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Ocasio-Cortez withdraws from participating in former Israeli PM's memorial: Report

US congresswoman says event was promoted inaccurately, after backlash from Palestinians
Ocasio-Cortez is a revered figured on the US left and a vocal critic of the Israeli government.
Ocasio-Cortez is revered figure on US political left and vocal critic of Israeli government (AFP/File photo)

US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has withdrawn her scheduled participation in a memorial event for late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Jewish Currents reported, following criticism from pro-Palestinian activists.

A spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez, known also as AOC, told the Jewish Currents' Alex Kane that the congresswoman is no longer planning to take part in the memorial.

"I can confirm she won't be participating in the event," the spokeswoman told Kane, he said in a tweet.

The event, scheduled for 20 October and organised by Americans for Peace Now, was aimed at commemorating the 25 years since Rabin's assassination by an Israeli far-right activist at a rally in Tel Aviv.

AOC had been slated to speak on "fulfilling the courageous Israeli leader's mission for peace and justice today in the US and Israel," Haaretz reported.

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After a backlash from Palestinian activists, organisers, and academics, the congresswoman said that the event had been promoted differently than advertised, and later a source had told Kane that the event was not described as a memorial but as an event focused on the Oslo Accords and Rabin.

Still, a source close to the conversations between AOC and Americans for Peace Now told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the decision was not final.

The JTA quoted a person associated with Joe Biden's presidential campaign saying that should the progressive congresswoman withdraw, it would be "problematic".

"She could have rejected the invitation for any number of reasons," the Biden campaign associate told JTA. "But if she agrees and then pulls out, she's creating problems for her own party."

AOC is a revered political figure on the US left, championing progressive proposals such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. She also has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government, most recently spearheading a letter slamming Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

The letter called for using a "combination of pressure and incentives" to prevent such a move, including imposing conditions on American military aid to Israel.

Breaking the bones of Palestinians

Rabin has been heralded in the international community - and was given the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize - for his role in the Oslo Accords, the first peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership.

In an iconic moment, a smiling Arafat extended his hand to Rabin who, after a brief hesitation, accepted it.

The sight of the two longtime adversaries shaking hands was hailed across the world as a major breakthrough in a conflict that at that point had already lasted almost 50 years.

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Less than two months after he had signed the second Oslo Accords in 1995, Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Israeli opposed to the deals.

Yet for many Palestinians, Rabin is largely remembered for other reasons.

These include his role in the 1948 Lydda Death March, which saw the expulsion of as many as 70,000 Palestinian Arabs at the hands of Israeli troops, and for ordering Israeli soldiers to brutalise and kill Palestinians protesting against the Israeli occupation during the First Intifada, which saw demonstrations from late 1987 to 1993.

During the Intifada, Rabin served as Israel's defence minister and has been accused of ordering Israeli soldiers to break the bones of Palestinians involved in the demonstrations. 

Rabin had publicly ordered that Israeli soldiers use ''force, might and beatings'' to quell the Palestinian uprising.

The New York Times reported in 1990 that despite Rabin claiming beatings were allowed only to make arrests, one commander testified that he was ordered by his superior "to arrest Arabs and then break their arms and legs".

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