AOC Decried Growing Anti-Semitism on the Left. Days Earlier, She Requested $1.5 Million Earmark for Legal Group Accused of Hostility to Jews

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) / Getty Images
June 13, 2024

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) denounced the rise of anti-Semitism in the progressive movement at an event with liberal Jewish leaders on Monday. Weeks earlier, the "Squad" member requested $1.5 million in taxpayer funds for a New York City law group accused of hostility towards Jews and Israel.

Ocasio-Cortez requested an earmark on May 17 for Bronx Defenders to "improve justice in the criminal system" for low-income residents of the borough. Ocasio-Cortez, who has called to defund police, said the grant will help low-income defendants "mount a robust defense," against what she laments as the "vast" resources of police departments.

Bronx Defenders has been embroiled in several high-profile incidents of anti-Semitism. The organization was ordered to pay a former Jewish employee $170,000 last year after colleagues harassed her with anti-Semitic taunts over her support for Israel. In September, Bronx Defenders employees at a court-ordered training session on anti-Semitism broke out in a chant of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," a call for the eradication of the Jewish state.

Ocasio-Cortez’s request highlights the tightrope she has tried to walk as a leader of a progressive movement that has become increasingly hostile to Israel—and as an emerging ally of President Joe Biden, whom anti-Israel activists often refer to as "Genocide Joe."

The Bronx Defenders’ anti-Israel hostility has only grown in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack. According to the New York Times, roughly 150 Bronx Defenders union members approved a statement that condemned Israel’s "genocide" in Gaza, but failed to condemn Hamas’s attack, in which 1,200 Israelis were murdered. The union said it "supports Palestinian liberation and resistance under occupation," and pushed the debunked claim that Israel bombed the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. Bronx Defenders executives have tried to distance the group from the union’s statement, but that hasn’t thwarted calls to defund the organization.

Ocasio-Cortez decried anti-Semitism on the left during a virtual event with the head of Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a liberal Jewish group. While Ocasio-Cortez said anti-Semitism "undermine[s]" the progressive cause, she asserted that "bad faith political actors" are "weaponizing anti-Semitism" to divide the progressive movement.

Ocasio-Cortez’s condemnation could ring hollow given her history of voting against measures to support Israel or condemn anti-Semitic acts.

The Democrat, who accused Israel of genocide in a House floor speech in March, has suggested that "marginalized Palestinians" have "no choice but to riot" against Israel. She was 1 of 10 House members to vote against a resolution in October to condemn Hamas’s attack and reiterate "commitment to Israel’s security." In 2021, Ocasio-Cortez apologized and publicly sobbed after she voted "present" to fund Israel’s Iron Dome, a defense system which has thwarted hundreds of Hamas rockets and Iranian drones in the latest war.

In April, Ocasio voted against a resolution to condemn "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free"—the same chant that broke out at the Bronx Defenders meeting last year—as anti-Semitic.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office and the Bronx Defenders did not respond to requests for comment.