US Rep. Ocasio-Cortez slammed over Christmas message comparing Jesus to Gazans

Fellow New York Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres writes that ‘associating Jews with the murder of Jesus is antisemitism,’ without mentioning colleague AOC by name

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sits in the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sits in the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

New York Jewish Week via JTA — Critics blasted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for a Christmas message comparing Jesus to the Palestinians, with some saying it invoked the historic charge that the Jews killed Jesus.

Drawing parallels between Jesus’ persecutors and present-day Israel, Ocasio-Cortez wrote in an Instagram story on Sunday that Jesus was born in “modern-day Palestine” under a government carrying out “a massacre of innocents.” According to the New Testament, Jesus was a Jew who lived within the modern borders of Israel and was killed by the Roman forces ruling the territory at the time.

“He was part of a targeted population being indiscriminately killed to protect an unjust leader’s power,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “Thousands of years later, right-wing forces are violently occupying Bethlehem as similar stories unfold for today’s Palestinians.”

The New York lawmaker, a member of the so-called “Squad” of outspoken progressives in Congress, referred to Jesus’ family as “Jewish Palestinians.”

The text in the story post was superimposed over an image of a baby doll in a pile of concrete rubble, a variation of the traditional nativity scene that became a motif for pro-Palestinian activists ahead of Christmas. Christian leaders in Bethlehem, traditionally seen as the birthplace of Jesus, called off Christmas celebrations this year to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Ocasio-Cortez’s post made no mention of Hamas, Israeli hostages in Gaza or the Oct. 7 atrocities that claimed the lives of 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and set off the war with the Hamas terrorist group. The Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, says more than 20,000 people in Gaza have died during the war.

A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli airstrikes on December 26, 2023. (Said Khatib/AFP)

In a second Instagram story post on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez shared video of Rev. Munther Isaac, a Lutheran cleric in Bethlehem, delivering a sermon with a similar message. Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the post, “When we justify the bombing of children, Jesus is under the rubble.”

Former Anti-Defamation League leader Abraham Foxman called Ocasio-Cortez’s initial post “hateful and dangerous,” citing the historic libel claiming that Jews are collectively responsible for killing Christ. The charge, refuted by the Catholic Church since the 1960s and rejected by some other Christian denominations, has fueled antisemitism in Christian communities for centuries.

“She invoked the charge that the Jews are again killing Jesus,” Foxman wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Foxman served as the national director of the ADL from 1987 to 2015.

Former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman called the post “a reinvention” of history.

US Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat and vocal advocate for Israel, criticized comparisons between Jesus and the Palestinians in a post that did not directly mention Ocasio-Cortez.

“It is antisemitic to compare Israelis to the Romans who murdered Jesus. Associating Jews with the murder of Jesus is antisemitism,” Torres wrote on X.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pro-Palestinian protesters repeatedly compared Jesus’ plight to that of the Palestinians in the lead-up to Christmas. A leading New York activist group, Within Our Lifetime, vowed to “cancel” Christmas in a Monday protest near midtown’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, saying that celebrations were unacceptable during the war.

During the protest, demonstrators carried a mannequin representing Jesus’ mother, Mary, holding a child’s body wrapped in white. Within Our Lifetime explicitly advocates for Israel’s destruction and endorsed the Oct. 7 attacks. Activists with the group have been accused of committing violent hate crimes against Jews. During the Christmas protest, demonstrators scuffled with police and at least six people were arrested.

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