Democratic National Convention (Image credit: Lorie Shaull [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons)
With her Democratic primaries upset victory over incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — at 28 years old — is the emerging face of millennial politics and an ardent proponent of modern socialist ideology. While she certainly has mobilized her supporters effectively, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign is marred by her blatant lack of any knowledge on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and yet, her unseemly outspokenness on it’s intricacies.
Over the course of her campaign to unseat Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez regularly railed against the actions of the Israeli government. But in her July 13 interview on "PBS Firing Line" — where she referred to “the occupation of Palestine,” the “settlements,” and drew vague comparisons between Israel guarding its border with Gaza and shootings and riots in Ferguson, Missouri — Ocasio-Cortez’s lambasting culminated with five words: “I am not the expert.”
Ocasio-Cortez was neither pressed nor challenged on her views on the conflict by host Margaret Hoover, but rather was asked to “expand” on her beliefs, which she failed to do for the sole reason that she seemingly has no views. Indeed she has no individual contemplations on the matter at hand, but rather a party line which she touts and parades around on Twitter and at events.
She has committed the anti-Israel playbook to memory — as was on full display during the interview — liberally claiming “occupation” and “massacre” in Tweets without comprehending what she is spouting: hyper-partisan language that deliberately denies fact. And while Ocasio-Cortez is certainly apt at dishing out this rhetoric with the adroitness of a seasoned politician, during the interview she followed her unsubstantiated assertions with a sequence of “uhs” and “ohs,” as she connived a way to legitimize her ideas without factual evidence to support them.
All in all, the greatest grievance against Ocasio-Cortez is her enduring stubbornness. Throughout her campaign, she easily could have remained silent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to insufficient research, but instead it took an utter blunder on a major national news network for her to admit that she is not well-versed in the geopolitics of the region.
Politicians cannot be blamed for not being savvy in every area of expertise, but rather can be faulted for expressing a highly controversial and largely unjust opinion in the absence of such knowledge, which Ocasio-Cortez did throughout her election bid.
But what is troubling still is how Ocasio-Cortez is idolized by a sizable portion of young people, and how she appears to be on the fast-track to becoming a major fixture in the Democratic party after unseating the chair of the House Democratic Caucus and a long-term, well-respected politician, Joe Crowley, thereby obtaining fame overnight.
Her socialist views and millennial age inherently binds her to the up-and-coming left-wing generation of voters, and to a large extent, garners their support and attention from the get-go. To have Ocasio-Cortez’s language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict normalized among her base is particularly unnerving, because they will be taken as truths regardless of whether or not there exist facts to back up her claims.
Ocasio-Cortez, unfortunately, is part of a growing trend of partisanship and far-leftism among the Democratic party, causing a struggle in which support for Israel is caught in the cross hairs. After her interview with Margaret Hoover, Ocasio-Cortez appeared on Democracy Now! hosted by Amy Goodman, where she took what some called “a neutral stance on the two-state solution” by refusing to outrightly state her recognition of Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist, thereby backtracking on her previous pro-two-state solution stance.
The “partisanization” of Israel-centric issues over recent decades is undeniable — hence the period of stagnation in the U.S.-Israel relationship under Barack Obama, and almost immediate progress under a Republican president. While there exist notable exceptions to this trend — namely Chuck Schumer, Jerry Nadler, and some others — Democrat politicians know which vernacular on the conflict is socially acceptable among their crowds and which is not. They know the talking points and the key players, but adhere closely to the Democratic mantras and idioms primarily bashing Israel.
Such partisanship has permeated into even the highest ranks of the Democratic party: Bernie Sanders — who is currently campaigning with Ocasio-Cortez in Kansas — took to Twitter in April to pledge his support for the Gazan protesters demonstrating on the Israeli border while disregarding the violent actions of many of them and the significant role played by internationally-recognized terrorist organizations in the protests. This was just one of many lopsided stories portrayed by Democrats as the whole picture of what occurred.
With some predicting that the Democrats are poised to dominate Congress in the midterm elections this November — including Ocasio-Cortez, the clear front runner in her district — and potentially take the presidency in 2020, it is incredibly dangerous and damaging to have untrue statements being taken as fact by policymakers of this party.
While Ocasio-Cortez’ PBS embarrassment was a high-profile instance of Democratic lack of awareness on the conflict, it should serve as a wake-up call to viewers that rhetoric will always merely be rhetoric, and the distinguishing factor between Ocasio-Cortez and other more informed politicians is possession of facts reinforcing their claims.
Noah Phillips writes with an especial interest in Jewish and Israeli affairs. He is the founder of The Jewish Examiner, an online Jewish news source. Noah writes a weekly column entitled Rising Up, which is syndicated to various international publications. Noah is also a contributor to various prominent news outlets, including the Algemeiner, The Forward, and more. This article is reprinted with permission of the author. Follow Noah on Twitter @noahaphilli