Dear Ms. Ocasio-Cortez:
Congratulations on your primary win. As a New Yorker (resident of Astoria, just outside your district) and a progressive, I’m inspired by your victory.
As a Jew, I’m terrified, for what your recent comments about Israel portend for the wellbeing of Jews in this city and around the world. This week, many in the Jewish community have been discussing a tweet you sent last month in which you called Israel’s response to a Hamas attack operation a “massacre” and “mass shootings of protestors”. I’d like to share with you the deep concerns of the Jewish community about your comments and their broader implications.
Last month, there were indeed mass protests near the Gaza border with Israel, but they were synchronized to provide cover for Hamas’ operation to infiltrate Israel to kidnap or murder Israelis. This cover was militarily and cosmetically strategic. Headlines around the world uncritically blared “massacre” before and even after all the facts became known, including Hamas openly stating its nefarious aims. Yet again, Hamas cynically used Palestinian lives to stir up global scorn on Israel.
As a public figure, your charge of “massacre” was reckless. It also symbolized the rapidly growing anti-Israel crusade that much of the progressive movement has uncritically adopted.
It’s important for you to know that of the 14 million Jews around the world – including in the US, and in New York – the vast majority are Zionists. That is, they believe Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state in at least a part of the historic land of Israel.
Only a small but vocal fringe of the Jewish community rejects Israel’s legitimacy. This fringe has been mainstreaming not only criticism of Israel, but its outright rejection. This rejection necessitates false charges of Israeli apartheid, wanton murder and even genocide. Just think of the implications. Jews are already this country’s most targeted religious group. If they are increasingly slandered as supporting crimes against humanity, the threats will only grow.
On campuses, Jews showing support for Israel are physically harassed and shouted down as racists and Nazis. In Europe, Jews are assaulted in the streets, and leaving the continent in droves. In this country, there is growing concern that with Israel-bashing on the rise and Israel haters emboldened, our safety can no longer be assured. This is what truly concerns Jews, and should concern you and all people of conscience.
Empathizing with the Palestinians is moral and progressive, but reflexively endorsing and condoning all of their actions and policies is not. There are many Palestinians who support peace and prosperity with Israel, not its destruction. Yet they’re silenced and even killed. While Palestinian society is dynamic with a diversity of views, their radical leaders allow them only two choices: the total destruction of Israel, or perpetual limbo.
One powerful example of this limbo: for 70 years, Palestinian descendants of refugees from the 1948 war have been kept by Palestinian leaders (not Israelis) in refugee status, living in squalid camps…in Palestine. Think about that: refugees already living in their own homeland are dependent on foreign aid because of their “refugee” status. Clearly politics, and not a better life, is the driving force. The Palestinians deserve a better life and a better choice: peace and reconciliation. True justice and humanitarianism demands this, and not endless war.
As your career advances, and your constituency and influence expand, you have a responsibility to understand this issue. I implore you to surround yourself with people who understand the history and politics of the region, from both sides, who can provide you with a more balanced picture.
Though this isn’t your main issue, your openness to a broad range of Jewish opinion can serve as a necessary bridge, especially as American support for Israel is one of the growing divides among progressive Americans. In a time of increased hostility to immigrants, minorities, Muslims and Jews, the stakes are too high to avoid this conversation. As a member of an active progressive Zionist community, I would be honored to help organize this conversation. I hope you accept this offer. We’re all in this together.