A New York City congressional candidate backed by the same progressive group that helped elect Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) touted an endorsement from anti-Israel activists who routinely defend instances of anti-Semitism.
Jamaal Bowman, a progressive Democrat running to unseat incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), embraced The Jewish Vote, a far-left group aiming to “harness the power of the progressive Jewish resistance,” at a January rally. Though the group has claimed neutrality toward the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, its leadership regularly voices support for BDS, defends progressives who make anti-Semitic remarks, and likens Israel to Nazi Germany.
“The state of Israel is doing the same thing to Palestinians as was done to Jewish people,” The Jewish Vote steering committee member Elana Levin said in May.
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Despite the organization’s history, Bowman said he was “incredibly proud to work with The Jewish Vote to take on anti-Semitism” in the group’s press release announcing the endorsement.
The Jewish Vote, which made no mention of Middle East policy in its announcement of the Bowman endorsement, employs “deceptive tactics” to distract from its anti-Israel stance, according to Josh Block, a former Clinton aide.
“More than just offensive politically, it is the deceptive tactics being practiced by these groups and their stooges and stage-managed ‘candidates’ that are intended to deceive and whitewash their anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic ideas, positions, partnerships, and true purpose, which is to undermine the Jewish State and America’s only steadfast ally in the Middle East,” Block told the Washington Free Beacon. “That should be a klaxon warning of how truly toxic are such groups and those who affiliate [with] them.”
The Bowman campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Bowman is not the only Democratic candidate who has embraced anti-Israel activists on the campaign trail. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) in December touted the endorsement of John Dabeet, an extreme anti-Israel advocate who called Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat an “immortal leader.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) has deployed numerous anti-Israel activists as top surrogates for his campaign, including former Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour.
The Jewish Vote, the electoral arm of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), has a history of backing pro-BDS candidates. In 2019, the organization supported Tiffany Cabán, a failed district attorney candidate who faced criticism from Jewish leaders after she accepted an endorsement from Sarsour and refused to condemn BDS. It also backed Julia Salazar, a New York state senator and former JFREJ staffer who supports BDS. Though The Jewish Vote described Salazar as “an immigrant, Jewish woman of color,” a 2018 Tablet report revealed that Salazar was born in Miami and was a campus leader of Christians United for Israel in college.
The Jewish Vote’s co-founder, Sanders delegate Rafael Shimunov, has publicly supported BDS. Shimunov praised electronic musician Shlohmo for canceling a concert in Israel, saying that “Palestinian civil society” asks “Jews and Americans” to boycott Israel, adding “it’s extremely powerful to be the fullest allies that way.”
Another JFREJ staffer characterized BDS as not “inherently antisemitic,” a position contradicted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a watchdog group that combats anti-Semitism. The ADL considers “many of the founding goals of BDS” to be anti-Semitic and has called the movement “the most prominent effort to undermine Israel’s existence.”
Shimunov also reflects The Jewish Vote’s tendency to defend progressive Palestinian activists who make anti-Semitic statements. When D.C. city councilman Trayon White Sr. (D.) blamed snowfall in the nation’s capital on Jews, accused Jews of controlling the World Bank and U.S. government, and donated to a Nation of Islam event where anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan denounced Jews, Shimunov rushed to his defense, claiming White was the “object of a huge character assassination” because he represents “America’s poorest children.”
The Jewish Vote has defended former Women’s March board members Sarsour and Zahra Billoo over anti-Semitic comments. Sarsour called the Muslim Brotherhood, a group committed to instituting Sharia law, the “coolest,” praised the Nation of Islam, and said, “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.” Billoo has claimed that Israel “commits war crimes and terrorism as a hobby,” referred to Israel as “an apartheid, racist state,” and refused to denounce “jihad, khilafah or sharia.”
When Sarsour and Billoo were removed from the Women’s March leadership, leaders from The Jewish Vote rallied to their defense. Committee member and co-founder Katie Unger, who spoke at Bowman’s endorsement rally, called Sarsour “a true ally against anti-Semitism” and said Billoo’s removal was a “smear.” Levin followed suit, calling Sarsour “amazing.” The Jewish Vote executive director Audrey Sasson said Sarsour is “not the problem.”
The Jewish Vote has also worked with radical anti-Israel groups through its sister organization. JFREJ co-founders Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark and Donna Nevel have collaborated with Jewish Voice for Peace, a pro-BDS organization that hosted a convicted Palestinian terrorist as a keynote speaker at the group’s 2017 conference.
Bowman’s embrace of The Jewish Vote reflects the division between pro-Israel establishment Democrats and anti-Israel progressives. Engel, Bowman’s Democratic opponent, is staunchly pro-Israel and defended anti-BDS legislation in 2018. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) condemned BDS in 2018, calling it anti-Semitic and a “profoundly biased campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel.”
“When there is such a double standard, when the world treats everybody one way and the Jew or the Jewish state another way, there’s only one word for it: anti-Semitism! Let us call out the BDS movement for what it is,” Schumer said.
The Jewish Vote did not respond to a request for comment.
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