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On Rabbi Andy Bachman’s public congratulations to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Dear Rabbi Bachman,

While I share your admiration for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent victory in New York’s 14th Congressional District, I am dismayed by the heavy-handed way you chose to convey your congratulations. I’m referring to your open letter to her (Jewish Journal, 7/4/18) in which you expressed your concern that her public statements about Israel and Palestine indicated a “less than nuanced perspective” and invited her to join you on a tour of the region.

While you did not identify which of her public statements you were referring to, I can only assume you meant this recent tweet, which she posted in response to Israel’s violent military response to Palestinian protesters in Gaza:

This is a massacre. I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such. No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.

In a subsequent interview with the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, Ocasio-Cortez clarified the motivation behind her statement:

I think I was primarily compelled (to speak out) on moral grounds because I could only imagine if 60 people were shot and killed in Ferguson or if 60 people were shot and killed in the West Virginia teachers’ strikes. The idea that we are not supposed to talk about people dying when they are engaging in political expression just really moved me.

Again, I can only assume these were comments to which you referred. Her tweet was quoted and commented upon extensively in the Jewish press. As far as I can tell, she has made no other public statements on this issue,

Was it her use of the word “massacre” that bothered you? It is admittedly a strong word, but I’m not sure it is inappropriate under the circumstances. Since the weekly protests began in late March, the Israeli military has responded by shooting live ammunition directly into crowds of largely nonviolent protesters nearly 1,000 meters away. To date, over 140 Palestinians have been killed and more than 15,000 have been injured. Almost all casualties have been civilians, of whom at least 1,200 were children treated in hospitals.

Amnesty International has called these killings “murderous,” calling upon “governments worldwide to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel following the country’s disproportionate response.” According to AI’s report:

“In most of the fatal cases…victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind. Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.”

For its part, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has referred to Israel’s actions as “criminal” and has publicly called upon soldiers to refuse to open fire on demonstrators in Gaza. Noting that it is a criminal offense to obey patently illegal orders, B’Tselem stated that “as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply.”

Given the findings and public statements of these respected human right organizations, I’m curious what in Ocasio-Cortez’s words you found to be “less than nuanced.” I’m sure you would agree that state violence directed at unarmed protesters should be called out as such. I was struck that in your letter you chose not to identify who actually did the killing and who was actually killed in Gaza, describing the events passively as “recent violence and tragic deaths.” To my mind, this is the kind of “nuance” that ultimately drains all moral context from the facts on the ground.

I’m also troubled that you chose not to respond to her actual words, opting instead to give her a tutorial on the history of Zionism, the Jewish people’s historic connection to the land of Israel and the importance of a two-state solution. You are certainly welcome to your opinions, but I don’t understand what they have to do with her comments or why, under the circumstances, you felt she should take them to heart.

As a public figure, Ocasio-Cortez responded to clear human rights abuses in a forthright and courageous manner. She deserved much more than a condescending lecture and a personal invitation to your own “nuanced” tour of Israel/Palestine.

A version of this post was originally published on Rabbi Brant’s blog on July 10, 2018. 

Rabbi Brant Rosen

Rosen is the midwest regional director of the American Friends Services Committee

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25 Responses

  1. JWalters on July 11, 2018, 6:13 pm

    “Come into my parlor”, said the spider to the fly.

    Rabbi Bachman should discuss the “nuances” of Zionist barbarity with Alexandria in a public forum, on C-SPAN. We can safely predict he will NOT do that. That’s because he is not interested in an HONEST discussion. That’s because he has ulterior motives.

    Alexandria should absolutely NOT go to Israel. It’s a kill zone. Remember Raza Al Najar. Remember Yitzhak Rabin. Alexandria should be cautious for her safety.

  2. Keith on July 11, 2018, 7:36 pm

    RABBI BRANT ROSEN- (From Rabbi Bachman’s open letter)- “I write to you as a progressive and a Zionist.”

    First of all the obvious – there is no such thing as a progressive Zionist. Rabbi Bachman is a Zionist apologist attempting to put Ocasio-Cortez on warning that concern for Palestinian human rights and criticism of Israel is unacceptable. Secondly, Ocasio-Cortez victory is being over-hyped. She is a youthful Bernie Sanders type sheep dog designed to say nice things and lure “liberals” back into the Democratic Party. A party, I might add, which has fully embraced neocon warmongering and empire. A relevant quote and link to an article which discusses Ocasio-Cortez and the Democrats.

    “But perhaps most important in any discussion of the Democratic Party are their ties to the CIA.

    Patrick Martin writes…
    “An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history. If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress.”

    This is interesting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the DNC does nothing to hide this but rather sees it a sure fire vote getter.” (John Steppling)

    • annie on July 11, 2018, 7:46 pm

      keith, i think ocasio-cortez is way ahead of the pack. i rec this new interview with her:

      • Keith on July 11, 2018, 11:49 pm

        ANNIE- “keith, i think ocasio-cortez is way ahead of the pack.”

        The Democratic Party is the graveyard of progressive movements. If Ocasio-Cortez was a true progressive, she wouldn’t be a Democrat. Seriously. Apparently she is already onboard with Russiagate (a monumental insult to the intelligence) and supportive of the imperialist controlled Venezuelan opposition. Remember, Bernie Sanders referred to Hugo Chavez as a dictator. But I agree that if you are into empty rhetoric, Ocasio-Cortez is ahead of the pack. Another quote and link to the highly recommended article by John Steppling.

        “So, is it not peculiar to anyone that this new face of pseudo socialism pops up right now — literally out of nowhere? See, to me it feels very Obama like. Its perception management meets electoral long game strategic thinking. Honestly, all the talk of keeping an eye on her (Ocasio-Cortez) and making sure she honors her principles, etc…all of this feels wildly naive and almost delusional, frankly. One has to learn to read the codes. And since it is a proven fact that the Democrat Party is utterly corrupt, in bed with Wall Street and big corporate entities in agriculture, telecoms, and pharmaceuticals, as well as the military itself — why would one want to give a candidate FOR this utterly corrupt party the benefit of the doubt?” (John Steppling)

      • annie on July 12, 2018, 12:36 am

        keith, i’m not really sure she is a dem, although she’s running on the party ticket, as i mentioned elsewhere she’s dsa. in her interview w/crowley he asked if she’d support him if he won and she said she wouldn’t say as she works with a movement. there’s this civil war in the dem party and i think some people think it would be easier to take over the party. so i’m not sure what’s going on but she did take out a very big fish, part of the old guard. about steppling’s article:

        there is something curious about her whole story. And her web page says her father was a small business owner and other places it says he is an architect. None of this matters, mind you, except that she is certainly not well known in the Bronx by activists or anyone else. She strikes me, personally, as culturally a Westchester County product, not the Bronx.

        i don’t find this very compelling. for one thing, if something doesn’t matter, why say it? her dad’s dead since she was 18 so it goes to show he did very little research when he writes “it says he is an architect”. and who is he to know “she is certainly not well known in the Bronx by activists or anyone else”? that reeks of innuendo. i think it’s a little too early to write her off. i don’t know her views on venuzuela and am not into the russia thing at all. but health care, palestine, the job thing, running with no corp funds, i like this. and i really like DSA. they voted 90-10 for bds, rather famously. that’s her roots, not kennedy when she was 18. and sanders, whatever he’s become, was never part of the dem party “machine”. for the most part, he ran an independent campaign. she says she’s an organizer, so let’s see what she organizes. i don’t know if culturally she more Westchester County than the bronx. 40 minutes away, all her cousins there, she speaks spanish, something tells me they visited more than twice a year. she lives in the same apartment she did as a child, that means you have some roots there. i get your caution but i’m all for moving out the old guard and seeing what the millennials have to offer. sure, she could be a cia plant or something, but i’m not prone in that direction right now.

      • Misterioso on July 12, 2018, 10:25 am

        @Annie Robbins, et al

        Worth noting:

        The Forward, July 9/18

        “Candidate For Keith Ellison’s Congress Seat Called Israel ‘Apartheid Regime.’”

        “A Somali-American candidate for Congress in Minnesota has rejected accusations that a 2012 tweet accusing Israel of “evil doings” amounts to anti-Semitism.

        “llhan Omar, now a state representative, responded to recent criticism of the tweet by calling the Jewish state ‘the apartheid Israeli regime.'”

      • annie on July 12, 2018, 12:49 pm

        misterioso, yes i have heard about Omar’s campaign. there’s also a dem candidate in new mexico Deb Haaland, who just won the primary, who had tweeted out the names of palestinians massacred by israel during the great return march (or so i’ve heard). if she wins the election she’ll be the first native american woman in congress. there’s some handwringing going on:

    • echinococcus on July 11, 2018, 8:57 pm


      The Steppling article points to a number of things re Ocasio that are suspect but not necessarily proof to take to a court. Your conclusion is sound. Also, she is “ahead of the pack” inasmuch as she remembered to update the Sandersian program to include sympathy to Palestine and to switch to mentioning the working class instead of the old horse’s insufferable appeal to the middle class, so she may have some success… in calling back the stray sheep.
      Anyway it will be interesting to see what the Zionists do with her.

      The link given by Ms Robbins is to an article about not politics (=class content) but “nuts-and-bolts” (the how.) Looks like a typical come-back-to-the-fold, Sanders II campaign, calling all the gulls to register. Vote for the leading administrative party of US monopoly capital and you’ll make miracles happen.

      “Listen, I get it. I get why you don’t want to be a Democrat.”
      No she don’t.

      Sometimes I have the impression that for most people it all revolves around what the current person of interest subjectively believes (supposedly.)

      • annie on July 11, 2018, 10:05 pm

        she’s not “come back to the fold” she targets voters who have not voted before. she’s DSA running on a dem ticket.

      • echinococcus on July 11, 2018, 11:18 pm

        she’s not “come back to the fold” she targets voters who have not voted before. she’s DSA running on a dem ticket.

        And getting new votes for the Democrat Party makes it that she works against the Democrat Party, is that it?

        There might be some logic in that –just not the usual kind of logic.

      • annie on July 12, 2018, 12:11 am

        There might be some logic in that –just not the usual kind of logic.

        that’s how strawmen usually seem to me too.

      • echinococcus on July 12, 2018, 11:11 am

        Ms Robbins,

        There’s even less linear logic in that last reply about strawmen.

        You write yourself that her “independence” is no different than that of the Sanders mountebank’s:

        sanders, whatever he’s become, was never part of the dem party “machine”. for the most part, he ran an independent campaign

        an “independent” campaign to bring the independent vote to the main machine of US imperialism and war.
        It had a huge success doing just that, so why not a repeat?
        I do second your congratulations to the DSA for a 90/10 BDS vote (while suspecting that good part of that is “libZ”.) But these people deserve the severest censure for thinking [pretending to] that after several generations of sheepdog fakes (and Don Quijinich), they’ll be the first to turn around the main US imperialist political machine, belonging to the Owners of the Country, and make it act against the owners’ class interest.

        i don’t know her views on venuzuela and am not into the russia thing at all.

        both highly relevant

      • annie on July 12, 2018, 11:32 am

        getting new votes for the Democrat Party makes it that she works against the Democrat Party, is that it?

        that’s a strawman. maybe i didn’t make myself clear.

      • echinococcus on July 12, 2018, 12:29 pm

        that’s a strawman. maybe i didn’t make myself clear

        No, you did make a clear exception to common logic.

      • annie on July 12, 2018, 2:14 pm

        your strawman logic being common logic no doubt. of course, why didn’t i think of that. take last word – boring.

      • Keith on July 12, 2018, 4:42 pm

        ECHINOCOCCUS- “both highly relevant”

        You got that right! Claims of Bernie’s independence are a joke when he hews to the Democratic party line on these critical issues even when they are obviously pretexts for imperial interventions. The Democrats have gone so far off the deep end on this Russiagate BS that it is surreal. And a “socialist” calling Chavez a dictator? What a farce! Besides, Wall Street and the corporations are calling the shots in any event. The politicians manage society to achieve business/imperial objectives. Elections have turned into political theater, nothing more. And a big part of the problem is the electorate who simply will not revolt at the polls.

  3. Qualtrough on July 11, 2018, 9:44 pm

    Anyone here care to guess how long before she pulls an Obama and backtracks on all that?

    • Citizen on July 13, 2018, 6:05 am

      Her stance supporting the Palestinians has vanished from her web site.

      • Tuyzentfloot on July 13, 2018, 10:54 am

        Citizen, show me.

        i know she got the news with a tweet about the Gaza massacre, and after that she got interviewed about it. I have no idea if this got posted on her site, although there is a newsfeed there with highlights. If it appears there and then disappears again that is not an issue.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if after a while she caved over that issue, but even then this would be too soon to make sense.

        In the meantime though I’ve seen lazy and cheap dismissals from leftwing commentators. They’re irritating.

      • echinococcus on July 13, 2018, 12:53 pm


        The foreign policy paragraph was pulled, then in response to general reaction she tweeted that it was inadvertently done by unidentified persons, and the blurb came back as “Peace Economy” on her English-language web pages only. Meaning the Spanish-speaking (larger) constituency don’t need to know.

        She speaks much better than Sanders but it’s the same old slithery shepherd-dog material.

        The issue is right there: no dismissal can be “lazy and cheap” enough if you are out to get votes for the Demolican (or Repucrat) party. Unless you can bring one example of anyone running for that “party” in the last 70 years with any success in overturning the will of the ruling-class owners on anything significant (not just cultural crap.) One.

  4. echinococcus on July 11, 2018, 11:08 pm

    Rabbi here, Rabbi there,

    Weren’t Men of the Cloth supposed to keep to religion –not politics?

  5. eljay on July 12, 2018, 8:14 am

    Mr. Bachman’s open letter is more of the same old Jewish supremacist (Zionist) propaganda:
    – the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to the citizens of homelands all over the world who have chosen to embrace it the right to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine;
    – justice, accountability and equality need not apply.

  6. Ossinev on July 12, 2018, 11:16 am

    See Rabbi Bachman`s take on settlements from his website:

    On first read as with a lot of Zioliberals it appears balanced and reasonable seeing both sides etc but scratch the surface only slightly and you unearth either the naivete or hypocrisy or a mix of both. For example no reference to where these”settlers” come from or any real evaluation of their “rights” to be there ie Brooklyn to Hebron with subsidised housing as a bonus. Screw the natives they are not God`s chosen like us.

    Most hilarious of course is that these Ziobonzos continue to preach their belief in the mythical 2SS which anyone with any common would know from an honest evaluation is a scam and a charade. The “two state solution” which he is pathetically endorsing is the blatantly obvious one Zio state/60+ and counting Bantustans “state” solution.

  7. on July 14, 2018, 12:19 pm

    Ocasio Cortez’s stance on Israel/Palestine will no doubt be tested.

    First she will receive an education on what antisemitism is which will include a broad definition of same. This will be followed by a request to clarify (water down) her prior comments on Israeli massacres. A demand for her to “reaffirm” her commitment to a Jewish Israel for the Jewish people would likely come next.

    Ocasio and her keepers know full well that if she doesn’t play ball the hasbara machine backed by the MSM will begin to chip away at her – branding her an antisemite (or a sympathizer or an idealist millennial with no practicality / pragmatism or a far left socialist nut job or all of the above. Send in the idiot Zio twins Bret and Bari from the NYT to write an opinion piece questioning Ocasio’s policies/abilities/affiliations to round out the smear campaign, giving it the credibility of the NYT.

    The Dem party will also do their best to curb any real support while they work to undermine and belittle Ocasio at every opportunity. Look at what the Zios did in the UK with the Labour Party (revealed by AJ) to get a sense of the dirty tricks Ocasio may face.

    Will she end up slightly broken making the same lame remarks Sanders or Warren occasionally make? (hamas is bad – israel has a right to exist and defend itself – the two parties need to negotiate peace – the two state solution is best – blah blah blah). Its anyones guess but only the naive would bet against that.

    Having said that, there are a couple of interesting facts that should not be overlooked. The DSA has just endorsed BDS and they were a huge backer of Ocasio. They have also endorsed DSA member and fellow New Yorker Julia Salazar for the Senate . The jury is still out on whether the DSA will endorse Cynthia Nixon - .

    It will be interesting to see just how much pull, if any, the DSA has with Ocasio and Salazar in promoting BDS and Palestinian rights in a state that likely houses the most Zionists in the US.

    I hope Schumer is sourcing adult diapers but I doubt it – at least not yet.

    • JWalters on July 14, 2018, 8:36 pm

      LHunter, thanks for this solid, realistic assessment of how the oligarchy will try to take down Alexandria. You should be on the PBS Newshour.

      It will be interesting indeed to see how this plays out. The oligarchy appears to be getting desperate. There are counter forces actually beginning to mass, so a real breakthrough in the enemy lines could occur. Democracy could be rescued. This is definitely a time to support these insurgents, helping them stay on course for justice.

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