Joe Crowley has never been forced to account for his silence at Israel’s war crimes
By the Editorial Board
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley has been in Congress since his predecessor and mentor Thomas Manton handed him his House seat without a real election, back in 2000 ; as Manton’s successor as the all-powerful chair of the Queens County Democratic Party organization, Crowley is without a doubt the most powerful party boss in the City and the State of New York.
Crowley also wields power as the chair of the Democratic Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House after minority leader Nancy Pelosi, minority whip Steny Hoyer and assistant leader James Clybourn ; as such, Crowley is a power in Washington as well as in New York. And with authority and power come responsibility, but, to date, no one has even attempted to hold Crowley accountable for his complicity in Israeli occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
At least not until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launched her primary challenge. Ocasio-Cortez is not only a progressive young Latina challenging an older White man who is at the heart of the political establishment both in New York and Washington, an establishment that is almost entirely unified behind Apartheid Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity. Democrats as well as Republicans support this bipartisan consensus, sending over $3 billion in U.S. tax dollars to subsidize one of the wealthiest and most powerful states in the world and the regional hegemon in the Middle East. In fact, the consensus is so bipartisan that Barack Obama handed Benjamin Netanyahu a check for $38 billion as the president was leaving office in order to sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for at least another decade.
Crowley has never once uttered even the mildest criticism of Israel, even as it committed genocide in Gaza in the summer of 2014 and massacred unarmed Palestinian civilians participating in the Great March of Return in May and June 2018, protesting Israel’s incremental genocide in Gaza ; in fact, the Queens party boss has aggressively supported those unconscionable subsidies to Apartheid Israel and aligned himself closely with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which rivals the National Rifle Association (NRA) as the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill.
There are perhaps half a dozen members of Congress (all Democrats) who have been willing to utter the mildest public criticisms of Israel and even they won’t call it an apartheid state or refer directly and explicitly to the genocide that it is currently committing in Gaza.
That is why it is all the more surprising that Ocasio-Cortez has been willing to touch the third rail of American politics (albeit lightly) and publicly discuss Israel’s crimes against humanity, as she did in a 34-minute interview with Glenn Greenwald in mid-June (Glenn Greenwald, “Glenn Greenwald Interviews Democratic Primary Challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York,” the Intercept, 12 June 2018); 12 minutes into the interview, Greenwald expresses surprise that Ocasio-Cortez is willing to take on the issue at all, to which the candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 14th House district responds, “I think people are just starting to look at the humanitarian state of Palestinian people through a humanitarian lens. People say that in New York City this is political suicide, but I have a lot of constituents thanking me for taking that position,” adding, “We’re very happy to have a lot of Jewish Americans that thanked me for my position… and especially coming from a background as an activist…”
While one could hope for stronger condemnation of Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity from Ocasio-Cortez and an explicit denunciation of Israeli apartheid and genocide should she win the primary on June 26 and win election to Congress, her mildly worded criticism of Israel contrasts favorably and starkly with Crowley’s aggressive support for the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and incremental genocide in Gaza.
There are a host of issues in the primary election worth talking about, including Crowley’s alignment with real estate and corporate interests, his refusal to address the web of corruption he has woven around himself and the Queens machine since his election to the House and his succession to the leadership of the party machine, and his use of the Queens machine to suppress democracy in the borough. But if there is a single issue that is perhaps the biggest indictment of Joe Crowley’s politics, given the enormous power that Congress and the United States more generally exercises over the Palestinian people, it is his deep complicity in Apartheid Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine and its pursuit of genocide in the Gaza Strip ; no one with such a shameful record of supporting dispossession and brutalization of the indigenous people of Palestine can possibly call himself ‘progressive’ in any meaningful sense.