Jamaal Bowman’s Israel policy is too questionable for me to consider sending him to Congress


NEW YORK (JTA) — Jamaal Bowman, a native New Yorker who is challenging Rep. Eliot Engel for his House seat in November, has been praised for his progressive stances on a variety of issues. Bowman has been endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others. 

But while some of his policy positions may seem in line with Jewish values, the positions on Israel he has shared publicly are troubling. Engel has been a strong ally of Israel in Congress, and we cannot afford to replace him with someone who will not recognize the strategic value of the U.S. alliance with the Jewish state. 

Bowman told Jacobin magazine in an interview for its spring issue that “we should seriously consider placing conditions on the billions of dollars of military aid our government provides [Israel] in order to make sure that the rights and dignity of both the Israeli and Palestinian people are respected.” Bowman added to Jewish Insider, “This is not about singling out Israel and targeting Israel. This is about any country that we provide aid to that’s committing human rights violations — we need to have a conversation about conditioning some aid if those violations continue.”  

I am alarmed that he made no mention of the threats facing Israel, including murderous acts that have not even spared our own district. Just a year and a half ago Ari Fuld, son of Rabbi Yonah Fuld, a past principal of SAR Academy, one of the largest schools in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, was knifed to death by a Palestinian terrorist.

Painfully, Bowman has said nothing about the Palestinian Authority’s egregious policy of funding for life the families of those who have committed murderous terrorist acts. Knowing that their families will receive money, this policy has inspired many to commit more heinous acts of terror.

Bowman’s website states that “Palestinians are entitled to basic human rights, safety from violence, and self-determination in a state of their own.” And yet, human rights abuses of the Palestinian Authority (and the Hamas terrorist organization) harm Palestinians as well. According to a 149-page report released in 2018 by Human Rights Watch, the P.A. and Hamas conduct “arbitrary arrests” and “systematic torture” of innocent Palestinians. 

Bowman has said that conditioning aid “is not about singling out Israel and targeting Israel,” yet it seems to me that this is exactly what he seeks to do.

Additionally, his position on the movement to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel is not clear, which is troubling to those opposed to singling out the Jewish state. 

Bowman has also tweeted that “@IlhanMN @RashidaTlaib do not hate Israel.” Both Omar and Tlaib have been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for criticism of Israel that these organizations say veered into anti-Semitism. Would Bowman cross similar lines? 

Our community is proud of its commitment to American values including, of course, racial harmony and equality for all.

And among the issues most important to us is the well-being of the State of Israel, one of America’s greatest allies. Unfortunately, Dr. Bowman’s comments on Israel have fallen far, far short.

is founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Bronx, NY. He is national president of AMCHA — the Coalition for Jewish Concerns and a longtime activist for Jewish causes, human rights and defending Holocaust memory.

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