Upstart Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday defended her recent comments describing Israeli military actions at the Israel-Gaza Strip border as a "massacre."
Ocasio-Cortez, 28, defeated Rep. Joe Crowley (D., N.Y.) in a congressional primary last month after taking a number of radical positions, such as calling for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished, and she also touted her support of the Palestinian cause. In May, she condemned the Israeli military for firing on rioters in Gaza attempting to breach Israel's border fence, calling the Jewish state's actions a "massacre." Almost all of the Palestinians killed were found to have terror ties.
The New York Democrat explained that she sees Palestinians being killed as no different than if American protesters were killed by the U.S. government.
"The lens through which I saw this incident [at the Israel-Gaza border], as an activist, as an organizer—60 people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, 60 people were killed in the South Bronx, unarmed, 60 people were killed in Puerto Rico—I just look at that incident ... just as an incident, and to me it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened on our shores," she said.
Ocasio-Cortez said the situation in the Middle East is "of course" different from peaceful protests in the the U.S. but did not back down from the equivalency she set up. She described the situation between Israelis and Palestinians as an "increasing crisis of humanitarian condition" and said that is "just where I tend to come from on this issue."
After Ocasio-Cortez said she "absolutely" believes Israel has a right to exist, "Firing Line" host Margaret Hoover asked what she means by the Israeli "occupation." The candidate said it has to do with settlements that infringe on Palestinians' housing.
"I think what I meant is, like, the settlements that are increasing in these areas, where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to their housing and homes," she said.
"I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue," she added with a laugh. "I am 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. I know this is a very intense issue."
In the interview, Ocasio-Cortez referred to "the occupation of Palestine," although no Palestinian state currently exists. She went on to explain that this is an important issue on which she is "willing to learn and evolve."
"I come from the South Bronx, I come from a Puerto Rican background, and Middle Eastern politics was not exactly what was 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 as I think many Americans are," she said.
Many in the media and on the left have condemned Israel's actions in May, even though the Hamas terror group in control of Gaza instigated the riots and admitted to working with Iran, a key adversary of Israel. Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) was one of many who defended Israel and criticized the media's portrayal of events.
PBS relaunched "Firing Line" this year with conservative writer Margaret Hoover replacing Emmy Award-winning host William F. Buckley, who founded National Review magazine in 1955 and became a leader on the U.S. political right for decades. He hosted "Firing Line" from 1966 to 1999, making it TV's all-time longest-running show on public affairs hosted by the same person.