Progressive Democrat who accused Israel of Gaza ‘massacre’ upsets NY incumbent

Congressional primary win for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Sanders supporter, seen as a sign of growing strength of Democratic politicians willing to criticize Israel

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, June 27, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, June 27, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

A progressive Democrat in New York who called Israel’s killing of violent Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border a “massacre” scored a major upset over incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in a contentious party primary.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, defeated Crowley, 56, by a margin of 58-42 percent in Tuesday’s election, toppling a lawmaker who was viewed as the successor to Rep. Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Ocasio-Cortez belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America and is a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who ran as a Democrat in the 2016 presidential primaries.

New York’s 14th Congressional District, which comprises parts of Queens and the Bronx, is overwhelmingly Democrat.

She tweeted on May 14, the day more than 60 Palestinian protesters participating in the “March of Return” were killed on the border with Gaza: “This is a massacre. I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such. No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.”

A Hamas spokesman said after the killings that 50 of the victims were members of the terror group. The Islamic Jihad also said that three of its members were among the dead.

Representative Joe Crowley, D-NY (Public Domain, US Congress, Wikimedia Commons)

“This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said at the time.

Among the dead, the IDF said, were all eight members of a cell of armed Hamas operatives who were killed in a gun battle as they sought to breach the fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

Ocasio-Cortez later said in an interview that her Puerto Rican roots helped her relate to the Palestinian protesters.

In other elections, US Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, a five-term congressman from Boulder, won the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. He would be the first Jewish governor in Colorado and its first openly gay person to serve in the post. He will face off in November against Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Democratic candidate for Colorado’s governorship, US Rep. Jared Polis, responds to a question during a televised debate Monday, June 18, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In Maryland, government whistleblower and former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning lost in her bid to unseat two-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. Manning and six others were challenging Cardin, who is Jewish, in the state’s Democratic primary.

Also in Maryland, former NAACP President Ben Jealous won the Democratic primary for governor and will take on the Republican incumbent, Larry Hogan, in November. Sanders had endorsed Jealous and made appearances on his behalf. His running mate is Susan Turnbull, who is Jewish, a former prominent member of the Democratic National Committee, and former Chair of its Women’s Caucus and Women’s Leadership Forum.

In New York’s 1st Congressional District, businessman Perry Gershon won the five-way Democratic primary for the right to run against Rep. Lee Zeldin, a strong supporter of Israel and of President Donald Trump. Zeldin is one of two Jewish Republicans in the Congress.

Peter Beinart, the liberal Zionist columnist for the Forward and The Atlantic, welcomed Ocasio-Cortez’s victory as evidence of a “dramatic shift” toward Democrats who are more willing to criticize Israel on Palestinian human rights, settlement policy and its future as a democratic and Jewish state.

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