Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York, which represents more than 50 Jewish groups, last Thursday, April 1. Anti-Semitism, Holocaust education, and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis were all discussed during the Zoom call.

The dialogue between Ocasio-Cortez and the JCRC’s outgoing CEO Michael Miller was the Congresswoman’s first public discussion of these issues with a mainstream Jewish group.  She was questioned about “peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” and her response was deemed inadequate.

“When we talk about establishing peace, centering people’s humanities, protecting people’s rights, it’s not just about the what and the end goal, which often gets a lot of focus,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “But I actually think it’s much more about the how and the way that we are coming together—and how we interpret that what—and how we act in the actions that we take to get to that what—and so what this is really about is that it’s a question, more than anything else, about process.”

“That being said, I think there’s just this one central issue of settlements,” she continued, “Because if the ‘what,’ if the ‘what’ that has been decided on is two-state, then the action of settlements—it’s not the how to get to that ‘what’—and so I think that’s a central thing that we need to make sure that we center and that we value Jewish—rather, we value Israeli—we value the safety and the human rights of Israelis, we value the safety and human rights of Palestinians in that process.”

One might surmise that heads were spinning at this point.

Last year, the Congresswoman faced criticism for deciding to not attend a memorial event for late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated in 1995 for his attempts to broker peace with the Palestinians. 

During the interview, Ocasio-Cortez also responded to criticism, defending her depth of involvement with the Jewish community in New York including local groups such as the Bronx House, the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway, and J Street, a nationwide pro-peace activist organisation, with which she had been in contact in recent years.

She said she made it a priority to meet with Jewish organisations in her district first, and that she wanted to postpone reaching out to citywide organizations “for a little bit of another day. I think that’s maybe where some of that feeling and sentiment have come from. But I’m very happy to be engaging now.”