Paul Berman, writing for tabletmag.com, lauds Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for momentously beating Joe Crowley in the primary for House seat in NYC's 14th district. He does so while crediting Crowley, first of all, for a fine Bronx accent, and beyond that for being a consistently liberal pol throughout his career. Berman credits Ocasio-Cortez both for her savory Bronx intonations and beyond that for an insurgent politics whose time has come.
Berman also manages to gently upbraid Ocasio-Cortez for her views on Israel. It matters that the upbraiding is gentle and therefore far from the hysteria all too often occasioned by this subject, and also that it occurs in Tablet.
Tablet (tabletmag.com), in the nine years of its existence, has established itself as a site for quality material on Jewish life and history but also, increasingly, and without redress, for an ugly, sneering tilt toward rightwing Zionism. This takes the form of jeering at those who still maintain some vestige of belief that a peace movement in Israel is necessary, and that a two-state solution, despite all manner of impediments, remains a viable goal, given, among other things, the utter lack of any sane outcome.
Given the venomous baseline of Tablet's tried and true house polemicists, Berman's rebuke of Ocasio-Cortez comes as a balm.
Ocasio-Cortez is opposed to what she sees as Israeli brutality toward Gaza protestors, and has voiced deep concerns about the humanitarian disaster of life in Gaza that provides the awful, ongoing context for these protests. Though others at Tablet might sneer at Ocasio-Cortez's expressions of sympathy, let it be said that Berman does not.
It's only when she compares the Gaza protestors to "civil-rights protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and to protesting schoolteachers in West Virginia," that Berman dissents, again, softly. Such protests have the tradition of the American civil rights movement behind them, and the likes of Martin Luther King for inspiration. Protestors in Gaza, on the other hand, suffer and are bedeviled by a leadership consisting of Hamas.
Perhaps, Berman muses, Ocasio-Cortez will at same point look into the Hamas charter and articulate key distinctions for herself. For now, though much has been made of her membership in Democratic Socialists of America, she has not echoed the slogan adopted by some members at their last convention: “From the River to the Sea/ Palestine will be free!”
Whether chanted by members of DSA or Hamas, it means not only no peace with Israel, but no Israel altogether. It bespeaks a politics of stupefying and suicidal bent, the unhappy politics of Hamas. If you live in Gaza, the disaster land where Hamas rules, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are holy writ, enshrined in the Hamas charter, you may have no choice but to adopt and march under the banner of such views. To live in the United States, and, as a member of DSA or in some other context, echo these views means you don't mind furthering anti-Semitism.
Berman underlines the fact that no matter the depths of her outrage at the situation of Gaza, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has not collapsed into this aspect of DSA/Hamas politics.
Leaving Berman behind, I think of Ocasio-Cortez as a sane lefty/liberal/progressive, one who hasn’t crumbled into one or another of the pitfalls of the left, which happen to be, too often, some version or another of renascent and reconfigured anti-Semitism.