Why is AOC honoring an Israeli war criminal?

Men walk and talk

Israeli defense minister Yitzhak Rabin, left, and army chief Lt. General Dan Shomron tour the occupied West Bank’s Jalazone refugee camp on 19 January 1988. Palestinians threw stones at Rabin from behind a building.

Anat Givon AP Photo

An update has been added at the end of this article about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s decision, confirmed on 26 September, to pull out of the event honoring Yitzhak Rabin.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is helping a liberal Zionist group whitewash a war criminal responsible for atrocities against Palestinians.

Next month the progressive standard-bearer will be speaking at an Americans for Peace Now event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“Rabin’s legacy inspires us all,” Americans for Peace Now stated in their announcement of the event.

The lobby group urged people to register to hear Ocasio-Cortez “reflect on fulfilling the courageous Israeli leader’s mission for peace and justice today in the US and Israel.”

The only feeling this pack of lies should inspire is disgust, especially at Ocasio-Cortez’s willing participation.

Ever since his assassination by an Israeli Jewish extremist there has been an effort by liberal Zionists to paint Rabin as a martyr for peace.

For Palestinians, Rabin can only be remembered for his personal role in the 1948 Lydda Death March, and for ordering Israeli soldiers to brutalize and kill Palestinians protesting the Israeli occupation during the first intifada of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The enduring myth of the “peace process” is that Rabin’s assassination derailed the 1993 Oslo accords and led to the current impasse.

Yet the notion that had Rabin lived he would have pursued a “mission for peace and justice” is grotesque revisionism.

Rabin’s crimes spanned the period from the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine – to his death.

It suffices to mention only a few of Rabin’s more notorious crimes to demonstrate how outrageous it is for anyone purporting to be a champion of the downtrodden and marginalized to glorify him.

Death March

During the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that began in 1947, some 800,000 Palestinians fled or were deliberately expelled from their homes by Zionist militias. They were never allowed to return home because they are not Jewish.

Rabin played a key part in these crimes.

He personally signed off on Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion’s order to expel some 70,000 Palestinians from the cities of Lydda and nearby Ramle in what is now central Israel.

Rabin issued a written order to the Yiftach Brigade, a Zionist militia: “The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly, without regard to age.”

As Rabin’s thugs worked to carry out that order, Palestinian civilians took refuge in Lydda’s Dahmash mosque, where Zionists massacred some 120 people.

In 2013, Yerachmiel Kahanovich, a fighter in the Palmach Zionist militia, described to an Israeli interviewer some of what he and his comrades perpetrated.

“Sometimes we had to shoot one or two, and then the rest got the message and left on their own,” Kahanovich said.

“You need to understand: if you didn’t destroy the Arab’s home, he will always want to come back,” he added. “When there is no home, no village, there is nowhere to return.”

They didn’t stop at that.

“I don’t like to remember this so much,” Kahanovich said. “We shot shells into a mosque where many people were hiding.”

The dead were “all scattered on the walls,” he recalled. Asked how many, Kahanovich replied, “I don’t know. Many. I didn’t count. I opened the door, saw what I saw, and closed it.”

The Israeli organization Zochrot has collected more harrowing testimonies of the crimes committed in Lydda, both from perpetrators and survivors.

Audeh Rantisi was 11 years old when Israeli soldiers ordered his family out of their home in Lydda on 13 July 1948.

He described the terror people felt as they began streaming toward the mountains, not knowing that they were leaving their homes forever.

“By this time the number of people had grown and panic began to set in,” he wrote in 2000. “Word had spread about the mosque.”

He recalled how in the summer heat, “Women in black abbahs and heavily embroidered Palestinian dresses hysterically clutched their infants as they stumbled forward to avoid the expected spray of machine gun fire.”

Over three days without food, water and in the heat, many would die, until finally trucks came to transport the survivors to Ramallah.

“Our death march was over,” Rantisi wrote. “Our life as refugees had begun.”

That is Yitzhak Rabin’s legacy.

Breaking bones

Two decades after the Lydda Death March, in June 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, completing the Zionist takeover of Palestine.

Twenty more years would pass until in December 1987 an unarmed popular uprising broke out in the West Bank and Gaza against Israel’s brutal military occupation.

As defense minister and effective military dictator over millions of Palestinians, Rabin embraced his task of crushing the intifada.

He publicly ordered Israel’s army to use “force, might and beatings” – as well as live ammunition that took the lives of young Palestinians almost daily for years.

This video from Al Jazeera includes one of the most notorious scenes from the first intifada, broadcast all over the world at the time:

It shows Israeli soldiers methodically beating two Palestinian youths using rocks, trying to break their bones. The two boys, both 17, were cousins Wael and Osama Jawdeh.

Recall that this was before cell phones and widespread ownership of video cameras, so Israel’s abuses were even less visible than they are now.

The video caused global outrage – but sadly not enough to bring any real accountability or pressure on Israel to end the occupation.

Rabin denied accusations that he directly ordered soldiers to break bones and Israel’s parliament declined to investigate him.

Despite this, damning evidence emerged about how Rabin and his senior officers ordered extreme violence.

As The New York Times reported in 1990, Israeli army Lieutenant Eldad Ben-Moshe testified that his commander Colonel Yehuda Meir told him to “break the arms and legs” of Palestinians “because the detention camps are full.”

Another officer, identified as Lieutenant Colonel Zvi, testified that Rabin himself “told me to lash into them forcefully and beat them” without restraint in 1988.

Myth of a peacemaker

The myth that is supposed to redeem Rabin is that he became – albeit reluctantly – a “peacemaker” whose courage would one day lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

But this too is a lie.

More than a year after the White House lawn handshake when the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, Rabin still staunchly opposed a Palestinian state.

A few years ago, Israeli media revealed that in December 1994, Rabin’s bureau issued a formal letter stating that “The prime minister is of the opinion that there is no room for a Palestinian state.”

However, his position was always clear to anyone paying attention.

The most that Rabin ever thought Palestinians would get from Oslo was a “state-minus,” according to Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli negotiator and foreign minister.

“This was Rabin’s expression,” Ben-Ami told Democracy Now in 2006.

“He never thought this will end in a full-fledged Palestinian state.”

Ben-Ami conceded that the Oslo accords had always been an “exercise in make-believe.”

Those who still lionize Rabin as a “peacemaker” perpetuate that fiction today.

Rabin was not assassinated because he embraced peace, nor for being too forthcoming to Palestinians. He was assassinated for not being anti-Palestinian enough.

In his life, Rabin never expressed regret for his crimes, let alone faced justice.

At the very least, we must ensure that his record is not whitewashed and the lives of his victims are not devalued and erased.

For Ocasio-Cortez to participate in an event honoring a monstrous war criminal shows utter contempt for Palestinians and deserves the strongest condemnation.

Update, 27 September: AOC withdraws

On 26 September, Americans for Peace Now confirmed that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has withdrawn from its event honoring Yitzhak Rabin, a perpetrator of atrocities and war crimes against Palestinians.

Earlier on Saturday, The Times of Israel said that the decision to pull out, “which came after backlash from pro-Palestinian activists, was confirmed to The Times of Israel by a spokeswoman for the congresswoman.”

Al Jazeera also reported Friday it had received a “brief email” from the congresswoman’s spokesperson confirming her withdrawal.

Even after her withdrawal was originally reported Friday afternoon, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that “the decision was not yet final” amid last ditch efforts to save her participation.

However, the later reports seem to suggest such efforts failed.

Earlier on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez had tweeted that “this event and my involvement was presented to my team differently from how it’s now being promoted.”

“Taking a look into this now,” she added.

That prompted Israel’s Haaretz newspaper to report that Ocasio-Cortez was “reconsidering her scheduled participation” after a “backlash from pro-Palestinian activists.”“

The report cited many tweets criticizing Ocasio-Cortez, including this one, from this writer a day earlier when her participation in the Rabin memorial was announced:




Thank you for reminding readers of the real character and exploits of General Rabin.

As for Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, it has been apparent from the inception of her political career that her public positioning on issues is strongly contingent on her personal ambitions. We may expect more efforts on her part to enter the charmed circles of American power and establish a rewarding relationship with Israel and its donor class.


why does your headline suggest that AOC is honoring the israeli war criminal even as your story states that AOC is withdrawing from the event that honors the israeli war criminal.


The article was written and published before she withdrew. It has been updated with her withdrawal but we generally do not alter headlines unless there was an error in the headline at the time the article was published.


I've heard AOC has withdrawn from the event & will no longer be honouring Rabin. There was a concentrated effort on Twitter to get through to her & let her know what a monster he was, and I believe it has succeeded. Good work, folks!


You wrote : "Rabin was not assassinated because he embraced peace, nor for being too forthcoming to Palestinians. He was assassinated for not being anti-Palestinian enough."

Actually as I understand it, Rabin was killed both for making peace with the Palestinians in the Oslo Accords - *_and_* also for not being anti-Palestinian enough. Plus because of a lot of hatred incited by Netanyahu.

Wikipedia : "Rabin was disparaged personally by right-wing conservatives and Likud leaders who perceived the Oslo peace process as an attempt to forfeit the occupied territories and a capitulation to Israel's enemies.[2][3] National religious conservatives and Likud party leaders believed that withdrawing from any "Jewish" land was heresy.[4] The Likud leader and future prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Rabin's government of being "removed from Jewish tradition [...] and Jewish values".[2][3] Right-wing rabbis associated with the settlers' movement prohibited territorial concessions to the Palestinians and forbade soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces from evacuating Jewish settlers under the accords.[5][6] Some rabbis proclaimed din rodef, based on a traditional Jewish law of self-defense, against Rabin personally, arguing that the Oslo Accords would endanger Jewish lives."
- 'Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin' wikipedia page.

Apparently there is a movie called 'Incitement' about this though I've only now read of it. There was a good doco on Aussie TV broadcast about this some years ago parts of which can be seen on youtube.


Is it possible that AOC (including her advisors/staff) is not that familiar with the real history of Rabin? Certainly the TOI article refers to a supposed 'misunderstanding' between AOC and APN on the nature of AOC's participation; that she agreed to attend to give her views of policy issues rather than to commemorate Rabin - which may be true or may be just a neat way to wriggle out of it all.

Regardless, it is a good call out by Palestinian activists to hold her to account.

'Break their bones' Rabin never intended to allow a sovereign Palestinian State to emerge. His views of Palestinian statehood are way too close to those currently held by Netanyahu and c0 for the comfort of Liberal Zionists. I get why Liberal Zionists need to make Rabin into a peace loving hero, but it is an illusion that serves only themselves by allowing them to put off their Peter Beinart moment - one day Liberal Zionists must choose between their Zionism and their Liberal values.

As for AOC - good for her if her withdrawal is a principal stance rather than political opportunism, but either way good for the Palestinian cause; that is, I have no problem with support for Zionism and/or glorification of ethnic cleansing and Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, becoming a political liability for American members of Congress.