‘Squad’ member draws primary challenge from staunch defender of Israel

In what could turn out to be a high-profile battle between Democrats in New York, Rep. Jamaal Bowman may soon be facing a primary challenger for his seat.

The progressive Democrat has been a vocal critic of Israel in its war with Hamas terrorists and pleaded guilty to pulling the fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building when there was no emergency. A member of the liberal group of Democrat lawmakers called “the Squad,” Bowman now will reportedly be facing a challenge from a strong supporter of Israel.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer (D) filed paperwork to run against Bowman for the seat in New York’s 16th Congressional District.

“Latimer filed a statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission on Monday, and a political consultant slated to work on the campaign who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private plans said a formal announcement is scheduled for Wednesday,” The Washington Post reported Monday.

Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Summer L. Lee (D-Pa.) are other left-wing House Democrats facing primary challenges for 2024 as a divide appears to be growing within the party over President Joe Biden’s response to the Israel-Hamas war.

“I have been asked to do it by people who are important and friends of mine. They have expressed an unhappiness with the incumbent over a lot of different issues. Israel is obviously very high on that list,” Latimer told the New York Post last month. “I am a strong supporter of Israel.”

He also told The Washington Post in October that the battle for the congressional seat could be a “proxy argument” between “the left and the far left.”

A spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said Bowman is aligned with “the anti-Israel extremist fringe.”

“Democrats in this district deserve a representative who stands by the mainstream view which supports the US-Israel relationship,” Marshall Wittmann said.

Ahead of his filing, Latimer spent some days in Israel where he met with officials who emphasized that “wiping out Hamas” is critical.

“The case they made is kind of straightforward,” he told Politico. “If the enemy was sitting in Connecticut and they came over the border and killed a bunch of people in your border communities, how would you react to it?”

“You can’t take hostages, keep them, then say ‘OK, let’s negotiate now, let’s be nice, let’s have peace now,’” the 70-year-old Democrat added, drawing a contrast with Bowman who, like his fellow Squad members, is pushing for a permanent ceasefire.

“I don’t have the George Latimer Peace Plan, it just seems logical to me the first thing you’ve got to do is release hostages. You took hostages.”

Bowman has spoken critically of the Hamas attack on Israel but continues to urge a ceasefire and negatively speaks of Israel.

“It’s one thing to support Israel,” he told MSNBC last month, but “it’s another thing to never hold Israel accountable for their behavior, whether it’s the occupation, the open-air prison that is Gaza, or the war crimes that are taking place right now during this siege.”

Bowman’s campaign seemed to be more focused on groups targeting certain progressive lawmakers than on a potential primary challenge from a top local Democrat.

“It’s not a surprise that a Super PAC that routinely targets Black members of Congress with primary challenges and is funded by the same Republican mega-donors who give millions to election-denying Republicans including Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Ted Cruz have recruited a candidate for this race,” Bowman’s campaign spokeswoman, Emma Simon, said in a statement on Monday.


Frieda Powers


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