Imperialism, AIPAC and Bowman’s loss

On June 25, an amalgam of right-wing forces, most notably the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, secured the defeat of Rep. Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th Congressional District’s Democratic Party primary election.

This was the most expensive Congressional primary election in U.S. history! Despite strong ties to the Republican Party, AIPAC and its super Political Action Committee (PAC), United Democracy Project, spent some $14.5 million for anti-Bowman ads and to support his opponent in the primary, pro-Israel Westchester County Executive George Latimer. Wealthy conservative donors contributed another $10 million to defeat Bowman. (

A super PAC is differentiated from a PAC in that it can raise unlimited amounts of money but can’t donate funds directly to a candidate. However, it can share “information”—​or perhaps misinformation—​on an opponent’s record.

According to an investigation by In These Times, of “the individuals behind AIPAC’s election war chest: nearly 60% are CEOs and other top executives at the country’s largest corporations.” (June 3) Thanks to the largesse of these capitalists, UDP is expected to spend over $100 million on primary races, with a particular goal of defeating members of “The Squad,” which Rep. Bowman joined after his election in 2020.

Jewish Voice for Peace demonstrates outside AIPAC offices, New York City, Feb. 22, 2024. (Photo: Jewish Voice for Peace)

The other Squad members are Reps. Cori Bush (Missouri), Greg Casar (Texas), Summer Lee (Pennsylvania), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), Delia Ramirez (Illinois) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan). These nine Democratic members of Congress, all Black or Brown and seven of them women, are behind a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

AIPAC’s campaign against the Squad is a right-wing, racist attack aiming to crush any congressional opposition to Israel.

No criticism of Zionist genocide permitted

The Squad includes members of the Democratic Socialists of America. Its nine members are generally allied with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and are considered “progressive” or even “left-wing.”

But the Squad members are not revolutionaries and most have been inconsistent on Palestine. In 2021, Bowman voted in favor of sending $3.3 billion in military aid to Israel. On Oct. 9, 2023, Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) stated: “I condemn Hamas’ attack in the strongest possible terms.” No one in the Squad has quit the Democratic Party, voiced solidarity with the Resistance or made a clean break with U.S. imperialism.

Nevertheless, Bowman did vote against U.S. funds to Israel last fall and this spring, as did many members of the Squad, and spoke out in public and the media, which angered AIPAC. The Squad has been criminalized for simply refusing to be hard-line supporters of the genocidal Zionist state.

AIPAC’s effort to oust Bowman even involved getting Republicans to register as Democrats so they could vote against him. The message sent to any aspiring politician is that no criticism of Israel will go unpunished.

The drive to squelch any pro-Palestine voice in elected office is much broader than AIPAC or even Israel itself. Rep. Tlaib was censured—​which is one step away from expulsion—​by Congress in November for attending demonstrations that raised the slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Tlaib, the only Palestinian member of Congress, has been subjected to multiple, bipartisan attacks.

It would be a mistake to simply blame “the Zionist lobby” and let the U.S. political establishment off the hook for Bowman’s loss. Zionism is a tool of Western imperialism to maintain its domination of oil-rich West Asia and North Africa (the Middle East). That’s why so many of AIPAC’s donors come from the ruling class.

Going back to the partition of Palestine in 1948, nearly every member of Congress has taken a pro-Israel position—​even without pressure from AIPAC.

What has changed is that the Palestinian Resistance is making Israeli apartheid unsustainable.

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