(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – A diverse, youthful cadre of freshman female lawmakers entered Congress last week much as they had campaigned for their seats: under the spotlight of intense national interest, proudly proclaiming themselves as agents of radical change.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the youngest-ever member of the House of Representatives at 29, sat for an interview with 60 Minutes and called for a 70% tax rate on the income of the wealthiest Americans. She was the only Democrat booed by her Republican colleagues – who view her as a poster child for the far-left and a rallying cry for their base – as she stood in favor of Nancy Pelosi of California for Speaker of the House.
And when opposition researchers tried to smear her with a video from her college years of her dancing on a rooftop to some sweet tunes
– footage conservative sites apparently thought would embarrass her – she brushed her shoulders off, posting a video of herself entering her new congressional office dancing to “War, What Is It Good For?”
In stark contrast, Ocasio-Cortez’s friend and colleague, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
, faced a rougher entry. At a private celebration after her swearing-in ceremony, she told supporters that she would stand up to bullies like US President Donald Trump and “impeach that mother******,” drawing condemnation from the president, Pelosi, and other Democratic leaders. She defended her comment on Twitter but refused to address a hoard of journalists trailing her on Capitol Hill.
Together with other prominent new Democratic members, including Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Sharice Davids from Kansas, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib have become the public face of the most diverse, youthful and female Congress in American history.
They are more organically plugged in to social media than their more veteran colleagues, and have adeptly used those platforms to increase their profiles.
But several of those same members have also gained the attention, and concern, of the Israeli public, for their views on Israel.
While Ocasio-Cortez says she is not an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she has offered repeated criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and says she intends on promoting Palestinian rights during her time in office.
Tlaib – the first Palestinian-American to sit in the House – says she opposes a two-state solution, and does not believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Linda Sarsour, a controversial Palestinian activist staunchly in favor of the BDS movement, was on Capitol Hill on Thursday to attend Tlaib’s swearing in. A world map in her new office was marked with a Post-it marking Israel as Palestine just hours before Tlaib took her oath, on a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
She and Omar plan on leading a trip to the West Bank as an alternative to a traditional trip for freshmen congressmen to Israel led by AIPAC, the largest Israel advocacy organization in Washington. Both women openly support the BDS movement, which a bipartisan majority in Congress may soon criminalize on a federal level.
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