Zoe Stratos | opinions editor
Sept. 30, 2021
Nearly a week after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez strutted down the Met Gala red carpet in a white gown emblazoned with the words “Tax the Rich” in red down her back, she made headlines once again weeping on the House Floor after voting took place to fund the Israeli Iron Dome.
The New York Democratic representative caused another round of controversy with her last-minute decision to vote “present” — or take no official position — on a bill providing $1 billion in new funding for the missile defense system.
But while the debate about the dress was mostly a pop culture stunt with inconsequential changes to Ocasio-Cortez’s politics, this vote — or lack thereof — called for backlash from both the right and the left. It leaves the future open as to what Ocasio-Cortez’s political identity truly is; It causes mistrust.
On Sept. 23, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Iron Dome missile defense system bill.
The bipartisan support in Congress was proven, as the vote was 420 to nine to help Israel replace missile interceptors used during the missile conflict with the Palestinians in May. But this also exposed divisions among Democrats over U.S. policy toward one of its closest allies.
In the political world, leaders are forced to make difficult and often emotional decisions when it comes to America’s involvement in other countries, but taking no stance is arguably worse than picking a side.
Ocasio-Cortez’s decision is one of cowardice.
The performative act isn’t garnering any support from hardstuck Israeli supporters; it merely undermines Ocasio-Cortez’s ability to pick a side, and vote emotionally rather than politically.
On the left, Ocasio-Cortez’s act opens up the possibility of a divide between her and the left-wing “squad.”
In the debate surrounding the vote, members of the squad, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., denounced the idea of the Iron Dome funding due to Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians, claiming that America must keep consistency on human rights matters. Most of the squad, other progressives and one Republican voted against the bill.
Previously outspoken about her support for Palestine, Ocasio-Cortez called out Joe Biden during the heightened time of the conflict in Gaza in May.
Speaking on the House Floor on May 13, she said: “The president and many other figures this week stated that Israel has a right to defend itself, and this is a sentiment that’s echoed across this body. But do Palestinians have a right to survive? Do we believe that? And if so, we have a responsibility to that.”
Earlier last week, Ocasio-Cortez, along with other House progressives, argued to exclude Iron Dome funding from an emergency spending bill package. But when the Iron Dome stand-alone bill came along, she declined to take a position.
So where do you really stand, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez?
The representative released a lengthy statement Sept. 24 regarding her “present” vote, with little explanation as to why she decided to vote that way.
Some of the note reads as follows:
“First, let me begin with why I believe this bill should have been opposed: contrary to popular narrative, this bill was not for all U.S. funding of the Iron Dome, and opposing it would not defund U.S. financing of the system in any way, shape or form…” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.
The statement continued, “…I believe strongly that Congress should take greater scrutiny with all military funding across the world. I also believe that, for far too long, the U.S. has handed unconditional aid to the Israeli government while doing nothing to address or raise the persistent human rights abuses against the Palestinian people…”
She talks throughout the apology about why the vote should have been opposed and why it shouldn’t have happened so quickly in the first place — but never explained her rationale. It’s political fodder for those easy to forgive and forget, but we must hold her accountable for staying silent on an issue supposedly close to her heart.
The statement would’ve been effective had she been truly transparent about the vote, more so than her so-called “support” for Palestinians. That’s all we really ask for as citizens: transparency from our political leaders, and an idea of where they stand on hot button issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — even if they don’t know themselves.