The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), whose roots are in the Socialist Party of America (SPA), are mad as hell at one of their representatives in Congress, Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who took away New York’s 16th district from incumbent Eliot Engel in 2020. The DSA, whose members include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman (the “Squad” has six members in Congress, but only four are in the DSA – DI), are upset for several reasons:
1. Congressman Bowman defied the movement’s ban on travel to Israel when in early November he joined a trip to Israel that was paid for by J Street, and met with Foreign Minister and soon to become Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
2. The Congressman refuses to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, nor is he willing to accuse Israel of an apartheid policy against its non-Jews.
3. The Congressman voted in favor of an additional billion-dollar budget to allow Israel to replenish the rockets of its Iron Dome system.
That last one hurt Bowmann’s socialist brothers and sisters the worst, judging by their September 24 Mad-Hatter press release that screamed: “The National Political Committee of DSA condemns the barbaric vote by the Congressional House to fund Israel an additional $1 billion for their Iron Dome ‘missile defense system.’ The US already provides nearly $4 billion in annual military aid to Israel. And this money is used to fund the countless violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. This is money that could instead be funding urgent human needs in the US like 400,000 public housing units, or 47,000 teachers, or healthcare for 1.6 million children, or renewable electricity for 6 million households—to say nothing of how far it could go in real aid to repair and rebuild civil society in Palestine after 73 years of occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing.”
The visit with Lapid was a huge coup for J Street and therefore should have received some approval from the Socialists – under Prime Minister Netanyahu, J Street was not able to show off its ties to power in Israel. But instead of seeing the value in this alliance, the DSA stated bluntly: “It is incontrovertible that the congressman’s recent trip and vote for Iron Dome funding stands in opposition to DSA’s platform in support of Palestine and undermines a basic commitment to justice for Palestinians.” And they added: “Bennett’s government wants to repair its image among progressives while it expands settlements, deepens its apartheid policies, and continues its violent oppression of Palestinians. Socialists should condemn such actions unequivocally.”
Ah, well, the last time a clever socialist was in charge anywhere in American politics was probably during the Great Depression.
Instead, the party’s Palestine working group devised a series of demands to be met by Bowman if he wants to avoid being kicked out of the fold:
1. Commit to upholding the call for BDS.
2. Support pro-Palestinian legislation and oppose anti-Palestinian legislation in Washington.
3. Participate in a travel boycott of Israel and Palestine.
On Nov. 16, the DSA announced that it had “received letters from various DSA chapters and members about the situation” which was “its highest priority right now.” You get it, right? A Democrat in the White House is fighting to pass progressive legislation through Congress and the highest priority for loyal Socialists is the fact that a Congressman from the Bronx visited Israel and met with Yair Lapid. And they added: “Our platform proudly states continued support for and involvement with the Palestinian-led 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.”
I mean, thank God for the DSA, maybe there’s hope for the GOP to take back both houses next November?
According to the NY Post, DSA leaders held a meeting with Bowman which they described as disappointing. But calls to kick the erring Bowman out of the DSA were met by resistance from many chapters.
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant, pointed out to the Post on Sunday that Bowman’s district is still chock full of Elliot Engel voters, and they would have no problem voting Republican if their Congressman turned out to be anti-Israel. With that in mind, it makes much better sense for Bowman to stay on good terms with his Jewish constituent than with his Socialist supporters (many of whom are also Jewish, but we’ll talk about it some other time).