Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was right to cancel her participation in an event honoring Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. After news broke that the Congresswoman was scheduled to speak at a memorial organized by Americans for Peace Now in late October, Palestinians and their allies shared historical archives and family stories on social media to explain why Rabin, who was assassinated by an Israeli right-wing extremist 25 years ago, was no man of peace.
In many ways, the saga is a tiny footnote in the story of American progressives’ shifting politics on Israel. But the response of Palestinian rights activists, and Ocasio-Cortez’s heeding of their voices, does mark a significant moment in that story. Despite pushback, Palestine advocates are setting the record straight about one of the conflict’s most harmful myths: that the Oslo Accords — and by association, Yitzhak Rabin — was a force for peace.
During the debate over AOC’s event, some commentators fairly pointed out that Rabin’s legacy was more complex than others were letting on. Rabin’s decision to stake his career on negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization — once an unthinkable prospect for most Israelis — was indeed daring. His outreach to Palestinian citizens of Israel to help him keep a government mandate and advance the accords was unprecedented; many Palestinian citizens supported the peace process and even mourned Rabin’s death. Moreover, Palestinian leaders were no less tainted by crimes that they had ordered or committed, yet they, too, were capable of change.