Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) may not be an expert on the Middle East. Still, in her Christmas tweet, she managed to describe the situation in Bethlehem at least half-correctly, even if she didn’t know quite what she was saying.
In the controversial tweet, AOC lambasted Israel and declared that both Jesus and the Palestinian Arabs were victims of “rightwing forces.”
According to the congresswoman’s revisionist version of history, Jesus—like Palestinian Arabs today—faced “the threat of a government engaged in a massacre of innocents” and “was part of a targeted population being indiscriminately killed to protect an unjust leader’s power.” And nowadays, she continued, “rightwing forces are violently occupying Bethlehem as similar stories unfold for today’s Palestinians…”
When Rep. Ocasio-Cortez referred to “rightwing forces violently occupying Bethlehem,” she obviously meant the Israelis. Evidently, her staff never bothered to inform her that, in fact, Israel is not occupying Bethlehem, “violently” or otherwise. There is no Israeli military governor or administration in Bethlehem anymore—they all left back in 1995 as part of the Oslo II agreement. It is the Palestinian Authority (PA), not Israel, that occupies Bethlehem.
But could the PA be described as a “rightwing force”? Was AOC accidentally correct?
Pundits typically associate the PA with the political left, and the historical record would seem to bear out that assumption. The PA’s parent body, the Palestine Liberation Organization, was a close ally of the Soviet Union. To this day, the PA has especially warm relations with Communist regimes such as China, North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam.
Some factions of the PA still bear names that came straight out of the Marxist lexicon of the 1960s, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. PA chairman-for-life Mahmoud Abbas earned his Ph.D. (if it can be called that) in Moscow, where he wrote a dissertation arguing that the Holocaust was a Zionist hoax.
But Arab and Muslim regimes do not neatly fit into Western political categories, and the PA’s specific policies on hot-button issues that divide right from left in the U.S. today suggest that the Palestinian Arab leadership is far from Ocasio-Cortez’s camp.
Abortion, for example. It’s illegal under the PA, except in the rare cases where it’s necessary to save the mother’s life. The PA bans abortion even in cases of incest or rape. Not only that but according to PA law, a woman whose life is endangered by her pregnancy must have “written approval” from “her husband or guardian” before proceeding with an abortion.
Or separation of church and state. The PA recognizes no such concept. On the contrary, Article 4 of the PA’s Constitution states that “Islam is the official religion in Palestine.” Article 4 also says, “The principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be a principal source of legislation.” Imagine Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s reaction if someone were to propose making Christianity the “official religion” of the United States, with the Bible as its main source of legislation.
What about gender discrimination, another issue close to AOC’s heart? According to Human Rights Watch, the PA’s laws “discriminate against women, including in relation to marriage, divorce, custody of children, and inheritance. Palestine has no comprehensive domestic violence law.”
Amnesty International’s latest annual report states that the PA has “failed to prevent and investigate homophobic and transphobic threats and attacks.” There has been “a wave of incitement to violence and hate speech against LGBTI people and feminists that the [PA] authorities failed to investigate.”
In short, by every criterion that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez uses to judge political and social issues, the Palestinian Authority regime that occupies Bethlehem represents what she would consider “right.” By all logic, she should oppose with every fiber of her being.
So why does she still support them? Is AOC’s hostility to Israel so all-consuming that she is willing to discard every principle or policy dear to her to be able to promote the Palestinian Arab cause?
(Dr. Medoff is the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust. His most recent book, America and the Holocaust: A Documentary History, was published by the Jewish Publication Society of America / University of Nebraska Press. And available on Amazon, as are his other books)Dr. Medoff is the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust. His most recent book, America and the Holocaust: A Documentary History, was published by the Jewish Publication Society of America / University of Nebraska Press. And available on Amazon, as are his other books