DSA won’t expel Bowman over Israel, but they may withhold endorsement in 2022

The National Political Committee (NPC) of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have announced that they won’t expel Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) over his vote for additional Iron Dome funding and a recent J Street trip to Israel. However, they say they will revaluate their endorsement process and might refrain from backing the congressman again in 2022.

“It is in light of DSA’s developing electoral program and strategy for achieving material justice for Palestine that the NPC has assessed our approach to developing greater accountability for Bowman– a Black socialist and congressional freshman who defeated the pro-Israel incumbent Eliot Engel and has continued to criticize the Israeli government, while challenging his constituents to recognize Israel’s roots in the Nakba for Palestinians,” reads their statement. “We recognize the threat that Bowman and other members of the squad pose to the Zionist lobby and the important role DSA can play with them in advancing Palestinian rights and anti-imperialist struggle at the federal level.”

“Already, we have seen considerable movement from Representative Bowman and his office, and a marked demonstration of interest in both accountability, and collaboration on an effective and strategic path forward to advance the Palestinian cause through progressive struggle on the congressional terrain,” it continues. “This is why the NPC has decided not to expel Bowman. The National Political Committee will not re-endorse Bowman unless he is able to demonstrate solidarity with Palestine in alignment with expectations we have set.”

The NPC’s decision comes in response to multiple DSA chapters calling for Bowman’s expulsion. This week the DSA’s BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group put out a statement recommending expulsion and explaining how they’ve been trying to engage with Bowman’s office over Israel for months.

“Despite insisting that he is sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people, he has continued to show that he simply is not in solidarity with Palestinians, nor that he is willing to do what solidarity would actually necessitate,” said the group. “Building real solidarity and social bonds with Palestinians requires more than just recognizing and feeling bad for their plight. It requires following the lead of Palestinian civil society, and further, it also means empowering Palestinians everywhere to meaningfully change their own circumstances.”

Bowman has been a DSA member since 2019 and was endorsed by DSA during his congressional run. He espoused support for Palestinian rights on the campaign trail and signed onto Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) child detention legislation upon arriving in the House. However, in September he voted to supply Israel with an extra $1 billion in Iron Dome funding. Some of his fellow progressives, like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), voted against the measure.

Bowman defended his vote in an MSNBC appearance. “It’s important for me to make sure I represent everyone within my district–not just some people within my district,” he told host Mehdi Hasan. “This was an issue was very important to many people in my district. Secondly, voting in favor of the Iron Dome defense system is not going stop me from speaking out about Palestinian rights, and for Palestinian rights, and for Palestinian humanity. There’s inhumane treatment happening towards the Palestinians. That is a fact and that is something that we have to deal with in order to ensure the self-determination of Palestinians, and the safety and security of the people of Israel going forward.”

In November Bowman joined a congressional trip to Israel organized by the liberal Zionist group J Street. During his visit he criticized the occupation and posted a photo of himself standing with children in the West Bank, but he also met with the Knesset, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“This evening at the Knesset, I met with a delegation of Democratic members of Congress,” tweeted Lapid after meeting the delegation. “I thanked them for supporting the replenishment of the Iron Dome missile defense system, and we discussed the importance of continuing to strengthen the US-Israel relationship.”

A source familiar with the trip told Mondoweiss that the congressional delegation was presented with “secret evidence” from the Israeli government regarding the recent terrorist designation of six Palestinian human rights groups. Israel has yet to produce any viable proof that the organizations are connected to terrorism and many see the move as a blatant attempt to stifle Palestine activism.

This week Bowman appeared at a J Street U Town Hall to talk about his trip. The DSA Palestine working group said that he had “crossed a hard line” by attending. “This decision, as well as his Iron Dome vote, were not matters of lacking education, but matters of political calculus,” read their statement. “As it was communicated to us, although Bowman desires to be good on Palestine, he is not ready to take on the Zionist lobby yet and principally stand by his stated values.”

The DSA formally endorsed the BDS movement in 2017 and this year it reiterated its support for Palestine in its first political platform. It calls for members to, “Support self-determination for the Palestinian people and a political solution to the current crisis premised on the guarantee of basic human rights, including an end to the military occupation, an end to discrimination against Palestinians within Israel, and the right of return of refugees, as outlined in the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.”

The NPC statement also highlights this support. “The Democratic Socialists of America are unwavering in our commitment to Palestinian solidarity, and liberation both here and abroad,” it reads. “We will not allow the difficulty of navigating the contradictions inherent in these struggles to undermine our progress or lead us astray. We remain hopeful that Congressman Bowman continues to work with the NPC on using his office to demonstrate solidarity with Palestine. And we look forward to continuing to strengthen relationships within the Palestinian liberation movement so that, collectively, we can build the power necessary to win.”

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