Supporter of Palestinian rights wins huge upset in New York election

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored a huge political upset by unseating longtime incumbent Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th congressional district.

Her victory Tuesday is a titanic blow to the party establishment that backed Hillary Clinton from the progressive wing that rallies around Senator Bernie Sanders.

It is also another indicator of the dramatic shift in the base of the Democratic Party towards support for Palestinian rights.

Ocasio-Cortez has strongly condemned Israel’s slaughter of civilians in Gaza.

She is a 28-year-old running for office for the first time. Ocasio-Cortez will now face a Republican opponent in the November general election and, if she wins, would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Crowley was one of the top-ranked Democrats in Congress and seen as a likely successor to Nancy Pelosi, the party’s leader in the House of Representatives. That would have positioned him to be speaker – the most powerful post in the House – if Democrats were to regain control in November’s midterm elections.

Ocasio-Cortez is a former organizer for Sanders’ presidential run and a member of the left-wing organization Democratic Socialists of America.

Her campaign, fueled by grassroots enthusiasm, and a clear commitment to redistributive policies including universal healthcare, guaranteed housing and jobs, and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, carried the day.

Despite being vastly outspent by Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez sprinted home with 57 percent of the vote. She is considered all but certain to win November’s general election in the heavily Democratic district covering parts of New York City.

Born in the Bronx to working-class parents and a mother from Puerto Rico, Ocasio-Cortez is seeking to become the first person of color to represent a district that is 70 percent non-white.

Ocasio-Cortez was congratulated by Cynthia Nixon, the actor who is mounting a progressive primary challenge to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Nixon has herself been attacked by the Israel lobby for expressing critical views about Israel’s policies. The Democratic gubernatorial primary will be held in September.

“Moral courage”

As if all that is not enough, Ocasio-Cortez’s win blows a hole in the conventional wisdom that you can’t run for Congress and support Palestinian rights.

Recently, she has been unabashedly critical of Israel’s killings of unarmed Palestinians taking part in Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

“This is a massacre,” she tweeted on 14 May, the day Israel killed dozens of Palestinians. “I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such.”

“There is no justification,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.”

Ocasio-Cortez reaffirmed those criticisms in an interview earlier this month with The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald. She told Greenwald she was compelled to speak out on “moral grounds,” because “I can only imagine if 60 people were shot and killed in Ferguson, or if 60 people were shot and killled in the West Virginia teachers strikes.”

She also compared the situation of Palestinians to the colonial reality of Puerto Rico as a US territory that is “granted no rights.”

Ocasio-Cortez said a lot of people in her district thanked her for speaking out. Watch that interview at the top of this article.

Although Ocasio-Cortez does not appear to have spoken on the issue directly, Democratic Socialists of America last year overwhelmingly endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Emboldened by grassroots support, Bernie Sanders, who has a mixed record when it comes to supporting Palestinian rights, has become increasingly vocal about the dire situation in Gaza.

A video posted by his campaign showing Palestinians describing life in the besieged territory has gained nearly a million views on Facebook.

By contrast, Crowley, the incumbent defeated by Ocasio-Cortez, like the vast majority of Democrats in Congress, has said nothing critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

In 2016, Crowley condemned a UN Security Council resolution criticizing Israel over its West Bank settlements that are illegal under international law.

In a debate during the campaign, a stand-in for Crowley reportedly said the congressman backed the US move of its embassy to Jerusalem. “The community was in shock,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

AIPAC’s worry

Ocasio-Cortez is not the only candidate who has been openly critical of Israel.

In South Carolina, Mal Hyman made support for Palestinian rights a prominent theme of his campaign.

On Tuesday night Hyman won almost 49 percent of the vote, just short of what was needed to beat his opponent for the Democratic nomination for the state’s 7th congressional district.

Late Tuesday night, Hyman was still not giving up.

Members of Democratic Socialists of America also congratulated Gabriel Acevero, a candidate the group endorsed, on winning in the primary for a seat in the Maryland state legislature.

In 2014, Acevero was strongly critical of Israel’s massive assault on Gaza, calling for accountability.

“Acevero would be the first openly gay man of Afro-Latino descent elected to the General Assembly if he were to win in November,” according to The Washington Blade.

Also in Maryland, war crimes whistleblower Chelsea Manning and Palestinian rights supporter Jerry Segal both challenged incumbent Democratic US Senator Ben Cardin in the primary.

Cardin is the main sponsor of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a pending bill that has been condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union as a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

There, however, Cardin saw off the challengers, taking 80 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

Nonetheless, in March, the leadership of the powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC publicly fretted that progressives were deserting their cause in droves.

Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning win in New York – and Hyman’s impressive performance in South Carolina – prove that they are right to worry.

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We're not going to be able to persuade or educate that basketful, we've got to keep plugging away at the polls and in the streets and welcome those who regret a mistake. And I know that, for this old codger anyways, a few minutes in the shade, provided by dynamic young people like this angel, is a blessing and a necessity.

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Well said from another old codger.

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Kudos to Ms Ocasio Cortez for having the strength in her convictions to voice what is prohibited in mainstream politics and the media.let the conversation begin about what amounts to criminal activity on the part of the IDF under the political direction of Israeli elected officials.