When Jamaal Bowman ousted 16-term incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) in 2020, many in the pro-Israel community were worried. Engel was a power in Congress and one of Israel’s strongest supporters. Bowman, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, became a member of the uber-left-leaning “Squad.” He is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has about 90,000 members nationwide.
In Congress, Bowman joined fellow DSA members Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.). Unlike them, however, Bowman’s congressional district has a large Jewish constituency. That may explain why he joined a small congressional group this month on a visit to Israel and the West Bank, which included a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The trip was sponsored by J Street, the liberal group that supports a two-state solution and opposes Israel’s settlements and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Bowman’s visit to Israel outraged his DSA friends. Calls quickly came to throw him out of the alliance. “Our platform proudly states continued support for and involvement with the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and efforts to eliminate U.S. military aid to Israel, while resisting the ‘normalization’ of relationships between the Israeli government and other governments,” DSA said in a statement.
Bowman set off DSA’s alarm bells earlier this year with votes in favor of military aid to Israel and to fund the Iron Dome missile defense system. Those votes piqued DSA ire since, when it comes to Israel, DSA allows no room for inquiry, compromise or humanitarian concern – the answer always needs to be “no.”
Similar fixation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reportedly brought about the near collapse of another party on the left: Canada’s Green Party, which began the year electing Annamie Paul as the first Black and Jewish party leader in Canadian history. Paul resigned this month amid criticism that party members were motivated more by an anti-Israel bias than anything related to the more fundamental progressive agenda for which the party supposedly stands.
The same question has been raised about DSA. “Do Democratic Socialists have a Jewish problem?” blasted a recent headline in New York Daily News. And the article that followed noted that the DSA opposes “the ‘normalization’ of relationships between the Israeli government and other governments … [as] they seek to isolate not only the Israeli government but any government — like, say, Morocco’s — that wants bilateral relations with them.”
This is all part of a disturbing pattern. Last summer, the BDS movement slammed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for meeting with Morocco’s prime minister due to Morocco’s relations with Israel. It seems that one of Israel’s most implacable foes — Hamas — is no longer pro-Palestinian enough. This is what comes from staring at a single issue for too long.
The Democratic Socialists of America are headed toward self-destruction. They spout progressive goals and solidarity with workers but would rather face oblivion than tolerate one of their members challenging DSA’s single-minded commitment to the elimination of the State of Israel.