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Is AOC Half Right About Bethlehem?

Evidently her staff never bothered to inform her that, in fact, Israel is not occupying Bethlehem, “violently” or otherwise.
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December 27, 2023
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol December 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) may not be an expert on the Middle East, but in her Christmas tweet, she managed to describe the situation in Bethlehem at least half-correctly, even if she didnt know what quite what she was saying.

In the controversial tweet, AOC lambasted Israel and declared that both Jesus and the Palestinian Arabs were victims of right-wing forces.”

According to the congresswomans revisionist version of history, Jesus—like Palestinian Arabs today—faced the threat of a government engaged in a massacre of innocents” and was part of a targeted population being indiscriminately killed to protect an unjust leader’s power.” And nowadays, she continued, right-wing forces are violently occupying Bethlehem as similar stories unfold for today’s Palestinians…”

When Rep. Ocasio-Cortez referred to right-wing forces violently occupying Bethlehem,” she obviously meant the Israelis. Evidently her staff never bothered to inform her that, in fact, Israel is not occupying Bethlehem, violently” or otherwise. There is no Israeli military governor or administration in Bethlehem any more—they all left back in 1995, as part of the Oslo II agreement. It is the Palestinian Authority (PA), not Israel, that occupies Bethlehem.

But could the PA be described as a rightwing force”? Was AOC accidentally correct?

Pundits typically associate the PA with the political left, and the historical record would seem to bear out that assumption. The PAs parent body, the Palestine Liberation Organization, was a close ally of the Soviet Union. To this day, the PA has especially warm relations with Communist regimes such as China, North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam.

Some factions of the PA still bear names that came straight out of the Marxist lexicon of the 1960s, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. PA chairman-for-life Mahmoud Abbas earned his Ph.D. (if it can be called that) in Moscow, where he wrote a dissertation arguing that the Holocaust was a Zionist hoax.

But Arab and Muslim regimes do not neatly fit into Western political categories, and the PAs specific policies on hot-button issues that divide right from left in the U.S. today suggest that the Palestinian Arab leadership is far from Ocasio-Cortezs camp.

Abortion, for example. Its illegal under the PA, except in the rare cases where its necessary to save the mothers life. The PA bans abortion even in cases of incest or rape. Not only that, but according to PA law, a woman whose life is endangered by her pregnancy must have written approval” from her husband or guardian” before proceeding with an abortion.

Or separation of church and state. The PA recognizes no such concept. On the contrary, Article 4 of the PAs Constitution states that Islam is the official religion in Palestine.” Article 4 also says The principles of Islamic Sharia shall be a principal source of legislation.” Imagine Rep. Ocasio-Cortezs reaction if someone were to propose making Christianity the official religion” of the United States, with the Bible as its main source of legislation.

What about gender discrimination, another issue close to AOCs heart? According to Human Rights Watch, the PAs laws discriminate against women, including in relation to marriage, divorce, custody of children, and inheritance. Palestine has no comprehensive domestic violence law.”

Amnesty Internationals latest annual report states that the PA has failed to prevent and investigate homophobic and transphobic threats and attacks.” There has been a wave of incitement o violence and hate speech against LGBTI people and feminists that the [PA] authorities failed to investigate.”

In short, by every criterion that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez uses to judge political and social issues, the Palestinian Authority regime that occupies Bethlehem represents what she would consider right wing.” By all logic, she should oppose with every fiber of her being.

 So why does she still support them?  Is AOCs hostility to Israel so all-consuming that she is willing to discard every principle or policy dear to her in order to be able to promote the Palestinian Arab cause?


Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust. His latest is America and the Holocaust: A Documentary History, published by the Jewish Publication Society & University of Nebraska Press.

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