On Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Palestine, and the Left

by Corey Robin on July 16, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose candidacy I’ve championed and worked for since May, had a bad moment late last week.

Appearing on the reboot of Firing Line, Ocasio-Cortez was asked by conservative host Margaret Hoover to explain her stance on Israel. The question left Ocasio-Cortez tongue-tied and equivocating. Here was the exchange:

MH: You, in the campaign, made one tweet, or made one statement, that referred to a killing by Israeli soldiers of civilians in Gaza and called it a “massacre,” which became a little bit controversial. But I haven’t seen anywhere — what is your position on Israel?

AOC: Well, I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of a two-state solution. And for me, it’s not — this is not a referendum, I think, on the state of Israel. For me, the lens through which I saw this incident, as an activist, as an organizer, if sixty people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, if sixty people were killed in the South Bronx — unarmed — if sixty people were killed in Puerto Rico — I just looked at that incident more through . . . through just, as an incident, and to me, it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened on our shores. But I am —

MH: Of course the dynamic there in terms of geopolitics —

AOC: Of course.

MH: And the war in the Middle East is very different than people expressing their First Amendment right to protest.

AOC: Well, yes. But 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, and that to me is just where I tend to come from on this issue.

MH: You use the term “the occupation of Palestine”? What did you mean by that?

AOC: Oh, um [pause] I think it, what I meant 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.

MH: Do you think you can expand on that?

AOC: Yeah, I mean, I think I’d also just [waves hands and laughs] I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue. You know, for me, I’m a firm believer in finding a two-state solution on this issue, and I’m happy to sit down with leaders on both of these. For me, I just look at things through a human rights lens, and I may not use the right words [laughs] I know this is a very intense issue.

MH: That’s very honest, that’s very honest. It’s very honest, and when, you, you know, get to Washington and you’re an elected member of Congress you’ll have the opportunity to talk to people on all sides and visit Israel and visit the West Bank and —

AOC: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that that’s one of those things that’s important too is that, you know, especially with the district that I represent — I come from the South Bronx, I come from a Puerto Rican background, and Middle Eastern politics was not exactly at my kitchen table every night. But, I also recognize that this is an intensely important issue for people in my district, for Americans across the country, and I think what’s at least important to communicate is that I’m willing to listen and that I’m willing to learn and evolve on this issue like I think many Americans are.


Let’s be clear. This is not good. Prompted about her use of the word “massacre,” Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t stay with the experience of the Palestinians. Instead, she goes immediately to an affirmation of Israel’s right to exist, as if Israelis were the first order of concern, and that affirming that right is the necessary ticket to saying anything about Palestine. Asked about her use of the phrase “occupation of Palestine,” Ocasio-Cortez wanders into a thicket of abstractions about access to housing and “settlements that are increasing in some of these areas.” She apologizes for not being an expert on a major geopolitical issue. She proffers liberal platitudes about a two-state solution that everyone knows are just words and clichés designed to defer any genuine reckoning with the situation at hand, with no concrete discussion of anything the US could or should do to intervene.

Even within the constraints of American electoral politics, there are better ways — better left ways — to deal with this entirely foreseeable question. Not only was this a bad moment for the Left but it was also a lost opportunity: to speak to people who are not leftists about a major issue in a way that sounds credible, moral, and politically wise.

As soon as I saw this exchange, I posted about it on Facebook. I said a shorter version of what I said above. It provoked a bitter debate on my page. There were even more bitter debates on other people’s pages.

The camps divided in two: on the one hand, there were those who took Ocasio-Cortez’s comments as confirmation that she is no real leftist, that she is turning right, that she’s been absorbed into the Democratic Party machine, that she’s a fake, a phony, and a fraud. For these folks, Ocasio-Cortez’s comments confirmed their generally dim view of electoral politics.

On the other hand, there were Ocasio-Cortez’s defenders, claiming that she is only twenty-eight, that she had been set up by a right-wing journalist, that progressives shouldn’t criticize her, that the Left always eats its own, that those of us who are criticizing her are sectarians ready to go after anyone the second they disappoint us.

What I’m about to say doesn’t address the first camp. While I know and respect many of these folks — leftists who either reject electoral politics completely or reject any involvement with the Democratic Party — theirs is not my position. Nor do I think this incident is revelatory one way or another for their position — had Ocasio-Cortez said all the right things, I doubt it would convince skeptics of electoral politics that getting involved in Democratic Party politics is the way to go — so I don’t see any point in using it to engage in that question.

My comments are directed to the latter camp: the people who, like me, believe in electoral politics, are on the Left, and think we may have an opportunity right now that we have not had in a long while.

There are some of us, many of us, who care deeply about the Israel/Palestine issue from an anti-Zionist perspective and who are also realistic about US electoral politics. We’re not naïfs who think that the politicians we support are going to come out right away, or right now, in support of a single binational democratic state, which is the position we hold with regard to Palestine. We also realize that the Left that is beginning to think about electoral politics is young (not in terms of age but political experience), and it will take us all some time to figure out how to advance our positions in a way that will win support and translate that support into policy.

And last, we know that despite the centrality of Palestine to our politics, it’s not central to the politics of everyone on the Left, that people have multiple concerns, and that it does no good simply to hector people and say this should be at the top of your list (along with a thousand other issues that should be at the top of your list).

I know all of that, we know all of that.

But we also know a few other things.

Sooner or later, every national politician in the US has to confront the issue of Palestine. You can’t duck it. Not only is the Left moving left on this issue, not only is the base of the Democratic Party moving left on this issue (it is, if you look at the polling), but it is also a major issue of international politics and US foreign policy that every member of Congress has to have a position on.

Palestine is not some obscure question that you can simply say, “Sorry, I don’t know much about that.” Any person who aspires to be a member of Congress, particularly from New York City, where this issue comes up as a local, national, and international issue all the time — when we had the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions fight at Brooklyn College in 2013, our top opponents included multiple members of the New York City congressional delegation: Jerry Nadler, Yvette Clark, Nydia Velazquez, and Hakeem Jeffries — will have to be clear about where they stand. It’s not optional: Ocasio-Cortez has to have a position.

Not only does Ocasio-Cortez have to have a position, but to be a credible leftist voice in Congress, she has to have a leftist position on this issue. Now, before everyone concludes that means she has to call for a binational state, there are many ways to talk left about Israel that are considerably better than the current liberal pabulum and that do not require an elected official to commit political suicide.

There is the human rights vernacular that Ocasio-Cortes herself alludes to (a particularly popular approach, as sociologist Ran Greenstein pointed out in the discussion on my Facebook wall). There is the language of realpolitik, which people like Nathan Thrall have pushed. And other ways still.

Ocasio-Cortez could talk about conditioning aid on human rights improvements. She could talk about cutting military funding to Israel. George H. W. Bush, after all, withheld loans to Israel because of the expansion of the settlements — not a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but here in the US, in the early 1990s. All of these claims are well to the left of any current political discourse in Congress and would force the debate forward and would be productively polarizing. And maybe propel Ocasio-Cortez to even more of a leadership position on the Left.

This is not just about Palestine. This is about US foreign policy as a whole. It used to be that US foreign policy was the Left’s strong suit. Back in the 1970s, when it seemed as if the Left’s confidence in its economic policies and positions was flagging, its critiques of US imperialism, military spending, and the national security state were in ascendancy. Some of these positions even made it into the left wing of the Democratic Party. Since then, the Left has gotten very weak on this stuff. Not in terms of its moralism on foreign policy, or the antiwar rallies it will show up at, but in terms of being able to advance a position that would begin to command national assent, form public opinion, and then be translated into policy.

This is a problem: it should be the easiest thing in the world right now, for example, to go after runaway military spending. Yet there’s hardly a credible or potent left voice that is pushing that agenda, much less getting a hearing within even progressive circles of the Democratic Party. Indeed, in this age of alleged partisan polarization, authorizations of massive increases in spending for the Pentagon and the CIA pass both houses of Congress with hefty Democratic majorities — with scarcely anyone noticing, much less protesting.

So, again, this isn’t about Palestine only. Or I should say, Palestine is the proverbial canary in a coal mine. From Palestine you get into the question of the Middle East as a whole, which leads to US foreign policy as a whole, and issues of budgets, spending, war, peace, and all the rest. All the more reason for Ocasio-Cortez to get up to speed on it.

Like it or not, Ocasio-Cortez has been elevated to a national position of leadership and visibility on the Left. If she wins in the general election, as everyone believes she will, every single thing she says and does will be watched and scrutinized. It simply will not do to say, oh, she’s only twenty-eight, oh, the media is so nasty, oh, let’s not have circular firing squads. The media is always nasty, the Left will always be critical of its leaders, and one day, soon, Ocasio-Cortez will no longer be twenty-eight. To complain about any of these things is like shaking your fist at the weather (weather in the old-fashioned sense; before climate change).

People have turned to Ocasio-Cortez not simply because she won but because she’s good at what she does: she’s smart, fast, funny, and principled. Because she’s shown leadership. I understand the pressures she’s under. But as her star rises, the pressures will only increase. Ocasio-Cortez needs to be not only strong but also clear on this issue. She needs to be as subtle, dexterous, and sharp as she is on other issues, virtually every night on Twitter. This isn’t a game, especially when it comes to Israel. Or, if it is a game, she needs to be a better player.

What has sustained me the most in these last several years is the on-the-ground work of the activists, in Democratic Socialists of America and other groups, who have been making victories like Ocasio-Cortez’s possible. I’m confident that those folks are talking to her now about getting a better line on this, and I’m more than confident that she has the political skills to get it.

There was a time, not so long ago, when there were left Democrats, in Congress, who had strong anti-imperialist politics and positions. There were even parts of the Left — particularly the black left — that were critical of Israel at a fundamental level. They didn’t get there from nowhere. They weren’t better people. There was simply more of a movement, in the streets and at the grassroots, articulating and developing those positions. There is no reason we can’t do the same. I’m confident we will.

{ 122 comments }

1

Sebastian H 07.16.18 at 8:23 pm

Wait, are you saying that a leftist can’t be for a two state solution? Why not? Any current one state solution is going to be like Yugoslavia right before it exploded, as a very best case scenario.

2

michael 07.16.18 at 8:46 pm

Why is the American Left so utterly bumfuzzled by foreign policy? Does the principled commitment to anti-imperialism combine with skepticism concerning the nation-state form to render Left intellectuals incapable of thinking clearly about the world?

There are over 200 states on the planet. Unless 7 billion people wake up tomorrow alight with the fire of proletarian solidarity, we will have to contend with a large number of political communities (to say nothing of cultures, histories, etc.). The interests of those communities will often conflict, even *if* the workers in each one confront similar circumstances. And those conflicts will continue to involve armed forces. This is just as inevitable as the contradictions of capitalism, the class struggle, or any other article of Leftist faith.

So the Left needs a better plan than opposing empire or reducing military spending. It must be able to say more than “we oppose the national security state in all its forms.” A lot more. Now, perhaps Ocasio-Cortez is not yet ready to offer a comprehensive vision of global relations. But it’s really cynical of Robin to demand that she regurgitate facile Leftist dogma unless and until he and the Left themselves have something substantive to propose. I won’t hold my breath.

3

Leo Casey 07.16.18 at 9:21 pm

Of course, the transcript shows that the question asked AOC was “what is your position on Israel?” and she answered that question. The fact that Corey Robin starts his post with a complaint that AOC answered the question she was asked, her position on Israel, is telling. All the more so because her answer is clear from the very outset that she is in favor of a two state solution, which combines Palestinian self-determination in its own state with the right of the Israeli state to exist – and not, as Robin dismissively suggests, a one-sided affirmation of Israel’s right to exist that ignores the Palestinian question. Add to this the fact that AOC has been critical of the actions and policies of the current Israeli government vis-a-vis the Palestinians, calling the recent violence at the border with Gaza a “massacre” (which was offered as the basis for raising this question in the interview)and that in this very interview is clear that the Israel presence on the West Bank is “an occupation.” What exactly is it about AOC’s response that has Robin so worked up? It is hard to believe that so much ink could have been inspired by the fact that AOC was addressing a question which, she made clear, was relatively new to her, despite Robin’s demands for expertise on demand. So is the real problem here that Robin, like many of his fellow BDS advocates, dismisses a “two state solution” as “liberal platitudes” because he does not accept the right of a state to Israel to exist alongside a state of Palestine?

4

alfredlordbleep 07.16.18 at 9:28 pm

AOC took on the Gaza massacre with Glenn Greenwald by at least Jun 8th.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuoKLLLpiuE
GG notes that Israel bashing has been considered political suicide in NYC— (~13:00-)
I won’t speculate on her miscues in a later interview before a less friendly face.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders raised an alarm about that Gaza killings as well. Is there a canvas of all the Senate? Of course, the third rail of American politics, once upon a time, was social security.

P. S. The whole matter of the BDS movement is rich in speech and influence issues. It awaits plucking.

5

EB 07.16.18 at 9:40 pm

What did you expect? She represents Puerto Rican aspirations, which is a legitimate role to take, but she’s 28 and a neophyte. Her election does not represent a vote of confidence for further left positions on anything. She will have to make choices about which issues of interest to the left she has the time and political space to pursue, and this may not be among them.

6

Sumana Harihareswara 07.16.18 at 9:50 pm

I’m confident that those folks are talking to her now about getting a better line on this, and I’m more than confident that she has the political skills to get it.

I appreciate your approach here. It’s nice to read constructive criticism of someone on one’s own side that really is both constructive and critical!

7

mpowell 07.16.18 at 10:00 pm

It really does say something about a person if you can take Ocasio-Cortez’s clearly not polished thoughts on Israel/Palestine and conclude this makes her a phony or a fraud. I mean, there is an argument about what some kind of purist left position on Israel ought to be, or has to be, but if you are able to look at a person like AOC and convince yourself she isn’t really committed to the domestic causes she claims to be because she doesn’t align with your views on Israel/Palestine especially given quite apparent and self-proclaimed level of knowledge, that is really a different thing.

8

Donald 07.16.18 at 10:52 pm

Some of us dismiss most political talk of a two state solution as liberal platitudes because in the vast majority of cases that’s what it is. It’s a way of showing that your heart is allegedly in the right place— then you sigh about how intractable the conflict is, affirm Israel’s right to exist ( a phrase which can be interpreted in multiple ways), hope piously for a “peace process”, and then fork a few billion dollars over to Israel for another year as they expand settlements. Personally I think Palestinians should see most Americans who mouth these slogans as similar to the white moderates MLK wrote about in his Birmingham prison cell.

I would leave it up to Palestinians to decide if they are willing to settle for a two state solution. But Westerners who claim to support a 2ss and then support Israel diplomatically and with aid and with claims that they are our democratic allies are demonstrating by their actions that in reality they support a one state solution with apartheid- like policies.

As for AOC, it is too soon to tell where she will go on this issue. After her twitter comment about the Gaza massacres I thought she knew the issue, but this interview suggests I and some others were a bit too optimistic.

9

dilbert dogbert 07.16.18 at 11:12 pm

Her proper ans should have been: I know the boundaries of my district and it does not include the State Israel, next question.

10

Salo 07.16.18 at 11:18 pm

If Corey’s position ever became the predominant one on the left, I would have to say goodbye to the left. And left with what? I cannot understand how he has reached such an unfair and unreasonable position with respect to Israel.

11

Sebastian H 07.16.18 at 11:54 pm

Part of me is tempted to say something like “let’s see if we can save ourselves before we try to save the world”. It isn’t my usual impulse. My usual impulse is that we can do a few things at once. But if we lose out to Trump again, we won’t be doing any of those other things either. This isn’t the typical “now is not the time” situation. So long as Trump is in power, now is really not the time.

12

P O'Neill 07.17.18 at 12:28 am

Yes, it’s an awkward phase in the interview where she got pushed beyond the standard phrases “occupation of Palestine” and “two state solution” and struggled to articulate what those meant. But she’s clear that she favours a rights-based approach which would get the Palestinians a lot more than they have now. Perhaps more troubling is Hoover’s question, which gets cut off: “you’ll have the opportunity to talk to people on all sides and visit Israel and visit the West Bank -“. Even assuming she was going to add Gaza, she wasn’t going to say “East Jerusalem,” which is revealing of assumptions.

13

Donald 07.17.18 at 12:29 am

Actually, Trump in power is the time to talk about Israel and the Saudis, because those are the countries he colludes with the most. Though I sympathize with Sebastian’s claim that we shouldn’t try to save the world, this is precisely why we shouldn’t be joined at the hip with countries like Israel and the Saudi Arabia in the first place.

Opposing Trump should mean opposing the policies he supports which harm people and you see such policies in action in Gaza and the West Bank and in Yemen.

14

Faustusnotes 07.17.18 at 12:30 am

What’s wrong with her answer? I challenge anyone here to go back to their 28 year old self and say they could do better on national TV after an unexpected victory. She stuck to her human rights guns, she affirmed it’s a massacre, she pointed out how it would be received if it happened elsewhere, she waved away “Israel is different.” If Congress were full of people with her views the Palestinians would be in a better position. Cut the woman some slack!

15

J-D 07.17.18 at 12:54 am

‘I am a proponent of a two-state solution’ is just as little (or just as much) platitudinous as ‘I am a proponent of single binational democratic state’; they are platitudinous to the same extent; if either one of them is a platitude, then both of them are.

I am not sure how much trouble Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is likely to get into as a result of the way she answered this question, but for the sake of contrast I imagine somebody in a similar position who was asked the same question (‘What is your position on Israel?’) and who answered it by saying only ‘I am a proponent of a two-state solution’ and finishing the answer there, with nothing more. That person would (almost certainly) have got into less trouble with that answer than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is likely to get into for the answer she actually gave. For the sake of further contrast, I imagine somebody in a similar position who was asked the same question and who answered it by saying only ‘I am a proponent of a single binational democratic state’ and finishing the answer there, with nothing more. I suspect that person would have got into more trouble with that answer than the first person I imagined, but still less than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is likely to get into with the answer she actually gave.

Then there’s the answer suggested by dilbert dogbert. How much trouble would that cause for the person who gave it? I can’t guess that one.

16

Matthew Wilbert 07.17.18 at 1:22 am

If there is one thing that has become clear post-Iraq war, it is that the Palestinian issue has currently lost salience, subsumed in the Iran/Saudi contest for influence, and it is probably possible for most Congressfolks, and normal people for that matter, to ignore it.

17

Leo Casey 07.17.18 at 1:43 am

1. If opposition to a two-state solution is to be the political litmus/purity test, then intellectual honesty would dictate that it be stated clearly and directly, without all of the pretense about AOC being inexpert, not really supporting Palestianian self-determination and the other misdirection. Having a real, honest debate. The fact that this critique is covered in this artifice and dismissive smirks about liberalism and never actually says a two-state position is unacceptable suggests an attempt to discredit without forthright debate.

2. AOC’s position would put her among the most pro-Palestinian self-determination and pro-Palestinian rights members of Congress. A position that dismisses her position as liberal platitudes is a position that is destined to be empty political posturing from the sidelines.

3. There is a reason why even the Noam Chomskys of the world have criticized BDS and insisted that a two-state solution is the only feasible way forward for Palestinian self-determination, and it is not because he is a liberal or is afraid to criticize Israel.

18

LFC 07.17.18 at 2:11 am

Couple of comments.

First, I happen to support a two-state solution, so I disagree with Corey on that particular point. That said, I agree with Corey that “Ocasio-Cortez could talk about conditioning aid on human rights improvements. She could talk about cutting military funding to Israel [while pointing out what a disproportionate share of overall U.S. military aid Israel, along w a few other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, receives]. ” And maybe she will do that in future interviews (or whatever).

On the question of U.S. military spending, istm the line to take, from both a substantive and electoral standpoint, is not “slash the bloated military budget across the board” but rather “spend on the military in a way that directly improves force readiness and the ability of forces to carry out current or potential missions,” meaning cut fancy unnecessary weapons systems in development, cut back on the expensive ‘modernization’ of the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal, scrap the redundant land-based missile leg of the triad, and spend some of the money on non-mil things but also on improving maintenance of existing systems, improving training and recruitment, making sure U.S. vessels don’t collide w each other etc. I am definitely not an expert on the military budget, but there are serious concerns in the Pentagon and elsewhere about force readiness[*], and it would seem that addressing that while also advocating cutting the overall budget would make sense.

[*] Peter T, who comments here regularly, drew my attention recently to a column in Foreign Policy discussing the readiness issues, among other things.

19

Omega Centauri 07.17.18 at 3:09 am

I can only imagine how having to answer that very question would make me squirm. One I know my position is far enough from the mainstream of American political thought, that it could be highly damaging to me -and potentially the left in the USA. So I would probably blow it in a similar manner. So she (and I) have Sebastion’s comment as an important part of our internal calculus. I think for she, and I too, that Palestine is an issue of secondary importance -if for no other reason than the fact that the odds that taking a stand would fix things is between zero and a very very tiny number.

Of course, it should have been obvious, that the question would be asked. She should have had a practice interview or three with a staff member, so as to be ready with a coherent sounding answer. I think any experienced politician would have done just that. But, she probably thinks, with some justification, that displays the sort of elitism against which Trump successfully ran. She ran mostly on authentic simple sincerity, but now she is discovering that real world politics demands more than that.

In any case, I can’t see her as a national politician. She intends to represent her highly atypical district, and that means she will have to take positions that the majorities in “typical” districts aren’t likely to be happy with. She may have a long run as a congress critter, but she will be about as mainstream as Charlie Wrangle was.

20

eg 07.17.18 at 3:23 am

How is America to govern itself if every elected representative is expected to have a fully formed position on every international relation going?

The bar appears to have been set excessively high.

21

faustusnotes 07.17.18 at 5:13 am

Here is a good example of the kind of false outrage that the left really needs to avoid at the moment. From the OP:

Prompted about her use of the word “massacre,” Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t stay with the experience of the Palestinians. Instead, she goes immediately to an affirmation of Israel’s right to exist, as if Israelis were the first order of concern, and that affirming that right is the necessary ticket to saying anything about Palestine.

This is a fundamental misrepresentation of what happened. AOC was not “prompted” on her use of the word “massacre”, she was asked explicitly: “what is your position on Israel?” It’s right there in the text immediately above her answer, which is a direct response to the question she was asked. Now you could say that she’s a naive and unskilled political operator for having allowed herself to be drawn into answering that question rather than answering something else, but that’s a very different claim to arguing that she “doesn’t stay with the experience of the Palestinians.” In fact, she immediately – having answered the question she was directly asked – goes on to say that the question she was directly asked is not “the lens through which we should see this issue”. She then returns to the question of the massacre, and asks the listener to imagine if that massacre had happened in their own towns, how would they think about it?

Far from having denied Palestinians’ experience, she has politely answered the question asked, used that answer to say that the question is a distraction, then asked the viewer to relate the Palestinians’s experience to her own.

I would ask what exactly motivates criticism of this response? Is this part of some purity war in which anyone who says anything that isn’t 100% right-on about Israel needs to be immediately kicked to the curb? Is it the two-state solution and right to exist bit? Why would you misrepresent it and/or misunderstand it so significantly?

We have just finished a very ugly election cycle in which misrepresentation of democrats’ positions, purity positioning, and vicious attacks from the left hamstrung our response to a growing fascist – and need I remind you, treasonous – political movement in a nuclear-armed state. We now have evidence of some fairly serious corruption amongst the left-wing critics of the Democrats, including Glenn Greenwald taking money from an eBay founder to write articles criticizing the Democrats, Jill Stein using the money she raised for a recount to pay for her legal fees, and Assange in cahoots with Russian operatives. I would have thought after everything that has happened and been revealed in the past 18 months, the purity ponies would be a little more cautious about how they interpret Democrats’ words and actions, and a little less eager to split left wing movements. Yet here we have a quite egregious misrepresentation of the words of a bright and rising left-wing star. How far to the left do Democrats need to go before they are safe from attack by the anti-Democrat left, and what are the consequences for the country and the world if you keep up this kind of divisive activity? Attacking a 28 year old woman who has just had her first ever experience of major political activity, after she quite deftly handles a question on a conservative TV show, by misrepresenting her handling of the question… is that really what you want to be doing right now?

22

Demigourd 07.17.18 at 6:51 am

Added extra clap; not college material.

23

MFB 07.17.18 at 8:18 am

I think, on the whole, her observations are fairly innocuous without being completely vacuous. I would obviously like to hear someone taking a more left-wing line on the issue. But her remarks are less odious and less destructive than the official Democratic Party line, so much so that she would probably get into trouble with the power-brokers in that party if she were deemed anything other than a figurehead for a powerless left within that party (which is essentially controlled by the right).

Attacking her for this is pointless, because you are attacking someone without power. But also, of course, if she had actually taken a more firm line against Israeli aggression, land theft, fraudulent negotiation and so on — although it might have been more effective as a counterblast to Trump’s abhorrent stance on supporting Israel, it would not have had any impact on the Democratic Party as an institution.

Yes, Democratic voters are probably moving to the left on this issue. Not, however, powerful Democratic Party machine politicians.

24

Saurs 07.17.18 at 9:46 am

Leo Casey @17

If opposition to a two-state solution is to be the political litmus/purity test

It isn’t, as Corey repeatedly said. It’s emblematic of a larger problem within the American leftwing and the Democratic Party. Again, as Corey said.

never actually says a two-state position is unacceptable suggests an attempt to discredit without forthright debate.

Again, that is the exact opposite of what Corey wrote. Second sentence, second para:

We’re not naïfs who think that the politicians we support are going to come out right away, or right now, in support of a single binational democratic state, which is the position we hold with regard to Palestine.

It’s so absurd to lie about what somebody wrote when everybody can read it and note the lies for what they are.

25

casmilus 07.17.18 at 10:40 am

Is there anyone in Congress with an opinion about Western Sahara? When was the last time any of them were asked?

26

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.18 at 10:57 am

“I’ve championed and worked… She apologizes… She proffers… As soon as I saw… What I’m about to say… we may have an opportunity right now… Any person who aspires… Ocasio-Cortez has to have… Ocasio-Cortez could talk about… She could talk about… it should be the easiest thing… Like it or not… It will simply not do… I understand the pressures… Ocasio-Cortez needs to be… she needs to be… This isn’t a game… What has sustained me most…”

If you actually state how your own proposed solution would work, instead of complaining how she must come into line with your beliefs, this might go better.

27

Donald 07.17.18 at 11:44 am

“There is a reason why even the Noam Chomskys of the world have criticized BDS and insisted that a two-state solution is the only feasible way forward for Palestinian self-determination, and it is not because he is a liberal or is afraid to criticize Israel.”

Why should Chomsky be allowed to dictate the extent to which Palestinians get to demand the right to return to their own homeland? Palestinians can speak for themselves.

And again, it is the two state solution, or rather, the pretense that one supports it, which has been functioning as a litmus test. Only people on the far right openly reject it in favor of Israel getting everything. That is a danger in the era of Trump-Netanyahu collusion. What I think might happen is that Trump, if he doesn’t discredit himself with fellow Republicans, will move the Overton Window rightwards so that open support for everything the settlers want becomes the Republican position, and then people who mouth support for a 2ss without really meaning it will have that much more cover to give Israel unlimited support.

That is how professed support for a 2ss has been functioning anyway. People like Peter Beinart or Chomsky or yes, Norman Finkelstein really do support a 2ss and are willing to say harsh things about Israeli behavior and would like to put pressure on them. But for the vast majority of politicians and pundits, professed support for a 2ss is just a fig leaf. They say it because one is supposed to say it, and then in practical terms the US makes it clear by its actions that Israel can continue expanding settlements and blockading Gaza and we will support them anyway. It is common for people to say they support a 2ss and then blame the Palestinians for its lack, endorse Israel’s “right to defend itself” after the latest Israeli atrocity, and then change the subject after finishing with the claim that there won’t be peace until some indefinite time in the future.

As for Corey’s piece, he isn’t attacking AOC, but offering constructive criticism on an important issue where he thinks she should improve. That is what you are supposed to do with people you support.

28

Raven Onthill 07.17.18 at 11:47 am

Your counterexample, Ron Dellums, was from Oakland, CA. AMO is running in NYC. What worked in Oakland will not work in the Bronx and Queens.

So, Prof. Robin, what stand could AMO run on?

29

Ebenezer Scrooge 07.17.18 at 1:02 pm

My problem with Corey’s post is his unstated assumption that there is a proper left position on everything.

Of course, I’m right 100% of the time on every issue, and only change my mind when the facts change. But at least I understand how smart people operating in good faith will get it wrong on occasion. And I also understand that smart democratic politicians in good faith will often apply a thick layer of fudge even where they get it right.

(I’ve only known one politician who usually resisted the temptation to fudge. That’s Rudy Giuliani. He lies with aplomb and gusto, but seldom equivocates. That’s why he is a fascist politician, not a democratic politician.)

30

Layman 07.17.18 at 1:34 pm

Saurs: “It’s emblematic of a larger problem within the American leftwing and the Democratic Party.”

Well, I really don’t grasp the subtle distinction between saying the position is wrong and worthy of criticism, and saying it’s a litmus test. Surely being wrong on Israel isn’t something we’re meant to approve with our vote, is it?

31

faustusnotes 07.17.18 at 3:03 pm

Donald, Robin is clearly attacking AOC. He misrepresents her answer to the interviewer, and then runs off on a bender about the answer she didn’t give, drawing conclusions about her attitude towards Palestine that her answer cannot possibly imply. That’s an attack. Of course Robin won’t turn up to defend this – since he became a commentator on major media outlets his posts here are always just drive-bys, with no engagement in comments at all – but that’s what he did. You might think it’s what friends do to each other, but if so you probably don’t have many friends.

32

Orange Watch 07.17.18 at 3:29 pm

FN@21:
This is a fundamental misrepresentation of what happened. AOC was not “prompted” on her use of the word “massacre”, she was asked explicitly: “what is your position on Israel?” It’s right there in the text immediately above her answer, which is a direct response to the question she was asked.

Even by the low standards you set, this is an incredibly – fundamentally – disingenuous statement. From the OP:

MH: You, in the campaign, made one tweet, or made one statement, that referred to a killing by Israeli soldiers of civilians in Gaza and called it a “massacre,” which became a little bit controversial. But I haven’t seen anywhere — what is your position on Israel?

That is unequivocally a prompt, and it’s quite telling that when you quoted the question, you omitted it.

I would ask what exactly motivates criticism of this response?

Please refer to everything Donald has written in this thread for the bluntest and most cogent answer to your entirely rhetorical question.

33

mpowell 07.17.18 at 3:46 pm

After hearing a lot of criticism of Corey Robin on this thread, I want to add something. I think it’s very different to have the view that, ‘there is this specific set of views on this topic that I want all my political allies to share’ vs ‘anyone who does not share this specific set of views is not really my all’. I read Corey Robin’s post as making the first argument, especially by taking responsibility for building a movement that will educate and persuade left-leaning politicians. You might disagree on the need for this, on the political practicality of asking for it, or just flat out disagree with the policy itself. But it is a productive process to have disagreements of this kind. Purity tests, on the other hand, are almost always destructive. There might be a few core issues where some kind of purity test is appropriate for movement building, or at least to recognize political marriages of pure convenience. This is not one of those issues.

34

Leo Casey 07.17.18 at 4:39 pm

Faustusnotes @ 21: Exactly. You said more eloquently what I was trying to say about the disingenuous way in which Corey Robin addressed this interview.

Donald @ 27: The issue is not what Palestinians should think about the relative merits of working for a two state solution vs. a single bi-national state, but what the US left should be doing to advance Palestinian self-determination and rights — and more precisely, whether someone who will have one of the strongest positions in support of Palestinian self-determination in the Congress should be attacked because she supports a two-state solution. It is worth noting, however, that contrary to what you infer, there are a variety of positions on this question among Palestinians. Citing Palestinian authority for your preferred position is hardly a dispositive answer. The merit of the support for a two state solution by the Chomskys, Beinarts and Finkelsteins is that they take responsibility for crafting a political position within the US that actually has the best chance of realizing Palestinian self-determination.

Saurs @ 24: Read Faustusnotes @ 21. There is little question that this lengthy Corey Robin critique and the attacks on AOC by Mondoweiss and others were not launched because she is finding her legs on an issue on which she was asked to elaborate for the first time, but because she supported a two state solution.

Academic ultra-leftism has the uncanny ability to attack progressives for being insufficiently pure on a question at the same time that those progressives are being attacked from the right precisely for the progressive position. In the old days, we would call this “left in form, right in essence.” https://forward.com/opinion/405757/how-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-became-a-punching-bag-for-the-left-and-the/

35

DaveL 07.17.18 at 4:47 pm

What is the actual process that brings about a “two-state solution” or a “bi-national one-state solution”? Unless one can articulate how they come about and the describe the shape of the resulting political settlements, it is in fact all platitudes.

36

Corey Robin 07.17.18 at 4:53 pm

In response to faustusnotes’s comments and similar ones on this thread, let me say this:

First, unlike many people 0n social media, I’ve been pushing and working for Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign for months. I knocked on doors for her in Queens, I donated money to her, and long before most people on social media (perhaps even some people on this thread) had even heard of her, I was advocating for her candidacy online and on social media. I pretty much feel that hands down she’s the best thing, the most exciting news, politically, in a very long time. Anyone who follows my posts on social media knows that I am what you might call an “early adopter.”

Second, as I think my post makes clear, I still am a passionate supporter of Ocasio-Cortez. And will continue to be. Nothing she’s done or said here has given me reason to question that commitment. And while I can’t get into the specifics, the response of her campaign to this dust-up and my post so far has only led me to believe even more in her candidacy.

Third, I think both Donald and mpowell get the substance and the spirit of my post pretty much right. Most of the criticisms here just strike me as either bad faith or bad reading. I’m pretty clear throughout that though my position is for a binational state, I don’t expect any elected politician, and certainly not in the Democratic Party, even on the left wing of the Democratic Party, to take that position. So it’s the opposite of a litmus test. If it were a litmus test, I’d have renounced my support for Ocasio-Cortez. Clearly I haven’t. And won’t, even if, as I suspect, she doesn’t come out for a binational state. I also provide a variety of other positions she could take, well short of that position, that I think are normatively better than the current status quo (say you’re for two states and do absolutely nothing to achieve it) and politically viable. That so many of the comments in this thread would ignore these statements from me, in the post, suggest that, again, people aren’t reading or aren’t reading well.

Which leads to my final point: faustusnotes notes that I rarely show up in comments threads here anymore. That is true, but not for the reasons faustusnotes alleges: “since he became a commentator on major media outlets”. I was commenting on all those outlets, and writing for all those outlets, throughout all the years (since 2013) I’ve been posting here and getting into slugfests in the comments threads. So that “since” is just wrong. Additionally, I still engage with commenters and critics frequently on Twitter and Facebook.

No, the real reason I don’t comment here anymore is for precisely the reason of what I’m having to do right now: that is, having to correct obvious errors, having to respond to personal attacks that make claims about me that aren’t true, having to respond to obviously trolling comments from people who don’t read carefully. There are some people who find that fun. I find it exhausting and a waste of time. My apologies to those of you who come here in good faith, looking for fair arguments. I just ran out of gas.

37

Stephen 07.17.18 at 7:00 pm

Looking at this from another perspective: how many CT commentators are in favour of a two-state solution in Ireland, and how many are happy to condemn the Omagh massacre? Of people who were just going about their daily business.

38

Hidari 07.17.18 at 7:33 pm

‘What I’m about to say doesn’t address the first camp. While I know and respect many of these folks — leftists who either reject electoral politics completely or reject any involvement with the Democratic Party — theirs is not my position. Nor do I think this incident is revelatory one way or another for their position — had Ocasio-Cortez said all the right things, I doubt it would convince skeptics of electoral politics that getting involved in Democratic Party politics is the way to go — so I don’t see any point in using it to engage in that question.’

Personally I would like Corey to address the first camp. But perhaps that’s just me.

39

WLGR 07.17.18 at 7:50 pm

Since most of this thread seems to consist of liberals piling on Corey from the right (which unfortunately seems to be the norm with liberal foreign-policy criticism these days, from Russia to North Korea) I might as well try to pile on Corey and Ocasio-Cortez from the left, and emphasize that even the most amicable two-state solution anybody at Oslo could have possibly conceived is still incompatible with the human rights and dignity of Palestinians. Under the status quo, I as an American Jew with no connection to Israel could emigrate there tomorrow and settle on land that Palestinians had been kicked off of as recently as yesterday; nothing about this would be qualitatively less unjust under a two-state solution, in which I as an American Jew with no connection to Israel could emigrate there tomorrow and settle on land that Palestinians had been kicked off of as recently as 1967.

What’s more, at this point it should be clear to anybody mature enough to have basic object permanence that the two-state solution has been a shell game from the beginning, fully intended by the Israelis to keep the world’s attention busy while they gobbled up enough Palestinian territory to ultimately make the sovereignty question moot. The bare-minimum standard for any self-respecting leftist today should be a single non-ethnonational state from the river to the sea, with fully equal rights and a full right of return for all refugees dating back to the Nakba, and Ocasio-Cortez instead deciding to amplify the two-state solution narrative is ultimately running cover for the very massacres she rightly decried before her victory.

40

liberal 07.17.18 at 8:35 pm

I thought there was a clear consensus that the two-state solution is dead, and has been for at least a few years, due to Israeli expansion in the West Bank.

41

Joseph Brenner 07.17.18 at 9:42 pm

WLGR@39 wrote:

> Since most of this thread seems to consist of liberals piling on Corey from the right … I might as well try to pile on Corey and Ocasio-Cortez from the left

So, you’re just playing devil’s advocate and you don’t believe any of this? (If that’s not what you mean to say, maybe you shouldn’t have said so.)

> Under the status quo, I as an American Jew with no connection to Israel could emigrate there tomorrow and settle on land that Palestinians had been kicked off of as recently as yesterday; nothing about this would be qualitatively less unjust under a two-state solution, in which I as an American Jew with no connection to Israel could emigrate there tomorrow and settle on land that Palestinians had been kicked off of as recently as 1967.

The virtue of the pre-1967 borders is they were recognized by the UN. Israel has a “right to exist” but it’s a UN-granted right, not a god-given one.

There is no way to draw national borders from moral first principles: there is no such thing as a natural political map. Granted, the formation of modern Israel after WWII was high-handed at best, it’s there now.

> … the two-state solution has been a shell game from the beginning

Insincere advocacy of a position does not obviate the possibility of sincere advocacy, historical failures of a cause do not preclude the possibility of future successes. The Zionists may very well regard me as a useful idiot, but this does not condemn me to being one.

> The bare-minimum standard for any self-respecting leftist today should be a single non-ethnonational state from the river to the sea, with fully equal rights and a full right of return for all refugees dating back to the Nakba

And no true leftist could possibly disagree with you, the leftiest-leftist-of-all.

A single state plus democracy essentially means no more Israel– that’s not an outcome that would disturb me, particularly, but the currently existing Israel is unlikely to sign-off on it.
Myself, I think we might get to something like the two-state solution, if the United States would actually push for it.

Ocasio-Cortez may not live up to Corey Robin’s standards on this issue, but she’s doing way better than most American politicians– it took Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren some time to start to come around on this one.

42

Gareth Wilson 07.17.18 at 9:49 pm

In the single state, would homosexuality be legal?

43

SusanC 07.17.18 at 9:55 pm

I think Corey is being unfair here.

On the other hand, Israel is a long-standing contentious issue in both US and UK politics, and has become even more contentious of late: anyone running for political office had better have a carefully considered answer ready (even if they have no personal axe to grind), because the question is going to come up.
****

I’m not sure that Iraq has made it easier for politicians to ignore the Palestinian issue.
Israel/Palestine is now seen as part of a wider issue of foreign policy in the Middle East — an issue where getting it wrong has the potential finish a politician’s career (cf. Tony Blair).

44

Joseph Brenner 07.17.18 at 9:56 pm

Corey Robin@36:

Like a lot of people here, I don’t quite see what you’re complaining about… maybe you should actually try re-writing her answer and show us what you think she should’ve said? Limit yourself to, say, 6 sentences (read them aloud first: spoken word is different) and present the ideal response to the question.

From the original post, all I can get it is that (1) you wanted her to talk about restraining military spending, (2) you wanted a tighter answer that sounded less off-the-cuff.

You may very well have a point, but she’s still doing way better than most politicians including Sanders and Warren.

45

eg 07.17.18 at 10:39 pm

I am not an American, and a relative newcomer to this site. What is it about American foreign policy with respect to Israel/Palestine that aligns “left vs right” — I’m used to the latter divide in relation to economic policy rather than international relations.

Any clarification would be most helpful, thanks.

46

Layman 07.17.18 at 11:29 pm

“I thought there was a clear consensus that the two-state solution is dead, and has been for at least a few years, due to Israeli expansion in the West Bank.”

Some people think the right solution to that is for Israel to made to abandon those settlements in the West Bank. Giving up on that seems a lot like ratifying Israel’s theft. Maybe that’s the practical solution, but aren’t we supposed to have ideals or something?

47

Donald 07.17.18 at 11:51 pm

“It is worth noting, however, that contrary to what you infer, there are a variety of positions on this question among Palestinians. Citing Palestinian authority for your preferred position is hardly a dispositive answer.”

Good grief. I don’t claim to speak for Palestinians or claim that they all agree on what solution they would accept. I think it is safe to assume that most would like a full right of return if it were achievable. Many might settle for a 2ss if that is the best they can get. As for what Americans should do, leftist or not, we should be pushing back against politicians who reflexively support Israel and challenging memes that are biased in Israel’s favor. I don’t mean AOC here. To me she sounds like someone telling the truth— she probably doesn’t know that much about the issue, was appalled by the shooting of the protestors in Gaza, but it hasn’t been a central issue for her and she was caught off guard in that interview. I would love to see more people like her in Congress, but hope she has supporters like Corey advising her on this issue.

Getting back to “Israel’s right to exist” and a “ two state solution” and so forth, in my opinion these are empty platitudes because they can be asserted and yet mean many different things. In practice they are usually meant to frame the issue so that Israel already exists, has all the benefits of statehood and US support and Palestinians might be allowed a state to be established some time in the indefinite future after much negotiating if only there was a partner for peace. “Right to exist”could mean what I think Chomsky says—Israel like every other country has the right not to be invaded and occupied even if people disapprove of its government. But “ right to exist” could also be a slippery way to say that it was okay for the Palestinians to be expelled from their homeland and if you bring up the right of return, you are challenging Israel’s “ right to exist”. I think it is used more often in that sense, to shut down any discussion of the right of return.

As for a two state solution, as I keep saying many of its advocates don’t really mean it. See previous comments as I don’t want to keep retyping the same thing in different words. The best argument for a 2ss is not that Israel has a right to keep those demographic threats from returning, but just the pragmatic one that recognizes it might be impossible to get Israel to agree to a 1ss unless it is the apartheid version. But the pragmatic argument is losing force, as Israel seems unwilling to go for a 2ss either.

48

Collin Street 07.18.18 at 12:29 am

Giving up on that seems a lot like ratifying Israel’s theft.

Go and have a look at some demographics of israel and the territories and get back to us. The figures are not well-presented [for some reason], and figures for gaza and the west bank are estimates on account of their not having been any census recently, but…

49

john c. halasz 07.18.18 at 12:40 am

My favorite comment on the Israel/Palestine issue was by a notorious commenter in the comment cages at another site who designated Israel as Uncle Sam’s Mini-me. For the rest, talk amongst yourselves.

50

faustusnotes 07.18.18 at 12:45 am

Orange Watch, I did not omit the prompt from my criticism. The prompt is there in the part you cite, but I cited it too: “What is your position on Israel?” In English, a prompt is a question. It’s not the waffle before the question, it’s the question. The question was “What is your position on Israel”. When prompted by this question, AOC responded to the question and then immediately followed up to dismiss the question as irrelevant to the core issue, which was the massacre. You can see it here:

Well, I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of a two-state solution. And for me, it’s not — this is not a referendum, I think, on the state of Israel. For me, the lens through which I saw this incident, as an activist, as an organizer, if sixty people were killed in Ferguson

She takes two sentences to answer the question on Israel itself, and then one sentence to say “this is not about the state of Israel,” i.e. your question is irrelevant, then goes back to the issue of the massacre, which was not the prompt but was the preamble to the prompt.

This is a basic English comprehension question. Corey Robin is an academic with an extensive background in writing for a wide variety of audiences. He did not misunderstand what happened here, which is why I ask: why did he misrepresent this response so egregiously?

You can try this by asking yourself what a more efficient answer to that question would be. It would be something like “Look, what I think about the state of Israel is irrelevant here, this was a massacre.” You would be saying in one sentence what AOC said in four. But the issue for Robin is clearly not that AOC is verbose. It’s that he infers from her response to the question “what is your position on Israel” that she is backgrounding the needs of Palestinians.

Corey has kindly returned to explain his motivations, but he noticeably omitted any defense of his interpretation of AOC’s response. I hope that he – and you – will be more charitable in future towards a young woman in a very tough situation as she navigates the wilds of conservative media, and instead of attacking her for an answer that you couldn’t personally improve upon, recognize that she handled herself surprisingly well and gave a solid response to a conservative commentator. She politely owned that woman, and used the question to position the audience into asking “what would I think if I saw that happen in my own backyard?” That’s fine work, and it’s being dismissed by people like you and Corey for no obvious valid reason.

51

Raven Onthill 07.18.18 at 1:17 am

I wish you had articulated your proposed position without first spending time explaining why a candidate you support didn’t do a good job on the subject. This will be taken up and used against AMO by the further left, as well as the Russian Twitter bots, that shirk at nothing to cause more division. Especially, the hasty readers will read the first half of the post and decide that this is evidence AMO is either an anti-semite or has no care for the Palestinians.

52

David J. Littleboy 07.18.18 at 1:28 am

“First, unlike many people 0n social media, I’ve been pushing and working for Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign for months.”

And now you are backstabbing her because she doesn’t perfectly align with your personally most important issue.

This is is the sort of thing that the left has been doing to itself since time immemorial, or at least since my time during the anti-Vietnam war effort. Every time we’d try to get our act together on opposing the war, idiot after idiot after idiot would get up and say “I refuse to support this effort unless this group first supports my personal concern.” Some of those concerns were real reasonable issues, some were flaky inanities. But all were diversions that prevented actual progress on the issue at hand. And meanwhile we were brutally murdering uncountable numbers of Vietnamese civilians every day.

53

Raven Onthill 07.18.18 at 1:33 am

Joe Lieberman has just published a Wall Street Journal editorial supporting AMO’s opponent, who is still on the ballot due to the oddities of the NY primary system (single divisible vote in primaries would be a vast improvement.)

This was so not the time to publish anything even mildly critical of AMO. The Democratic Party may yet lose this seat in this most critical election year.

54

David J. Littleboy 07.18.18 at 2:47 am

“This was so not the time to publish anything even mildly critical of AMO. The Democratic Party may yet lose this seat in this most critical election year.”

Exactly. One reason we lost the presidency last time was holier-than-thou lefties who thought it was so cool and lefty to bandy about the term “neoliberal”. Anyone who used that term to refer to either Clinton in 2016 should be too ashamed to post on left-leaning sites. For a decade or two. The amount of damage being done because we couldn’t get our act together to fully and enthusiastically support Clinton is horrific.

55

Orange Watch 07.18.18 at 3:07 am

FN@:

In English, a prompt is a question.
[…]
This is a basic English comprehension question.

Re-defining words and then lecturing those you disagree with for not understanding your proposed non-standard English is not a good way to convince anyone of anything except that you view the conversation as a game. Your pedantry sounds as ridiculous as a Molen Labe enthusiast explaining what the Second Amendment really means.

And for all your defense of AOC, to include of course your implicit attempt (as usual) to turn any criticism you disagree with into an exhibition of bigotry, you don’t seem willing to credit her response in your attempt to “win” this conversation. She certainly treated the questioners’ entire statement focusing on the issue (i.e., the prompt – not the question; the prompt) as being pertinent, as is made evident by her response.

Why do you misrepresent Corey’s response so egregiously? He gave a list of better elements that could have explained a “position on Israel” without immediately and apologetically setting her foremost thought on her position as a defensive platitude about its vaguely- defined “right to exist”. To me, even moreso than sounding as though she’d been caught flat-footed by the line of questioning, she sounded like she was struggling to find a way after the fact to justify her tweet.

56

faustusnotes 07.18.18 at 4:18 am

This is flagrantly ridiculous, Orange Watch. Let’s look at what the interviewer said again:

You, in the campaign, made one tweet, or made one statement, that referred to a killing by Israeli soldiers of civilians in Gaza and called it a “massacre,” which became a little bit controversial. But I haven’t seen anywhere — what is your position on Israel?

Do you see the “but” at the beginning of the last sentence? That is the part where the interviewer is saying “okay you said this in your tweet but what I really want to know is…” This is why the final question is the prompt and the massacre tweet is the context. Whereas the way you want to interpret it, the interviewer was really asking about the massacre and AOC diverted to talk about Israel’s right to exist. This would make sense if the interviewer had said “I don’t know what you think about the politics of US support for Israel, but I would like to hear more of your views on the massacre tweet.”

Do you understand the difference between these two situations?

I think it’s hilarious that I am being lectured on bad faith readings here by someone who is stretching the boundaries of credulity to infer a perverse meaning to a question, when the obvious option for you and for Corey Robin was to simply accept that AOC was first answering the question she was last asked, then working back. This might prompt you to say “ooh she needs to improve her interview technique, that interviewer really led her around by the nose!” but it wouldn’t prompt you to say “oh noes! AOC is selling out Palestinians!” It’s transparently bad faith to interpret her response the way you did.

David J. Littleboy has it right above. We in the rest of the world are waiting for you people to resolve your national crisis. You have a literal russian asset running your country, in cahoots with a mob of corrupt oligarchs and wannabe and actual fascists, after you threw away the election on purity pony bullshit, and now in the face of this national emergency (and world crisis – remember we’re all fucked unless you people and only you people respond to global warming) you want to focus on this bullshit? Why did people misread her so? Why did people look at what is going on in Israel now and think that the rejection of an impossible dream by someone who is not even in congress warrants such a vicious response? Why did anyone think of airing this dirty bullshit-smeared laundry in public at all? Do you people have any discipline, any sense of perspective, any understanding of wtf is happening to the world? You have been thoroughly and successfully wedged by this conservative interviewer and you have only yourselves to blame for it.

In 2020 Jill Stein is going to run another third party candidacy, so she can fleece a bunch of gullible rubes and get a nice little pat on the head from her mate Uncle Putin. You people need to have your purity pony bullshit sorted out by then. If that means that you all need to learn to shut the fuck up when a 28 year old newbie doesn’t handle an interview with 100% savoire faire and doesn’t share exactly your ideals, then you better learn to do it. Otherwise we’re all up to our necks in lukewarm shit. On behalf of the rest of the world, can I put it any clearer than that?

57

Another Nick 07.18.18 at 4:47 am

David J. Littleboy: One reason we lost the presidency last time was […]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuoKLLLpiuE

Ocasio-Cortez disagrees with you.

faustusnotes, a “prompt” is a reminder or hint. It is not by any stretch of the English language “a question”. Corey’s response was not “vicious”, it was not an “attack”, it was not “dirty bullshit-smeared laundry”.

Pull your head in.

58

Alien Resister 07.18.18 at 4:58 am

This was a politician’s answer (badly done as you say), and that is one of the things most disturbing about it. From the outside (Canada) she appeared (well at least to me, a casual observer) to be someone who forsook traditional politics. Apparently that is not the case. In every democratic country we’ve seen the same thing – a firebrand reformer comes along, someone who appears to utterly reject politics as usual, only to see them fall into line once they are elected. I’m only a year away from becoming a septuagenarian and alas with each passing year my cynicism grows ever greater.

59

Hidari 07.18.18 at 6:03 am

Little boy.

What an apt name!

60

faustusnotes 07.18.18 at 6:38 am

A politician’s answer? Let’s consider some other examples of this in ordinary life …

Prompt + question: I would like to go out with you on the weekend. But, are you a vegetarian?
Answer: I am not vegetarian. But in any case, I’m traveling this weekend so I can’t go out.

Prompt + question: Global warming is really making summers hot. But, I want to know – do you have airconditioning?

Answer: I have airconditioning, but that’s not the main issue is it? We need to deal with global warming.

Apparently these are “politicians answers”, and a completely weird way to answer a question that is asked after some context. Even if you grant the weird English that a question is not a prompt but the pre-question waffle is (as I have done above), it’s still a completely legitimate response to answer the question first and then address the waffle. But apparently this is not what AOC was doing – rather, she was prioritizing Israel over the Palestinians, and showing an alarming lack of political suitability.

Robin’s interpretation of the question and response in this way, the refusal of his defenders to recognize it, and the desire to contort the English language to justify it, is the text book definition of bad faith argumentation. Robin had an opportunity to take a simple, straightforward interpretation of her behavior that assumed good faith on her part. Orange Watch, Alien Resister, Another Nick – you had the chance to make that good faith assumption too. But none of you did. This episode reflects poorly on a lot of people but not on AOC.

61

MFB 07.18.18 at 7:36 am

As a South African, I know nothing about Orcasio-Cortez.

However, the kind of hysterically totalitarian support which she is receiving from some supporters of the right wing of the Democratic Party on this thread does seem to suggest that she is viewed by many as a potential right winger.

This may be a mistaken perception on the part of the right wing, but it certainly seems worth considering and the original post does seem much more justified in consequence.

Incidentally, the Democratic Party right wing’s hostility to free discussion and debate and its savage loathing for any political position except its own narrow perspective — which is often quite absurd — must surely be a major obstacle to taking the Democratic Party seriously as a party standing for anything positive.

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SusanC 07.18.18 at 8:39 am

@eg:

” anti-imperialism” is a big political issue in countries that had an empire in the twentieth century (e.g. Britain) or countries that were part of someone elses’s empire.

You didn’t say where you were from: I guess anti-imperialism might not be such a big issue for the left in countries that don’t have an empire that is breaking up.

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Matt 07.18.18 at 8:57 am

a “prompt” is a reminder or hint. It is not by any stretch of the English language “a question”.

This is getting more than a bit silly and off-topic, but a “prompt” is quite regularly the name of a question on an exam, so this claim is pretty clearly wrong.

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RogerGathmann 07.18.18 at 9:45 am

She isn’t an academic, she’s a politician. And she is right that the two state solution, which I think is moribund, is the entering wedge into asking what the U.S. policy towards israel should be. Because the one state solution poses the immediate “problem” that Israel, as a democracy, would have a Palestinian majority, which would vote. Since Israel’s government does not want a single solution and does not want a Palestinian majority, you quickly come down to whether Israel has the right to apartheid or ethnic cleansing. And that is definitely not a question the pro-Israel faction want to be part of the “discourse”.
I think Ocasio-Cortez’s grasp of the practical politics of this matter is simply better than Robin’s, here. Although it is also politically a good thing to attack her from the left for this, to keep the issue moving.

65

J-D 07.18.18 at 10:28 am

Reflecting, it occurred to me that a good general rule for the foreign policy of any country would be not to attempt the unilateral imposition of a solution stipulated by that country to a problem somewhere else in the world. Applying that general rule to this particular case, it would seem to follow that the US shouldn’t attempt the unilateral imposition of its own stipulated solution on Israelis and Palestinians: the US shouldn’t be stipulating for a two-state solution, a single binational state, or any other kind of settlement.

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Another Nick 07.18.18 at 12:30 pm

Matt @ 63, thanks for the correction. You’re right, my claim was clearly wrong.

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Leo Casey 07.18.18 at 1:16 pm

mfb @ 61: I don’t know why I am so surprised about the obliviousness of academic ultra-leftism to its own contradictions (perhaps I place too much premium on graduate education), but this comment borders on the surreal. Talking about “hysterically totalitarian support” of AOC by the “right wing of the Democratic Party” at the same time that you are making common cause with fucking Joe Lieberman in attacking AOC over her position on Israel and Palestine is beyond belief.

J-D @ 65: Are you seriously suggesting that elected officials, who are involved in the making of American foreign policy after all, should have no position on what the US should do to advance Palestinian self-determination?

Corey Robin @ 36: It’s a tough world. When you decide that now is the appropriate time to launch an attack on AOC for support of a two state solution and give it the widest possible visibility you can, there will be objections. When you do so with a less than intellectually honest argument, it will be pointed out.

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WLGR 07.18.18 at 2:39 pm

Donald, let’s not beat around the bush, even the most liberal Zionist who talks about Israel’s “right to exist” knows full well that they’re talking about its right to exist as a settler-colonial ethnostate with de jure discrimination and carefully gerrymandered ethnic population transfers, based on the further racist premise that Palestinian Arabs are innately murderous barbarians who would hack Israel’s Jewish population to death with machetes as soon as they could smell even the slightest whiff of political power. They may not always like to talk about it in those terms if they’re European or American liberals (although the Zionist discourse on these topics within Israel itself is increasingly open about this, another fact that American and European liberal Zionists are generally loath to acknowledge) but on some level they’re fully aware that this is the ideological foundation they’re defending. The same way the United States is the country of Donald Trump and William Calley and Dylann Roof, Israel is the country of Bibi Netanyahu and Elor Azaria and Baruch Goldstein, and the smarmy concern-trolling equivocation of wishy-washy center-right liberals on threads like this is a gambit to avoid having to openly grapple with that reality.

Aside from that, the other bit of liberal concern trolling on this thread is the admonition against criticism of ostensibly left-leaning political figures from the left, and the pathologies there are obvious too. If liberalism’s goal is to defeat the right, clamping down on leftist dissension only points to a weakness much deeper than such a strategy could possibly counteract: a healthy political coalition could harness this energy to help it survive and thrive despite any incidental losses it might entail, for example the way Tea Party primary challengers costing the GOP a winnable race or two in 2010 didn’t prevent the Tea Party from still helping propel the GOP to broad electoral victory. Like a business in financial trouble trying to shore up its short-term balance sheets by skimping on employee payroll, this left-punching strategy might seem at first glance like a bid to broadcast an image of strength (“we’re a united front against the right!”) but it’s premised on first broadcasting an image of weakness (“we can’t afford even the slightest bit of internal criticism or else the right will destroy us!”) that completely undermines any possible gains from the desired image of strength, creates a not-unjustified impression of the person trying to broadcast this image as a disingenuous bullshitter, and only sabotages the cause even further in the meantime.

Of course this assumes that liberalism’s goal actually is to defeat the right, when a long tradition of leftist thought is fully aware that liberalism as a long-term political project is more concerned with threats from its left than from its right, but I’m trying to be at least a tiny bit charitable to the liberal members of the commentariat here.

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Sebastian H 07.18.18 at 6:52 pm

“Are you seriously suggesting that elected officials, who are involved in the making of American foreign policy after all, should have no position on what the US should do to advance Palestinian self-determination?”

Most officials elected to the House in the US Congress have very little to no influence in the making of American foreign policy after all. It would be perfectly appropriate for most of them to have no position on what the US should or should not do to advance or not advance Palestinian self-determination. And if they did have a position, it would be perfectly appropriate for them to have a position that a two state solution would be more likely to be workable than a Yugoslavia solution (even though neither are likely to work/be available any time in the near future) because setting up new Yugoslavias isn’t a ‘solution’ either.

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Simbawitz 07.18.18 at 6:52 pm

WLGR @68: by your standards, Palestine is the country of Yehiya Ayyash, Dalal Mughrabi, Samir Kuntar, and the Munich Massacre, a country whose leadership unvaryingly suppresses the rights of trade unionists, women, and LGBT people, where selling land to a Jew carries the death penalty, and where President Mahmoud Abbas got his PhD in proving the Holocaust never happened and says once Palestine reaches statehood it really will banish all the Jews, so I guess Palestine has no “right to exist” either?

A better phrase than “Israel has a right to exist” would be “Israel exists stably and talk about un-creating it is stupid, so make a deal.” As noted above, Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein don’t support the 2SS because they’re Zionists. They just recognize that Israel will never vote itself out of existence and that no other proposed mechanism for regime change – including BDS – could possibly help Palestinians more than it could hurt them.

And no, Israel is not boycottable to democracy like Apartheid South Africa the way BDSers promise, any more than Iraq was bombable to democracy like Nazi Germany the way all the neocons promised. Israel is thoroughly enmeshed in the world economy in a way South Africa never was. Turkey and Jordan and China and India and the Pacific Rim states aren’t major trade partners with Israel because they’re Zionists; they just value what Israel can give them more than they value abstractions about Palestinians.

None of this is relevant to AOC’s Congressional district – assuming she even wins! Should we have someone bang on her office door and demand that she become a vegan too before she is worthy of support?

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Donald 07.18.18 at 7:03 pm

I agree with Corey’s post. I also am very enthusiastic about AOC though I was barel aware of her until recently, but her response in that interview was weak and she acknowledges it herself when she says she is no expert on the subject. It was disappointing to though of us who knew about her tweet on Gaza and thought she knew more about it than she apparently does. I am still enthusiastic about her and what she represents.

I think some of the reaction to Corey’s post here is part of a dynamic that in this blog started in 2016 but on a larger scale began with the Nader campaign in 2000. Back then the argument was that Nader should have run in the Demicratic primaries, made his case on his issues, hopefully moving the party leftwards and then supporting the Democratic nominee because third party candidates simply draw voters from the candidate with a chance of winning. That makes sense. Of course it was always put in the most ferocious damn you to hell where you will spend an eternity next to Hitler if you don’t agree terms, but the logic made sense. But the argument has steadily morphed into the current version, where any criticism no matter how constructively meant is evidence that you are trying to undermine the Democratic Party and are therefore evil and will spend eternity in hell in a cage next to Hitler.

I exaggerate a bit. But I had essentially the same reaction as Corey to AOC’s interview and suspect many others did as well. I thought Corey did a fine job explaining why.

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Orange Watch 07.18.18 at 8:33 pm

Matt@63:
This is getting more than a bit silly and off-topic, but a “prompt” is quite regularly the name of a question on an exam, so this claim is pretty clearly wrong.

I completely agree with this (and this will be my last comment in re: this sidetrack). However, in that context, the prompt is not strictly one sentence ending in a question mark. It’s the whole statement, which is showing the scope and aspects of the matter that the examiner wishes to influence and shape the response given in your answer. This is why FN’s tactical pedantry is so mendacious; they’re attempting to artificially divide the prompt into “waffle” (not preamble, not preface, not context; waffle) and “question”, and claim they’re discrete entities WRT the concept of a prompt. In addition to being a strawman, it’s ridiculously and irrelevantly pedantic, but it’s been presented as dramatically significant.

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WLGR 07.18.18 at 8:39 pm

Donald, you may be right that the current round of monotonous anti-left tirades from US liberals is mostly just warmed-over table scraps from the original meal served in the wake of Nader’s “spoiler” in 2000. I’m too young to have any real personal recollection of which other banal grudges from previous election cycles might be contributing to the mix, but what I can say is that the whole line of anti-spoiler reasoning is silly on a very basic game-theory level. A losing primary campaign from the left would give centrist Democrats no incentive whatsoever to “move the party leftwards” if they can rest assured that the left will only ever surrender and endorse the centrist Democrat in the end, so the only way they’ll face any pressure to move left is if they’re genuinely afraid of the risk of a “spoiler” like Nader, and the only way to make them afraid of that threat is to give them reason to believe you might actually go through with it.

Indeed, I suspect centrist Democrats’ fear of such a strategy successfully forcing them to the left could be exactly what prompted such an astonishingly out-of-proportion ideological demonization frenzy against Nader in the first place: if you can’t beat ’em, convince ’em (and everybody else) that their potentially effective strategy is literally Satan incarnate.

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J-D 07.18.18 at 9:36 pm

Leo Casey
Here is some text from my comment:

the US shouldn’t attempt the unilateral imposition of its own stipulated solution on Israelis and Palestinians: the US shouldn’t be stipulating for a two-state solution, a single binational state, or any other kind of settlement

and here is some text from your comment querying mine:

elected officials, who are involved in the making of American foreign policy after all, should have no position on what the US should do to advance Palestinian self-determination

These two statements are not equivalent (you can let me know if you do not understand how they are different). So the answer to your question is ‘No, I am not making the suggestion that you are querying’.

Also, for greater clarity, sinceSebastian H has responded to your response to me, the two positions described by Sebastian H, namely

It would be perfectly appropriate for most of them to have no position on what the US should or should not do to advance or not advance Palestinian self-determination. And if they did have a position, it would be perfectly appropriate for them to have a position that a two state solution would be more likely to be workable than a Yugoslavia solution (even though neither are likely to work/be available any time in the near future) because setting up new Yugoslavias isn’t a ‘solution’ either.

are also not equivalent to my position.

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mpowell 07.18.18 at 10:08 pm

faustusnotes, I think you are right that Corey’s reading of AOC’s response to the interviewer’s question was uncharitable. Where I disagree with you and David Littleboy is whether this amounts to stabbing AOC in the back. It really depends on the other things Corey has said elsewhere on the topic, but I think what we’re observing here is people on the left being gun shy about reasonable criticism of the point of view of the political leader (I don’t even think this rose to the level of criticism of AOC personally). And being gun shy makes sense because the left has a terrible history of taking criticism and turning it into pouting, name-calling, withdrawing support, etc and etc! And it certainly sounds as if some people are doing exactly that with AOC on this question. What a shame and disgrace! But I don’t see Corey doing that here.

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J-D 07.18.18 at 10:26 pm

RogerGathmann

Because the one state solution poses the immediate “problem” that Israel, as a democracy, would have a Palestinian majority, which would vote.

According to the recent figures I found on Wikipedia (exerting myself no further), there are about 6.6m Israeli Jews and a total of about 5.8m Arabs in Israel and the territories. So I’m curious to know what figures you’re using.

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OldJim 07.18.18 at 11:36 pm

Alternate-reality OP:
‘”MH: You, in the campaign, made one tweet, or made one statement, that referred to the controversial policing, and subsequent deaths, of strikers at exploitation-corp warehouses and called it a “massacre,” which became a little bit controversial. But I haven’t seen anywhere — what is your position on exploitation-corp?

AOC: Well, I believe absolutely in exploitation-corp’s right to exist. I am a proponent of a solution which satisfies both managers and worker representatives. And for me, it’s not — this is not a referendum, I think, on the legality of exploitation-corp. For me, the lens through which I saw this incident, as an activist, as an organizer, if sixty people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, if sixty people were killed in the South Bronx — unarmed — if sixty people were killed in Puerto Rico — I just looked at that incident more through . . . through just, as an incident, and to me, it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened to political protesters. But I am —

MH: Of course the dynamic there in terms of property rights —

AOC: Of course.

MH: And employment relations is very different than people expressing their First Amendment right to protest.

AOC: Well, yes. But I also think that what people are starting to see at least in the systematic exploitation of workers is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition, and that to me is just where I tend to come from on this issue.

MH: You use the term “the systematic exploitation of workers”? What did you mean by that?

AOC: Oh, um [pause] I think it, what I meant is the length of shifts that they are increasingly expected to work in some of these places and incidents where workers are experiencing difficulty in maintaining work-life balance.

MH: Do you think you can expand on that?

AOC: Yeah, I mean, I think I’d also just [waves hands and laughs] I am not the expert on economics on this issue. You know, for me, I’m a firm believer in finding a solution that satisfies both present managers and worker representatives on this issue, and I’m happy to sit down with leaders on both of these. For me, I just look at things through a human rights lens, and I may not use the right words [laughs] I know this is a very intense issue.

MH: That’s very honest, that’s very honest. It’s very honest, and when, you, you know, get to Washington and you’re an elected member of Congress you’ll have the opportunity to talk to people on all sides and visit exploitation-corp headquarters and the unions and —

AOC: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that that’s one of those things that’s important too is that, you know, especially with the district that I represent — I come from the South Bronx, I come from a Puerto Rican background, and worker relations was not exactly at my kitchen table every night. But, I also recognize that this is an intensely important issue for people in my district, for Americans across the country, and I think what’s at least important to communicate is that I’m willing to listen and that I’m willing to learn and evolve on this issue like I think many Americans are.”

Let’s be clear. This is not good. Prompted about her use of the word “massacre,” Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t stay with the experience of the workers. Instead, she goes immediately to an affirmation of exploitation-corp’s right to exist, as if manager ownership were the first order of concern, and that affirming that right is the necessary ticket to saying anything about workers. Asked about her use of the phrase “systematic exploitation of workers,” Ocasio-Cortez wanders into a thicket of abstractions about work-life balance and “the length of shifts that they are increasingly expected to work in some of these places.” She apologizes for not being an expert on a major worker-relations issue. She proffers liberal platitudes about a mutually satisfactory solution that everyone knows are just words and clichés designed to defer any genuine reckoning with the situation at hand, with no concrete discussion of anything the US government could or should do to intervene.
[….]
There are some of us, many of us, who care deeply about the exploitation-corp/worker relations issue from an anticapitalist perspective and who are also realistic about US electoral politics. We’re not naïfs who think that the politicians we support are going to come out right away, or right now, in support of radical non-hierarchical worker self-government, which is the position we hold with regard to the warehouses. We also realize that the Left that is beginning to think about electoral politics is young (not in terms of age but political experience), and it will take us all some time to figure out how to advance our positions in a way that will win support and translate that support into policy.
[…]
Not only does Ocasio-Cortez have to have a position, but to be a credible leftist voice in Congress, she has to have a leftist position on this issue. Now, before everyone concludes that means she has to call for radical non-hierarchical worker self-government, there are many ways to talk left about exploitation-corp that are considerably better than the current liberal pabulum and that do not require an elected official to commit political suicide.

There is the human rights vernacular that Ocasio-Cortes herself alludes to (a particularly popular approach, as sociologist Ran Greenstein pointed out in the discussion on my Facebook wall). There is the language of the efficiency of a healthy, happy, unstressed workforce, which people like Nathan Thrall have pushed. And other ways still.

Ocasio-Cortez could talk about conditioning new government contracts on worker rights improvements. She could talk about limiting exploitation-corp’s access to the state’s police training programs and facilities. George H. W. Bush, after all, withheld government contracts to exploitation-corp because of their reduction of wages below subsistence levels and extension of ever-longer shifts — not a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but here in the US, in the early 1990s. All of these claims are well to the left of any current political discourse in Congress and would force the debate forward and would be productively polarizing. And maybe propel Ocasio-Cortez to even more of a leadership position on the Left.

This is not just about the warehouses. This is about US employment-relations policy as a whole. It used to be that US employment-relations policy was the Left’s strong suit. Back in the 1970s, when it seemed as if the Left’s confidence in its state-ownership policies and positions was flagging, its critiques of US management structures, government contracts, and the national worker-repressive state were in ascendancy. Some of these positions even made it into the left wing of the Democratic Party. Since then, the Left has gotten very weak on this stuff. Not in terms of its moralism on corporate policy, or the antipoverty rallies it will show up at, but in terms of being able to advance a position that would begin to command national assent, form public opinion, and then be translated into policy.

This is a problem: it should be the easiest thing in the world right now, for example, to go after runaway, inefficient, state-aid programs to bloated hierarchical corporations. Yet there’s hardly a credible or potent left voice that is pushing that agenda, much less getting a hearing within even progressive circles of the Democratic Party. Indeed, in this age of alleged partisan polarization, authorizations of massive increases in spending for crony capitalism and hierarchical corporations pass both houses of Congress with hefty Democratic majorities — with scarcely anyone noticing, much less protesting.

So, again, this isn’t about the warehouses only. Or I should say, the warehouses are the proverbial canary in a coal mine. From the warehouses you get into the question of the rights of subaltern workers as a whole, which leads to US labour policy as a whole, and issues of budgets, spending, legality, monopoly, and all the rest. All the more reason for Ocasio-Cortez to get up to speed on it.

Like it or not, Ocasio-Cortez has been elevated to a national position of leadership and visibility on the Left. If she wins in the general election, as everyone believes she will, every single thing she says and does will be watched and scrutinized. It simply will not do to say, oh, she’s only twenty-eight, oh, the media is so nasty, oh, let’s not have circular firing squads.’

I leave this alternate-reality’s equivalents of posts 21, 29, 31, 50, 52, 54 et al., and especially 44, as an exercise for the reader.

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Faustusnotes 07.19.18 at 12:29 am

First of all Orange watch, I called it preamble to the question (I also called it waffle, because I was giving a general statement about how questions are phrased). Secondly, now that you have finally recognised that in fact a question is a prompt, perhaps you can walk back from all the waffle you have wasted defending robins interpretation of the structure of the question and it’s answer,and explain again how he is not treating the question in bad faith? He accused me of reading his response in bad faith but now we have – finally – agreed that she was asked a direct question and answered it, perhaps you could explain why this provides us an insight into how disappointing her left wing credentials are, rather than just a mark of bad interview practise.

Do you, for example, now agree (ha ing got the bullshit about prompt out of the way) that she does what I said she does? She a) answers a direct question b) dismisses its relevance and C) forces the interview back to the experience of the Palestinians, by relating it to the world in which the viewer lives.

Please explain to me how this is a bad response.

This isn’t about people being gun shy of criticism of politicians from the left. It’s about people being sick and tired of a certain brand of academic us ultra leftism that fiddles while the world burns. It’s about being sick and tired of people who are ostensibly left who have nothing better to do with themselves than engage in bad faith readings of politicians words and attacking them publicly for crimes they haven’t even committed as part of a process of extreme purity policing that serves no purpose except to suppress voter turnout and reduce the willingness of voters to engage. It’s about spending a whole fucking comment thread having to explain to supposed academics about how questions work and basic words in the English language so that I can pierce their veil of lies and get to the point. It’s about obfuscation in the service of destroying a left wing movement that, though it is possibly weak and lazy and has shit policies compared to even conservative politics in other countries is the only left wing movement that the rest of the world is depending on. It’s about watching academic ultra leftists tearing down a politician who is far far to the left of the average democrat, after they just welcomed her with open arms, in what looks pretty blatantly like petty treachery. If you wonder why democrat politicians don’t care to listen to your politics, look at this post for your answer – because even when they do you’ll piss on them at the first chance you get, chuck your toys from the pram, and fuck everything up. You need to grow up, shoulder your responsibilities to the whole world, and act like people who want to win, not stay trapped whining in the wilderness about why oh why don’t the people we piss on at the first chance we get accommodate our policy preferences? Jesus h Christ …

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Sebastian H 07.19.18 at 1:14 am

It is fine to criticize politicians from the left, or wherever you think is correct.

In this particular case the criticism is a bit weak because
1) most House members don’t need to have a position on Palestine;
2) her position on Palestine isn’t particularly wrong;
3) her answer definitely wasn’t wrong in the way that Corey talks about, as she didn’t erase the Palestinians or center on Israel, she deftly turned around the question about Israel into a much better question about a bunch of other things.

And that is without even getting to the substantive question of whether a single binational state is any more realistic than a two state solution. (Will gay people be allowed in this new Muslim state? Will it have the freedom of speech of say Egypt (or Iran? Will it kick out Jews if the majority doesn’t like them enough?))

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LFC 07.19.18 at 1:41 am

@J-D

It’s about demographic trends and future projections. So while R. Gathmann prob should not have used the word “immediately,” his basic point about the demographics is correct (and not, I think, controversial or much disputed).

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LFC 07.19.18 at 1:57 am

eg @45

Re your question about the left/right alignment in the U.S. on this issue: The U.S. ‘right’ tends to be (there are exceptions) uncritically supportive of Israeli govt policy, esp if someone like Netanyahu is in office, while the U.S. ‘left’ has a range of views, but all wd be critical of Israeli govt policy w.r.t. the W Bank and Gaza. But most elected legislators at the natl level, even if they’re not right-wing on most issues, tend to be strong supporters of Israeli govt policy or at least not vocal critics, and they vote approx $3 billion in (mostly) military aid to Israel annually. The Trump admin, having moved the US embassy and withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, is definitely on the Right on these issues.

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Joseph Brenner 07.19.18 at 2:08 am

J-D@76:

RogerGathmann:

Because the one state solution poses the immediate “problem” that Israel, as a democracy, would have a Palestinian majority, which would vote.

According to the recent figures I found on Wikipedia (exerting myself no further), there are about 6.6m Israeli Jews and a total of about 5.8m Arabs in Israel and the territories. So I’m curious to know what figures you’re using.

You could start with this: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/7/15/1779880/-The-map-that-shocked-Obama

I haven’t looked at what’s up on wikipedia, but in general it’s a pretty unreliable source on any subject that gets near politics, particularly when there are well-funded, energetic factions intent on subversion.

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eg 07.19.18 at 3:02 am

to SusanC @62

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I am Canadian. In my experience, foreign policy questions of the sort generating so much controversy in this thread aren’t a feature of the mainstream Canadian political narratives — certainly not for candidates upon first winning the party nomination in a Federal riding. Perhaps for party leaders, but even then the Israel/Palestine issue has not generally featured prominently here.

Thank you also for providing the more general category of anti-imperialism, which might otherwise not have come top of mind in my thinking about Israel/Palestine.

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Donald 07.19.18 at 4:42 am

Wlgr—

I have thought in similar terms about game theory and I agree that the motivation of centrist Democrats is to destroy any possibility of a left alternative. But imo some genuine lefties also despise third party types for various reasons. That complicates things. It means that pressure from a third party can backfire. People don’t just hate the third party. They hate the issue or issues that might motivate support for a third party. They go looking for reasons to discredit your stance on that issue or if not, they will say you are a purity pony who doesn’t care about the people who would do better under even a centrist Democrat than under a Republican. You start out trying to bring attention to the people we help murder in Gaza or Yemen or to other issues, but if you support a third party that is all they care about and they will not listen to a word you say.

So I too reject third parties for the foreseeable future because I have seen this reaction to Nader and how it has expanded to include practically any critique of a Democrat. Whatever one thinks of this reaction, and I think much of it is stupid, it means that third parties are hopeless precisely because so many hate them so much. It swallows up discussions of issues. Every freaking discussion becomes tribal. So I end up saying yes, vote for the Democrat come November, but run progressive candidates in the primaries and as both Sanders and AOC did, don’t hesitate to criticize the centrist Democrats. And if your own candidate is wrong on an issue, say so. So you acknowledge the logic of voting for the lesser evil, but you don’t give in to the people who demand that you shut up about an issue because in their minds any criticism is destructive. Their initial valid point about the necessity of voting for the lesser evil turns into a demand that you never say anything critical of a Democrat and that is where you draw the line.

This is all very banal, of course. But it is where I have ended up.

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nastywoman 07.19.18 at 6:33 am

@77
”Alternate-reality OP”

That might be ”the problem”? – as where did this come from:
AOC: Well, I believe absolutely in exploitation-corp’s right to exist.

No she doesn’t – and she never will – and anybody who tries to construct such a a silly ”Alternate-reality” should… should be called ”Greenwald”?
-(and I’m kind of curious if this comment makes it through?) –

perhaps with the conclusion that AOC is really and truly ”cool”?

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J-D 07.19.18 at 9:56 am

LFC

The figures may be as uncontroversial and undisputed as you suggest, but I’d still like to see it for myself. I hope that doesn’t seem an unreasonable level of curiosity.

Joseph Brenner

What I find in the source you link to is a number for Jewish population a bit lower than the one I found in Wikipedia, and a number for non-Jewish population substantially higher than the one I found for Arab population in Wikipedia; but ‘non-Jewish’ and ‘Arab’ are not synonymous. So I’m curious to know whether, when RogerGathmann referred to a Palestinian majority, what was meant was a non-Jewish majority.

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J-D 07.19.18 at 10:02 am

Faustusnotes

It’s about spending a whole fucking comment thread having to explain to supposed academics about how questions work and basic words in the English language so that I can pierce their veil of lies and get to the point.

Corey Robin suggested that it would have been better if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had made some reference to conditioning aid on human rights improvements and/or to cutting military funding to Israel; that it would have improved the quality of her answer if she’d done something like that. So if you want to come to grips with the point, you could explain your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing (as the case may be) with that assessment.

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faustusnotes 07.19.18 at 1:26 pm

J-D, it would improve the quality of all your answers if you said exactly what I want you to say every time you answered any question anyone asked you. Funnily enough, sometimes you don’t. I guess that makes you a monster, right?

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Sebastian H 07.19.18 at 2:42 pm

“So I’m curious to know whether, when RogerGathmann referred to a Palestinian majority, what was meant was a non-Jewish majority.”

It’s because you’re only counting the currently resident population while one of the top demands that negotiations have always broken down on is the “right of return” which includes an additional 4 million people. Now it may well be that not every single one of those people would return. But that is where the instant and clear majority figures come from.

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roger gathmann 07.19.18 at 2:44 pm

I didn’t think there was much controversy about the demographics of Palestine. Here’s an article about the number of non-Jews in the occupied territories and Gaza versus Jews. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-palestinians-demographics/population-parity-in-historic-palestine-raises-hard-questions-for-israel-idUSKCN0RA1VR20150910

And here’s an article by Jonathan Cook about counting. There are, according to Cook, about 1 million Israelis living in the U.S. And the question of who is a “Jew” under Netanyahu is becoming politicized in a ridiculous race to find more Jews where there aren’t any. https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/israel-is-getting-creative-at-countering-its-demographic-disadvantage-but-it-may-be-too-little-too-late-1.624680. In any case, even if there were some 500,000 less non-Jews in Israel than Jews, we are still talking about an almost even split, with the one half being denied any civil rights or right to vote. Which is apartheid. This is what Netanyahu has to embrace, if he wants both a Greater Israel and a Jewish state. Unless of course he expels the non-Jews, or kills them all. His education minister, Naftali Bennett, has already drawn up a plan for bantustans for the Palestinians as the entire West Bank is annexed. I think Bennett’s plan will become official Israeli policy in the near future.

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Joseph Brenner 07.19.18 at 3:19 pm

J-D@87 wrote:

Corey Robin suggested that it would have been better if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had made some reference to conditioning aid on human rights improvements and/or to cutting military funding to Israel […] you could explain your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing (as the case may be) with that assessment.

It’s true that Corey Robin said this, but it was buried pretty deep– you have to read pretty closely to figure out what it was Ocasio-Cortez was supposed to say.

Faustusnotes has a point that Corey Robin’s initial move looks like a misread of what she did say– I gather Corey Robin was set off by the phrase “Israel has a right to exist” plus using the phrase “two-state solution”– it’s “platitudinous”, etc. (He’s claiming to be expert in presenting the Israel/Palestine issue to non-leftists but isn’t doing a great job of presenting it to leftists).

I think the main point faustusnotes was trying to make keeps getting lost in grandstanding and ranting that borders on personal attacks– when you accuse someone of circular firing squad syndrome the odds are good you’ve succumbed to it yourself.

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LFC 07.19.18 at 3:58 pm

Joseph Brenner @91

It’s true that Corey Robin said this, but it was buried pretty deep– you have to read pretty closely to figure out what it was Ocasio-Cortez was supposed to say.

No, you don’t have to read “pretty closely,” you just have to read the entire post. That’s what I did — read the whole post once, quickly — and I noted CRobin’s suggestions re what she might say in my first comment in this thread.

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Leo Casey 07.19.18 at 4:11 pm

While we debate about whether someone who will be among the most progressive voices in Congress on questions of Israel and Palestine is good enough, the Netanyahu government passes an omnibus bill that strikes at the essence of democracy, pluralism, minority rights in Israel. Classic inability of marginal left to understand where the real fight lies while it consumes itself in purity tests. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/world/middleeast/israel-law-jews-arabic.html

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WLGR 07.19.18 at 5:12 pm

Donald, I’m much more pessimistic about the possibility of trying to convince these lesser-evilist liberals on their own short-sighted terms, since those terms are perfectly designed to make them unconvinceable. The crux of their reasoning is that anything that might in any way damage the chances of even the most odious possible Democrat in any election campaign against a farther-right candidate is prima facie unacceptable. If you accept this reasoning, you’ve already acknowledged that the evil of running a third-party spoiler candidacy from the left is just a slippery slope away from the evil of stating “Hillary Clinton isn’t literally the second coming of Jesus Christ” in casual conversation on October 2016, in that case without any overriding threat to make the lesser evil anything but still evil.

No, any coherent defense of criticizing centrist Democrats from the left will have to defend running the risk of sacrificing individual electoral races to a more right-wing candidate for the sake of a broader political strategy, much like any coherent account of the prisoner’s dilemma will have to defend running the risk of the other prisoner’s betrayal. Therefore you’ll inevitably be defending an openness at least in theory to tactics like vote-splitting or abstention, and anybody who’s fully bought into the lesser-evil fairy tale (which at least has the virtue of internal consistency within its own narrow confines, much like the narrow internal consistency of automatically selling out the other prisoner every single time) will be able to discern that in an instant. As long as that’s the case, trying to weasel out of those implications would only make you look like a bullshitter and wouldn’t actually help convince them of anything, so you might as well just say what you really mean.

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WLGR 07.19.18 at 5:45 pm

Roger, of course another inherent premise of Israel’s demographic calculus is to categorically deny any right of return whatsoever to Palestinian refugees from 1967/1948 or their descendants, whose return en masse would render the possibility of a Jewish majority in Greater Israel entirely moot. Given that many of these refugees’ homes prior to ethnic cleansing were within the 1967 or even the 1948 boundaries of Jewish Israel, a 2SS would have to formally sanction Soviet-style mass ethnic population transfers in the Israeli interest in order to make the ethnic gerrymandering feasible, which by any reasonable standard is already a far greater concession by the Palestinians than completely abandoning every single settlement outside the Green Line (including the massive ring of SoCal-style suburban ReMax hellscape tracts all around Jerusalem) would be by Israel.

Of course one could also propose a 2SS with no right of return for Palestinian refugees, but in that case you’d already be talking about retaining Israeli control over Palestinian sovereign immigration and border policy, so you wouldn’t actually be talking about a “two-state” solution any more than Indian reservations or bantustans were a two-state solution for the US or South Africa. And since even that much is at least as far if not much farther than even the most liberal 2SS-supporting Israeli Zionists are willing to countenance (and leaps and bounds more radical than the median consensus opinion among Israel’s Jewish population today, mind you) then those of us who unconditionally support basic human dignity for all people might as well stop beating around the goddamn bush and drop the entire two-state charade already.

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Bob 07.19.18 at 9:59 pm

It is news to me that the goal of BDS is the single state solution. I thought the goal was to pressure Israel into negotiating a two-state solution. Or has the single state solution been bolted on, after the fact, as intellectual cover for the demand for an unlimited right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, which would lead, de facto, to a single state solution?

I recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it Chomsky’s article on BDS in The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/israel-palestine-and-bds/. He talks a lot of sense.

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J-D 07.19.18 at 10:26 pm

roger gathmannI wrote, twice, that I was curious to see your figures. Now you’ve shown them to me. So thank you!

Incidentally, showing the figures makes it clear that you were not taking into account the point raised by Sebastian H, so the clarification is not just to my benefit.

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J-D 07.19.18 at 11:04 pm

faustusnotes

J-D, it would improve the quality of all your answers if you said exactly what I want you to say every time you answered any question anyone asked you. Funnily enough, sometimes you don’t. I guess that makes you a monster, right?

No, but it could make me somebody who holds a position which differs from the one you consider preferable, and if so I can’t think of a good reason why you shouldn’t say so. Likewise, if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez holds, or expresses, a position which is different from the one Corey Robin considers preferable, I can’t think of a good reason why Corey Robin shouldn’t say so.

In this instance, Corey Robin evidently considers it would be a good thing if the US conditioned aid to Israel on human rights improvements and/or cut military funding to Israel, or at least considered these options, and evidently further considers that it would be a good thing if US politicians raised these possibilities publicly. Either Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wouldn’t agree with these positions or else she would agree but didn’t choose to mention them when interviewed. I can’t think of a good reason why Corey Robin shouldn’t draw attention to this. If that is the point that Corey Robin wanted to draw attention to, I tend to agree with Joseph Brenner that the job could have been better done.

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Faustusnotes 07.20.18 at 12:00 am

No Joseph, my point isn’t getting lost in grandstanding, it got lost in 50 comments of the Putin friendly left trying to redefine the meaning of the word “prompt”. My point was made very directly and clearly, backed up with practical examples.

And I am not grandstanding,I’m angry and I’m berating the people who think this kind of behaviour is cool. For the past 18 months I’ve sat through untold hours of hectoring on here about how the Dems are no better than the repubs,that they need reform,Bernie was betrayed by big donors, the party is as bad on foreign policy as the GOP, Hilary was the real militarist etc. Well love and behold, you get a genuinely left wing (even,almost, by international standards!) candidate and within a week of her ascension to national fame those same people are attacking her for being not left enough, on obviously spurious grounds.

Right now your country faces a real national crisis. You need to have all hands on deck. But it appears that a large slice of the left thinks you can better help the Palestinians or fix the global environment by being a pure,powerless party of opposition. This attitude makes me angry, and I’m happy to say so.

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eg 07.20.18 at 3:12 am

LFC @81

Thank you for providing further clarification. It would appear that the issue serves as a signalling device between “Team Pepsi” and “Team Coke”

It also becomes apparent that Israel/Palestine is special in this regard in ways that other American foreign relations issues are not — presumably this is why the question is asked of her rather than, say, her position on a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

I will have to think about the reasons for its particular salience in American domestic electoral politics.

Thanks again

101

Corey Robin 07.20.18 at 5:55 am

Meanwhile, back on planet earth, where deft politicians like Ocasio-Cortez actually know how to deal with missteps and controversies, we have the following exchange on Democracy Now, which followed the discussion that was precipitated by posts like mine (and others):

AMY GOODMAN: “Are you still for a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine?”

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: “Well, you know, I think this is a conversation that I’m engaging with, with activists right now, because this is a huge—you know, especially over this weekend. And this is a conversation that I’m sitting down with lots of activists in this movement on. And I’m looking forward to engaging in this conversation.”

A perfectly reasonable response, which I anticipated in my OP, and which shows that she heard the concern voiced by me and others (particularly in DSA which had done so much groundwork for her). Beyond what she says here, I know personally that both she and her campaign have reached out to many people, she’s engaging in discussions with activists and experts outside the Beltway Consensus, and as I said in my OP, I have every confidence she’ll come to a position on this issue that won’t be my preferred position but will be both much better than the current Democratic Party consensus and that will be politically viable—and better than what she said on Democracy Now, which she and her campaign have made very clear, in personal communications, was less than optimal.

So all is well in the real world. I’ll leave the CT commenters to continue their debate over how this post was an epic disaster that threatened the entire future of the Democratic Party, progressive values, and the republic itself.

https://www.democracynow.org/live/watch_alexandria_ocasio_cortez_ada_colau

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Corey Robin 07.20.18 at 6:03 am

Oh, and while I have everyone’s attention about the well-being of leftist candidates in the Democratic Party, here are two candidates I’ve been backing, either with money, or door-knocking, or both. Since I’ve now learned that all of you care so much about the success of these left-wing candidates, I thought you might want to help out in any way you can.

One candidate is Jahana Hayes, who is running for Congress in Connecticut. She’s a teacher, fighting a machine candidate, supports single-payer, and if elected, would be the only black member of the Connecticut congressional delegation. She has the backing of some solid union folk. You can get plugged in here:

https://www.jahanahayes.com/

The other candidate is Julia Salazar, who is running for State Senate in New York. Like Ocasio-Cortez, a member of DSA. She’s emphasizing housing and funding for CUNY, which is of special concern to me, and also wants to repeal the anti-strike provisions of the Taylor Law. Here’s her website.

https://salazarforsenate.com/

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Joseph Brenner 07.20.18 at 7:14 am

eg@100:

It would appear that the issue serves as a signalling device between “Team Pepsi” and “Team Coke”

Much like everything else.

I will have to think about the reasons for its particular salience in American domestic electoral politics.

The US government funds a large amountof Israel’s military, and likes to regard Israel as one of the its main allies in the middle-east (how Israel regards itself often seems to differ).

So, this isn’t just another story of some remote country behaving badly: we pay them to do this.

Also, for several decades, Israel and it’s sympathizers have managed to distort the discussion of these issues in the United States. This has been true even (perhaps especially) in liberal/left circles: looking at the issue from the Palestinian side was essentially forbidden in places like the _New York Review of Books_, let alone the _New York Times_. Some of the heat you see is a “won’t get fooled again” backlash against that manipulation.

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Joseph Brenner 07.20.18 at 7:15 am

roger gathmann@90:

In any case, even if there were some 500,000 less non-Jews in Israel than Jews, we are still talking about an almost even split, with the one half being denied any civil rights or right to vote. Which is apartheid.

They’re abandoning any pretense that it isn’t an apartheid state:

Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation-state’ law

The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, makes Hebrew the country’s national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

[…]

It stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”. It also states that an undivided Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
r

105

TM 07.20.18 at 7:36 am

“Ocasio-Cortez could talk about conditioning aid on human rights improvements. She could talk about cutting military funding to Israel.”

Yes: she could talk about it. It would be a good thing if she, and others, talked about it. It might also be a good thing if Corey had made that excellent point clearer and more prominently instead of two thirds into a 2300 word piece. LFC is free to disagree but if you are a skilled writer criticizing a politician for not getting her points across clearly in a TV interview, maybe you shouldn’t be surprised if you get criticized for not getting your points across clearly in a 2300 word blog post. If several people apparently get your message wrong, sure it could be that they all can’t read properly or are arguing in bad faith but, maybe, the problem is that your message wasn’t stated clearly enough? And maybe the more constructive response would be to take the criticism seriously (as I hope AOC takes the criticism seriously) rather than dismissing it unjustifiably as “personal attacks”?

106

Joseph Brenner 07.20.18 at 7:44 am

Bob@100:

It is news to me that the goal of BDS is the single state solution.

My take is evidently a little unusual: it barely matters what the stated aims are because the movement isn’t going to achieve them. The point of calling for boycotts and divestment isn’t even necessarily to achieve boycotts and divestments, it’s a matter of attracting attention to the issues and pulling the discussion over in something like the right direction.

I recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it Chomsky’s article on BDS in The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/israel-palestine-and-bds/.

Yes, that’s a good article in a lot of ways, though his objections to the BDS movement strike me as a little fussy, a little too focused on the details of what they were literally asking for. Yeah, okay, they called for the right of return, Chomsky is skeptical that’s ever going to happen– but that’s not actually a good reason not to ask for it. Putting in some extreme demands that you don’t expect to get gives you something to negotiate away…

Chomsky argues:

Failed initiatives harm the victims doubly– by shifting attention from their plight to irrelevant issues (anti-Semitism at Harvard, academic freedom, etc.), and by wasting current opportunities to do something meaningful. …
Concern for the victims dictates that in assessing tactics, we should be scrupulous in recognizing what has succeeded or failed, and why.

I would argue that realistically estimating the likely costs and benefits of an approach is a near impossibility- and we have no way of getting everyone to rally around the one true strategy, presuming we knew what it is– we don’t really have much choice expect to pursue multiple different paths at once, and hope that one of them might get there.

Chomsky’s argument that the current state of the Israel/Palestine debate differs from the debate on South African apartheid is certainly interesting, but I’m not persuaded that the differences are critical difference that will shoot down the BDS movement.

107

Jwl 07.20.18 at 10:39 am

WLGR,

Most of the 2SS plans I have seen do include a right of return for refugees. The right of return would be to the state of Palestine. That is upsetting to many hardliners on the issue, but has been openly discussed by the leadership, including Mahmoud Abbas, who said he has “no need to return to Safed”. I also don’t see any mention of Israel controlling a Palestinian border policy or immigration there. Where are you getting that from?

108

casmilus 07.20.18 at 11:21 am

@100

“It also becomes apparent that Israel/Palestine is special in this regard in ways that other American foreign relations issues are not — presumably this is why the question is asked of her rather than, say, her position on a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland post-Brexit.”

I would have thought that issue would also be significant to a chunk of voters in New York, and also Boston. Or have those days passed away?

109

LFC 07.20.18 at 1:12 pm

I don’t see any Israeli govt ever agreeing to a single ‘binational’ state encompassing the current territory of Israel proper plus the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (The law that just passed, referred to a couple of times here already, only underscores this.) I think US pressure on Israel, if a US admin ever got the courage to exercise it, could nudge it toward a two SS, but I doubt any amount of pressure could move it to accept a single state outcome.

So the only options, afaict, are (1) a two state
solution of some kind or (2) endless conflict.

That’s not to suggest that AOC shd say what I just said. What she should say is, I think, a separate question.

110

Bob 07.20.18 at 3:10 pm

As I said earlier, I did not realize that the two state solution is no longer cool and not on the BDS agenda. If that is the case, then BDS is little more than a resource-wasting, quixotic gesture, a non-violent counterpart to the tunnels Hamas is building under the Gaza/Israel fence. It is not about achieving the kinds of meaningful, realizable ends that Chomsky is talking about.

The single state is a non-starter for the vast majority of Israelis and non-Israelis across the political spectrum. As someone else on this thread pointed out, it would be like trying to put the old Yugoslavia back together today. How stable would that be? You would also be forcing today’s Israeli citizens to live by very different political and cultural standards. Is there any actually existing example Arab governance that any progressive person would want to live under? Today’s America is an anarcho-syndicalist utopia by comparison. (It’s not their fault, and certainly not in their genes. It is just bad luck, including the bad luck of colonization. But that doesn’t make those societies any better places to live.)

There is too much at stake at home for progressive politicians like Ocasio-Cortez to squander political capital on a toxic policy like the single state solution and BDS, which I now understand has the single state solution as its goal. Yes, I understand, Corey is realistic and is not asking O-C to openly espouse the single state solution. But he is asking her to espouse measures that would move the discussion toward that goal. This is a poison chalice. This is not like wanting single payer but deciding, as a matter of tactics, to take baby steps toward it. In that case you are up front about your ultimate goal, one that also has a lot of support. In taking Corey’s advice, O-C will be accused not only of supporting a policy that would lead to an effective end of Israel, but of pursuing that policy as a “hidden agenda.”

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Donald 07.20.18 at 4:23 pm

Bob, there is nothing you say against a 1ss which wasn’t said about one man one vote in the case of South Africa. And of course South Africa is not a utopia today.

The pragmatic argument for a 2ss is the strongest one, but all tge serious important people everywhere have agreed in a 2ss for decades and look where it is now. I also agree with Brenner— even if you think a 2ss is where things will go, there is nothing wrong with Palestinians demanding all their rights. It shifts the Overon Window away from where it has been stuck for generations, where Israel’s right to exist is established and Palestinians are asked to negotiate for 22 percent of what is left of their homeland.

The strength of the BDS movement is that it was started by Palestinian civil society and not by the hopelessly corrupt PA or by people who still daydream of violent liberation. There is no reason why they should let their goals and demands be determined by oh so helpful Westerners. If they decide on their own to settle for something less, that is their decision. We Westerners have been helping the Israelis keep a boot on their neck and should have the decency to shut up about what they should ask for. The MLK letter from a Birmingham jail seems relevant here.

112

WLGR 07.20.18 at 4:49 pm

Jwl, here’s Netanyahu himself back around the time of Operation Protective Edge in 2014: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say, that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” Basically, we may eventually let the Palestinians have some kind of more meaningful administrative authority and we may even finagle a way to let them call it a “state,” but not a single person is getting across the border into the West Bank unless we say so, let alone hundreds of thousands of refugees. As long as they behave themselves to our satisfaction, the rats can maybe have a little rat kingdom in their little rat cage, but they’re still rats in a cage that belongs to us, and under no circumstances will we ever let that change.

What’s crucial there is that Netanyahu was saying something in Hebrew to an Israeli audience that he never would have said in English to a global audience, because on some level the Israelis are still playing the game of pretending they want a 2SS, which helps them keep the international status quo in place while they gobble up as much of the strategically and economically valuable land as possible. In reality, allowing a 2SS with genuine Palestinian sovereignty would be every bit as unacceptable and unrealistic to them as allowing a binational 1SS, which is why the only encouraging recent development in the “peace process” is that their mask of pretending they’d ever accept a genuinely sovereign 2SS is starting to slip off. Hence why liberals (and/or avowed socialists like Ocasio-Cortez) pretending that the 2SS is any more realistic than a binational 1SS are ultimately only giving the Israelis further rhetorical cover to continue the dirty work of settler-colonial ethnic cleansing on the ground.

(By the way, the name “Protective Edge” itself is another case where the Hebrew communicates a deeper meaning than the carefully-crafted English-language PR: a more precise translation of the Hebrew Tzuk Eitan would be “firm cliff,” and the Biblical referent is the steep precipice near Jerusalem off of which was cast the sacrificial goat Azazel on the Day of Atonement to account for the sins of the Israeli people, the origin of the modern concept “scapegoat.”)

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Donald 07.20.18 at 4:49 pm

One other point. I think the most important thing American citizens could do is stop our government’s kneejerk support for Israel. That is our responsibility. It isn’t our place to tell Palestinians what they should demand.

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OldJim 07.20.18 at 4:50 pm

Bob @ 110

“Yes, I understand, Corey is realistic and is not asking O-C to openly espouse the single state solution. But he is asking her to espouse measures that would move the discussion toward that goal. This is a poison chalice. This is not like wanting single payer but deciding, as a matter of tactics, to take baby steps toward it. In that case you are up front about your ultimate goal, one that also has a lot of support. In taking Corey’s advice, O-C will be accused not only of supporting a policy that would lead to an effective end of Israel, but of pursuing that policy as a “hidden agenda””

The concept that you are looking for is a “transitional demand”

115

Z 07.20.18 at 6:20 pm

A quick word to point out that Nathan Thrall is indeed worth reading.

116

Simbawitz 07.20.18 at 11:04 pm

Donald @100: another flaw of the South Africa analogy is the total reversal of the demographics. At no time was the white population of South Africa ever more than 20-22% of the total. Any Afrikaner with a college degree knew they were going to lose, in the short term. Today, “Green Line” Israel is 76-78% Jewish, and they know they can work around that nucleus. It is irrelevant to count everybody between the river and the sea. There are no Jews in Gaza and Israel doesn’t want it, they pointedly ruled it out in two partition plans, offered it back in two 2SS deals after having tried to foist it on Egypt several times, and would never take it back as part of a united polity. Arabs in the Golan Heights can vote already and Israelis are not concerned by them. It comes down to negotiating over the West Bank. If South Africa had ever faced such terms it would be governed by Botha’s son today.

117

LFC 07.21.18 at 4:49 am

While the U.S. Congress has been generally unwilling to exercise much leverage on Israel by putting conditions on aid (or threatening to reduce it), Congress has had no similar reluctance when it comes to aid (much less to begin with) to the Palestinian Authority:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Force_Act

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Donald 07.21.18 at 1:28 pm

Simbawitz, I don’t necessarily disagree with pragmatic arguments for a 2ss, but again, this is a decision for Palestinians to make. What I respect about the pragmatic argument is that it is or can be honest. At its best there is no claim that Israel had the moral right to expel the Palestinians and shoot them by the thousands if they tried to sneak back, as Benny Morris described in “ Israel’s Border Wars”. The claim is simply that Israeli Jews would not accept a 1ss with equality for all or that it would lead to Yugoslavia.

In response to the Yugoslavia argument which others made I agree that it is a fair point. But it also applies to a 2ss. Any 2ss which will be stable almost has to have the two peoples liking and respecting each other or the violence reignites. The area is tiny and they are on top of each other. Religious Jews will want to visit what they call Judea and Samaria and some may want to live there under Palestinian jurisdiction. Palestinians aren’t going to stop wanting to visit and live in their homeland. Palestinians will probably need close economic integration with Israel to be prosperous. The border would have to be porous and the two sides would have to cooperate closely to prevent terrorism from either side.

It would almost be a binational state.

119

Sebastian H 07.21.18 at 4:29 pm

First, neither a two state solution nor a one state solution will be viable until things get a lot better. And I use the passive voice there not because I’m letting sides off the hook, but rather because there is like 500% blame to go around.

Second, talking about what Palestinians ‘want’ as if it were a unitary thing is silly. A lot of them want a single state without Jews. A lot of them the want two states. A lot of them want one state mixed. The BDS movement seems to have settled on what it wants, but that a different issue entirely. The BDS movement doesn’t represent “the Palestinians” any more then Hamas or even Hezbollah in Lebanon. Arguably less.

Third, it does absolutely no credit to the argument to pretend that any near term unitary state with a right of return can hope to be politically better than maybe Egypt (and even that is almost certainly an unrealistic best case scenario). And Egypt isn’t the kind of state any progressive should be remotely happy about.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to do way better for the Palestinians if we can. Because what a huge majority of them want is better lives. But it does mean that we shouldn’t be blind to the reality of what certain paths mean.

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Orange Watch 07.21.18 at 7:44 pm

Donald@118:

All of that is entirely accurate, but it’s also irrelevant when the sane, pragmatic limit of 2SSs being discussed by Serious Grownups either endorses or or carefully overlooks others endorsement of the eminently reasonable idea that the Palestinian “state” must be demilitarized and unable to exercise sovereignty WRT its borders and airspace. It’s a nice trick, because it gives the ostensible Palestinian state all of the responsibilities and none of the rights of statehood.

So long as Bibi and his ilk is in charge, even that is ofc out of the question. My strongest impression of him remains an interview with him for a documentary I saw in the early aughts; he couldn’t help but look and sound intensely pleased with himself as he not-quite-boasted about how he granted the PA various things they had been promised under the Oslo Accords… but only after he extracted further concessions from them for doing so.

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Salazar 07.21.18 at 10:14 pm

Corey, I found the paragraphs dealing with the importance of a clear, overarching policy vision the most important parts of this post. It’s essential that DSA, and other parts of the left, articulate a clear alternative to prevailing narratives as soon as possible.

This said, ACO, other candidates, and activists on the ground also need to be aware of the blowback that awaits them the minute they begin questioning the desirability of a US-led World Order and such. Right now, there’s clearly interest in the mainstream media in listening to leftist movements and candidates, and to what they have to say. Medicare for All, free college, things like that: those are now things worth at least a debate, from a media perspective. In that sense, there’s at least a degree of goodwill towards DSA, and something like a willingness to give them a fair shake.

That will change *dramatically* the minute DSA develops a clear alternative to establishment foreign policy blueprints. I still feel foreign policy largely explains the intensity of elite opposition to Trump in 2016 – i.e. the fear he was, at best, nonchalant about American global leadership. If elites develop similar concerns about the Left, Democratic Socialists will face a bipartisan campaign of denigration and sabotage that will make Republican hostility to Obama look like a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. All I can say is, get ready and put your helmets on.

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J-D 07.22.18 at 7:36 am

Joseph BrennerYou write

I would argue that realistically estimating the likely costs and benefits of an approach is a near impossibility

but when you also write

The point of calling for boycotts and divestment isn’t even necessarily to achieve boycotts and divestments, it’s a matter of attracting attention to the issues and pulling the discussion over in something like the right direction.

aren’t you yourself doing what you have described as ‘a near impossibility’ by estimating that ‘attracting attention to the issues and pulling the discussion over in something like the right direction’ is a likely benefit of calling for boycotts and divestment?

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