- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was supposed to speak at a left-wing peace advocacy group's online memorial for the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, on the the 25th anniversary of his assassination.,
- After backlash from progressives, AOC bailed on the event, which was held the same night she played a video game for a huge online audience.
- Rabin did terrible things in war, as war makes people do, but he later gave his life in pursuit of peace with the Palestinians when he was killed by an Israeli ultra-right-winger.
- If Rabin is too problematic for AOC to participate in a memorial, it's hard to imagine Israeli leader would pass progressive muster.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the rock star of the progressive left, blew up the internet on Tuesday night by playing a video game.
The freshman member of Congress known as AOC — along with fellow "Squad" member Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — participated in a get out the vote event on the streaming platform Twitch, where they played the massively popular indie video game, "Among Us." At its peak, 438,000 people tuned in to watch.
It was a massive success, and just the latest example of Ocasio Cortez's talent for using new media to directly communicate with voters.
Live-streaming at the same time was an event at which the congresswoman had previously been scheduled to speak, a 25th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin held by Americans for Peace Now (APN). APN is a sister group of the left-wing Israeli organization Peace Now, and both are fiercely critical of Israeli's occupation of the West Bank.
Ocasio-Cortez had originally been scheduled to speak at the Rabin memorial, but in late September cancelled her appearance at the event after backlash from left-wing activists, who claimed APN organizers had not informed AOC's team that the event was billed as a Rabin memorial.
According to the Jerusalem Post, APN had billed the event as a Rabin memorial on its website since August 29. An APN representative declined to comment about the group's conversations with Ocasio-Cortez's team.
Rabin was a Labor Party leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize — along with Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat — after insisting his country make painful concessions toward a two-state solution and a lasting peace. For those efforts, Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli ultra-right-winger.
If Rabin is too problematic for a progressive American lawmaker to participate in an online tribute, a quarter-century after his murder, it's hard to see how any Israeli leader would pass progressive muster.
"He gave his life for the cause that he believed in, which was peace."
Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison — who in 2006 became the first Muslim elected to Congress and was second-in-command at the Democratic National Committee — spoke at APN's Rabin tribute on Tuesday.
Ellison acknowledged Rabin as a "ruthless soldier for his cause" who "did things that I think were human rights abuses," referring specifically to reports that Rabin ordered the breaking of bones of Palestinians during the first Intifada (uprising) in 1987.
But as even some of Rabin's enemies have conceded, Ellison said Rabin showed "true bravery" for telling hard truths to his own people, and that his past as a "dyed-in-the-wool fighter" gave him the needed "credibility" among Israelis to advocate for peace.
"It's brave to fight and risk your life in defense of your country and your people. But if you want to demonstrate true great bravery, you have to be able to come to your own people and say to them, unless we make peace with the other side, this crisis will never end," Ellison said. "In fact, he gave his life for the cause that he believed in, which was peace."
Arafat, who died in 2004, was also a ruthless soldier for his cause, ordering suicide bombings of Israeli civilians, among other atrocities.
Upon Rabin's death, Arafat called his partner in the peace process, "a brave man in war and a brave man in peace."
That's what's missing in the progressive audit of Rabin twenty-five years later, that he was in a state of war. And wars make people dehumanize other people. That's not a defense of anything Rabin or Israel have done to the Palestinians, far from it. But it does, as Ellison said, make Rabin's later sacrifices for peace all the more powerful.
The strange optics of Ocasio-Cortez playing a video game for a massive audience on the night of the Rabin memorial probably came about accidentally. That the livestream also featured Ilhan Omar — who has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, is a staunch opponent of the Israeli government, and a supporter of the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement which does not believe in a two-state solution — is simply fuel for the Israel hawks looking to paint AOC as an opponent.
In a 2018 PBS interview AOC clumsily referred to Israel's "occupation of Palestine," which some critics interpreted as a view that Israel was illegitimately occupying the full body of land that once constituted the British Mandate for Palestine, which includes Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. But after conceding she's "not the expert on geopolitics on this issue," AOC also said she believes "absolutely in Israel's right to exist" and is "a proponent of the two state solution."
The congresswoman also shares in Peace Now's opposition to the Israeli's government threat to annex land on which it has illegally built settlements in the West Bank, much of which is the only land still available for a future Palestinian state.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's office did not return multiple requests for comment, which is a shame because without clarification, it's fair to assume that a vocal and growing portion of the progressive left are slowly making it clear that seemingly no Israeli leader — not even a martyr for peace — is worthy of tribute or legitimization.
And that makes it tough to unpack AOC's true positions. If she supports a two-state solution and Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, why not participate in a memorial for Rabin — who did more than any single Israeli to push toward a two-state solution?
If AOC shares the view that Rabin, like all Israeli political leaders, is irredeemably tainted by actions in defense of what many progressives see as a racist, colonial state, she should lay her cards on the table and say that. If she doesn't, it'd be illuminating to know which Israeli figures are not so problematic.
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