Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) won’t be kicked out of the Democratic Socialists of America even though he visited Israel in November and shook hands with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The Democratic Socialists of America — which endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, or BDS — decided instead to withhold their 2022 endorsement of Bowman “unless he is able to demonstrate solidarity with Palestine in alignment with expectations we have set,” the DSA’s national political committee said in a statement Thursday.
Bowman further enraged the radicals by voting for funding for the “Iron Dome” missile defense system. The anti-Semites in the DSA are angry that Bowman wouldn’t allow Palestinian rockets to fall unimpeded on innocent civilians.
The group said it “strongly condemns” Bowman’s trip and Iron Dome vote. But it added that Bowman has “continued to criticize the Israeli government, while challenging his constituents to recognize Israel’s roots in the Nakba for Palestinians.” (“Nakba” is the word meaning “catastrophe” that Palestinians use to refer to Israel’s creation, when many Palestinians were expelled from Israel or fled and were prevented from returning.)
“We recognize the threat that Bowman and other members of the squad pose to the Zionist lobby and the important role DSA can play with them in advancing Palestinian rights and anti-imperialist struggle at the federal level,” the statement said, adding that the DSA would not endorse Bowman in next year’s Congressional election “unless he is able to demonstrate solidarity with Palestine in alignment with expectations we have set.”
Bowman shocked the Democratic establishment by defeating Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engle in the primary in 2020.
Some anti-Israel activists, including the global BDS movement, are defending Bowman. The BDS Movement said in a statement, “Partners are best positioned, we believe, to decide their objectives and strategies according to their context’s nuances and political particularities while upholding the movement’s principles.”
And Jewish leaders from Bowman’s district are also backing his stance.
“Some voices on the political extremes are speaking out loudly against direct, meaningful engagement with the conflict,” reads the letter, spearheaded by the New York Jewish Agenda, a liberal Jewish advocacy group launched last year. “But we know that an appreciation for nuance and complexity that comes with firsthand experience can effectively equip leaders with the knowledge and context to push back on the oversimplified narratives that dominate too much of the conversation around this issue.”
In fact, Bowman has straddled the question of Israel and the Palestinians, causing some to wonder just where his sympathies lie.
Bowman represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester, including neighborhoods with large Jewish communities, and has sent a range of signals on Israel in the 11 months he’s been in office. He has sponsored legislation to place conditions on aid to Israel, but voted for the Iron Dome funding. He’s sent out a fundraising pitch for IfNotNow, the left-wing Jewish group that frequently allies with BDS supporters, but also works with J Street. He has also met repeatedly with the Israeli consulate in New York.
He doubled down on taking the Israel trip in a Q&A with a group of college students this week, when he endorsed the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and said Israel has a right to defend itself. He expressed a desire to return to the country and he also criticized Israeli leadership, including Bennett, for opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state.
He also took some of his anti-Israel friends to task for trying to meddle in things they don’t understand.
“Working with Israeli activists on the ground is really, really important because I’m telling you, I felt it,” he said at the event on Monday. “There was this, ‘Y’all aren’t over here, y’all in America, y’all can’t tell us what to do’ kind of vibe coming from some of the leaders that we met with.”
Bowman, a former school principal, is no friend of the Israeli government. He has consistently decried Israeli policies in Gaza and has proposed imposing tougher conditions on Israel to receive U.S. aid.
That he appears willing to talk to the Israelis at all is what got him in trouble with the radical Democratic Socialists of America.