May 18, 2024
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May 18, 2024
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Calls to Oust Rep. Jamaal Bowman Grow

A series of actions by Rep. Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), including opposing last week’s vote supporting Israel against charges of racism and his boycotting of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to Congress, has renewed calls for the Jewish community to push for a replacement candidate to challenge him in the 2024 Democratic primary.

For Justin Brasch, who is the only Orthodox elected official in Westchester County and the Democratic president of the White Plains Common Council, that candidate is Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who he said has a long record of support for the Jewish community.

“Many prominent Jewish leaders have been asking him to run,” Brasch told The Jewish Link in a phone interview. “George Latimer has been a tremendous friend to the Jewish community over many decades of service.”

Latimer has said he has not made a decision on whether to throw his hat into the ring.

“George Latimer is a very principled and popular county executive,” said Brasch. “He has been to Israel several times. He comes to synagogues, including my own, the Young Israel of White Plains, and always supports our community and all communities.”

Brasch acknowledged despite the tension between him and Bowman over the congressman’s persistent anti-Israel stance, he has worked hard to develop “a nice relationship” with him.

Bowman, who represents Westchester and the Bronx, released a statement prior to Herzog’s address explaining his decision: “From Israel to India, we must hold our allies accountable when it comes to human rights violations and the abuses of far-right governments, which is why I will not be attending Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to Congress this Wednesday.”

Bowman said he had previously met with Herzog in Israel, where he expressed his concerns and found his responses “were not aligned to moving us toward a two-state solution. My decision to not attend in no way stems from a lack of support for the existence of the State of Israel. On the contrary, it is out of concern that there is no sense of urgency about ensuring the safety and security of all Israelis and Palestinians in the region and finally achieving a two-state solution.”

He added: “I strongly support a democratic Israel and a Palestinian state that are able to thrive with peace and security.”

Last week’s 412-9-1 vote declaring “Israel is not a racist or apartheid state” came after Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) called Israel a “racist state.” The dissenting votes cast by the nine Democrats in the Progressive Caucus were sharply criticized by both Republicans and Democrats.

For Brasch and other members of the Jewish community, Bowman’s statements about supporting Israel seem to be disingenuous. He noted the congressman voted against the recent congressional resolution commemorating Israel’s 75th birthday. “I asked him why, since this wasn’t about the Palestinians,” said Brasch. “He said it just didn’t mention the Palestinians and he couldn’t vote for it.”

Additionally, Brasch said, “He voted for celebrating the ‘Nakba,’ which means ‘tragedy,’ and that tragedy is the creation of the State of Israel.” (The Nakba is the Arabic reference to the 1948 founding of Israel and the exodus of Palestinians.)

Brasch said Bowman also withdrew from bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Republican Mike Lawler, who represents New York’s Hudson Valley, and Democrat Ritchie Torres, who represents the Bronx, to strengthen the Abraham Accords, which he had previously co-sponsored.

However, Bowman’s vote against the resolution supporting Israel and his boycott of Herzog’s speech were especially galling to Brasch, who had a long exchange with him over the issue.

“I reminded him that Herzog was from the Labor Party and a supporter of the two-state solution,” Brasch said. “He insisted that there was no one in the Israeli establishment who was pro-peace in a serious way. I explained to him how vulnerable Israel is and suffers from an existential threat from Hezbollah and Iran, and reminded him that Palestinian Islamic Jihad had just fired over 1,000 rockets at Israel. He seems to only be concerned with the Palestinian side and does not understand the vulnerabilities of Israel and the Jewish community.”

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