts. Then again, reflexively anti-Israel and anti-Semitic positions are becoming standard among the activist Left that Ocasio-Cortez aligns herself with. So it’s not really surprising to see socialists embrace it. But is it the future position of the Democratic Party?