On October 20 Americans for Peace Now, a left-wing Jewish group, will be holding a virtual commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was an Israeli military and political leader who served two terms as prime minister. On November 4, 1995, during the second term, he was assassinated by a far-right Israeli for his role in the Oslo peace process between Israel and Yasser Arafat’s PLO.
A wave of excitement washed through Americans for Peace Now when it seemed that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had accepted their invitation to take part in the virtual ceremony.
But the congresswoman quickly changed her mind after Twitter critics slammed her decision as “disgusting” and showing “total contempt for Palestinian lives.” Left-wing journalist Alex Kane tweeted that “In the US Rabin is viewed as a liberal peacemaker but Palestinians remember him for his brutal rule suppressing Palestinian protest during the First Intifada, as someone who reportedly ordered the breaking of Palestinian bones.”
Some of the more hopeful left-wing American Jews, however, tweeted their disappointment at AOC’s retraction. In a typical case, a progressive outfit called Zioness told her it was “deeply troubled that you have decided to pull out of the event honoring the life & legacy of former Israeli PM Rabin…who paid the ultimate price for his commitment to peace and justice…. Your decision…will advance the feeling of despair held by so many progressive Jews who feel abandoned by fellow justice seekers….”
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A couple of things need to be pointed out here.
First, Americans for Peace Now — which has long been overshadowed by the left-wing American Jewish lobby J Street — is an offshoot of Israel’s Peace Now, which has itself sunk into relative obscurity.
Yes, there are still noisy left-wing demonstrations in Israel — but their almost singular focus is a highly personalized hatred of their nemesis and Satan, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Even on the Israeli left, the peace-with-the-Palestinians cause is now far from center stage. There are good reasons for it — like the rise of Hamas in Gaza, coupled with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s much-publicized pay-for-slay policy and serial rejection of all offers at a compromise.
Second, while Rabin is still commemorated as a martyred saint of peace in annual far-left ceremonies in Israel, those events sentimentalize and distort his legacy.
Rabin was indeed known as a tough-minded leader, and he indeed, as defense minister in December 1987 when the First Intifada broke out — panicky but wanting to avoid fatalities — briefly called for “breaking the bones” of Palestinian rioters.
Later, as prime minister in 1993, Rabin joined the bandwagon of the supposed peace process with the PLO — which almost immediately resulted in an extended wave of terror against Israelis.
And by the fall of 1995 — as his daughter later attested — he had grave doubts about the bloody “process” and was weighing putting a stop to it. It was at that stage that he was shot down in Tel Aviv.
This latest episode involving AOC, then, reveals a double disconnect from reality among some left-wing Jews in the U.S. — shared by counterparts in Israel who, however, are much smaller in relative numbers.
The first disconnect is the ongoing distorted view of Rabin and glorification of the “peace process” — now remembered by most Israelis as culminating in the still-worse bloodbath of the Second Intifada in the first half of the 2000s.
And the second is the pious hope that a shining star of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing like AOC can be induced to make common cause on Israel even with the Jewish left.
She is, after all, a staunch member of the Squad that includes her colleagues Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib — explicit antisemites who endorse the destroy-Israel BDS movement.
As Jonathan Tobin points out, AOC is by now a “political powerhouse” and a “pop-culture icon with a national following,” and her hasty about-face on the Rabin event “is yet another wake-up call for Jewish Democrats.”
Ideally, instead of — as the Zioness group put it — “advanc[ing] the feeling of despair held by so many progressive Jews who feel abandoned by fellow justice seekers,” AOC’s move could prompt thoughts about whether allies of antisemites and foes of Israel are either “fellows” or “justice seekers.”