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Socialist group criticizes US congressman for Israel trip

Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, but Democratic Socialists of America, which supports a boycott of Israel, is not happy about his recent travel to Israel and the West Bank.
Jamaal Bowman

A prominent socialist group is at odds with a Democratic congressman for visiting Israel. 

Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York visited Israel and the West Bank this month as part of a trip organized by the lobby group J Street, which describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” Bowman is a member of the self-dubbed “squad” of progressives in Congress, who are relatively critical of Israel. In February, Bowman wrote a letter to the Israeli consulate in New York regarding the relatively slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the Palestinian Territories vis-a-vis Israel. 

Bowman traveled with a small group of other Democrats in Congress. On Nov. 10, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who described the conversation as “great.” The same day, he met with Palestinian children in the West Bank city of Hebron. He criticized Israel’s occupation of the territory afterward.  

“When I asked about their dreams, their answer was simple: freedom,” Bowman tweeted about the children. “The occupation must end.”

Democratic Socialists of America released a statement on Nov. 16 about Bowman’s trip to Israel. The organization said that it “unapologetically stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle for liberation.” The group also reiterated its support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which calls for a variety of boycotts against Israel, including a travel boycott.

Democratic Socialists of America added that they received letters from many chapters and members across the country on the issue. Some Democratic Socialists of America chapters were more direct with their criticism. The Las Vegas chapter wrote on Nov. 13, “It is time that we hold Representative Jamaal Bowman accountable” for the trip. 

A spokesperson for Bowman declined to comment today on the letter. Democratic Socialists of America said they will meet with Bowman soon. 

Bowman was endorsed by Democratic Socialists of America in 2020, when he defeated longtime Rep. Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary. This is not the first time members of the organization have criticized him for his record on Israel, however. Last month, a Wisconsin Democratic Socialists of America chapter demanded they “expel” Bowman after he voted in favor of additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome, which is an air defense system that protects Israel from rocket fire. 

The Wisconsin chapter also took issue with Bowman issuing condolences upon the death of Colin Powell, who was secretary of state during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. 

Solidarity with Palestine and opposition to Israel is a cause célèbre for many on the political left around the world, including in the United States. 

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