Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s controversial comments on Israel disappoint some Queens residents

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in Queens political history by defeating Congressman Joe Crowley on June 26. (Photo by Andrea Elizabeth/Ocasio 2018)

Queens Congressional hopeful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez irked some of the borough’s residents following her appearance on PBS’ “Firing Line with Margaret Hoover” on July 13.

During the episode, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 14th Congressional District used the word “occupation” when talking about the Israel-Palestine conflict, a word choice with which some in Queens’ Jewish community took issue.

“I also think that what people are starting to see, at least, in the occupation of Palestine, is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition,” Ocasio-Cortez said on the program.

When questioned about her use of the word “occupation” she replied, “I think what I mean is the settlements that are increasing in some of these areas and places where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to their housing and homes.”

She followed up by saying she was “not the expert on geopolitics on this issue” and is a “firm believer in finding a two-state solution.”

Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman said that Ocasio-Cortez’s comments were reflective of someone who does not understand the history between Israel and Palestine.

“I’m very disappointed in her position on the State of Israel. I think that it’s shortsighted, and I don’t believe she understands the history. I would appreciate having a conversation with her on the matter,” said Shulman, who is also a resident of Congressional District 14.

“I think that she needs to be educated about Israel,” said Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates. “She needs to learn about the history of the State of Israel and the mandate,” he said, also adding that it was important she also takes a trip to Israel.

The mandate is in reference to the British Mandate for Palestine, in which the “national home for the Jewish people” and the separate Arab Emirate of Transjordan were to be established under Balfour’s Declaration.

On “Firing Line,” Ocasio-Cortez made clear that she was willing to have conversations with leaders to better inform herself about this issue, and said that she “may not always use the right words.”

Hoover, the host of the PBS program, also asked Ocasio-Cortez about her controversial Tweet and word choice in response to 60 Palestinians killed in Gaza.

The Congressional candidate responded by saying that she believes Israel has the right to exist but said she saw what happened in Gaza through the lens of an activist and organizer.

“If 60 people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, if 60 people were killed in the South Bronx, unarmed, if 60 people were killed in Puerto Rico … to me it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened on our shores,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez could not be reached for comment at this time.

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