Dem Rep Bowman Pledges to Back BDS in Primary Knife Fight

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Embattled Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) did a 180 on a crucial foreign policy issue—support for the controversial Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at Israel—in his bid to secure the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America, according to video of a campaign event last month.

Bowman, who represents a swath of the Bronx and the New York City suburbs, previously rankled some fellow DSA members by opposing the push to economically penalize Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians.

A visit to Israel, and a vote to underwrite the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system, nearly got Bowman booted from the left-wing group in his first term in Congress, even though he had warned the organization in a 2020 questionnaire that symbolic declarations of support for the BDS policy “will not advance our cause of liberating oppressed people from colonialism.”

Now facing a challenge in this month’s Democratic primary from an opponent backed by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—and seeking the socialists’ help in turning out the vote—Bowman has taken a hard left turn.

“At some point people like me and others, and I will do this, have to come out in support of BDS very publicly. I think it's critical for that to happen, especially at this time,” the congressman, a former high school principal, told a DSA Zoom summit in late May, in a recording viewed by The Daily Beast.

Bowman did not say when this reversal would occur, and nobody on the call pressed for specifics. The volte-face would put Bowman in a narrow company of BDS-backers on Capitol Hill, including such fellow progressives as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO).

Bowman further promised to not support additional funds for the Iron Dome system and alluded to controversy over his “nay” vote last fall on a House resolution that—as he put it—“claimed what happened on October 7 was unprovoked.”

"It's a genocide, it's famine, it's horrific, and it's evil,” he said of Israeli’s devastating ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ bloody attacks.

A spokesperson for Bowman's campaign, Lawrence Wang, told The Daily Beast: “Like the Congressman said in his statement on HR771, he condemns both Hamas and the collective punishment [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s government has wielded against innocent Palestinians.

“The only way to end the cycle of violence is through a permanent ceasefire, the return of all hostages, and a real two-state solution so Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace.”

Speaking during the DSA Zoom summit, Bowman highlighted his own status as a DSA member, contradicting his own office’s claims last election cycle that he had allowed his dues to lapse. He argued his primary opponent, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, represented a threat to all their interests.

"We have a common enemy right now which is AIPAC, so let's form Voltron [a reference to a super robot from childrens’ TV] and fucking destroy them," he said. “If we are able to win, god willing, we are going to see a collective paradigm shift for people across the country. Many are no longer going to be intimidated or afraid by the power structure in our political arena."

The New York City chapter of DSA, which endorsed Bowman after the meeting, did not respond to questions from The Daily Beast about how the congressman’s comments impacted that decision.

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