AOC knocks ‘bigotry and callousness’ at Times Square rally for Palestine

New York elected officials with links to the state’s Democratic Socialists of America chapter are distancing themselves from a pro-Palestinian rally in Times Square promoted by the group. | Jason Beeferman/POLITICO

NEW YORK — The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is facing a political firestorm after the organization promoted a pro-Palestine rally in the wake of Hamas militants’ attacks on Israeli communities.

The group did not organize Sunday’s rally, its leadership said Monday. But several lawmakers with DSA ties are distancing themselves from what was said at the event.

“It should not be hard to shut down hatred and antisemitism where we see it. That is a core tenet of solidarity,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) and one of six DSA members in Congress, said in a statement late Monday — her first comments on the rally.

“The bigotry and callousness expressed in Times Square on Sunday were unacceptable and harmful in this devastating moment. It also did not speak for the thousands of New Yorkers who are capable of rejecting both Hamas’ horrifying attacks against innocent civilians as well as the grave injustices and violence Palestinians face under occupation,” she said.

In a statement, NYC-DSA Steering Committee Member Nadia Tykulsker said the group promoted the event “at the request of a coalition partner because we believe in equality and justice for all Palestinians and Israelis, and we know that war will take more lives.”

The group opposes harming and targeting civilians, Tykulsker said.

“It is shameful that politicians in our state are exploiting this moment to target a socialist organization and divide the vibrant left in New York — whose sole aim in politics is to grow the power of working people for freedom against exploitation and oppression — instead of focusing our attention where it should be: on the atrocities and tragic loss of life in the region,” she added.

Support for Israel has been a bedrock principle in New York politics; the state has more Jews outside of Israel than anywhere in the world. New York leaders in both parties often make trips there, burnishing their ties with Jewish communities back home.

For the DSA, however, supporting candidates who are critical of Israel is nothing new.

The New York City DSA in 2020 asked City Council candidates if they would pledge not to travel to Israel, which drew backlash. Still, none of the DSA-affiliated elected officials attended the rally Sunday.

New York Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens), a DSA member, also knocked the rally.

“My support for Palestinian liberation should never be confused for a celebration of the loss of civilian life,” Mamdani said in a statement. “I condemn the killing of civilians and rhetoric at a rally [on Sunday] seeking to make light of such deaths.”

The success of some DSA members has caused friction within Democratic politics at the state and city level as more institutional leaders push back. Both top Democrats in the state Legislature over the weekend condemned the rally, as did New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Mamdani, for example, drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike for a proposal this year meant to penalize New York charities that provide support for Israeli settlements.

New York Democratic Committee Chair Jay Jacobs said he expects there will be political repercussions for elected officials who have been endorsed by the organization, which includes Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who have been reelected by wide margins.

“I think anything like this gives voters an indication of what this group stands for,” Jacobs said. “Candidates who run with that endorsement or state they are members of the group, they’ll face the electorate, and I think they’ll see the consequences.”

A version of this story first appeared in Tuesday’s New York Playbook. Subscribe here.

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