AIPAC leads unprecedented $14.5 million campaign against Bowman in NY primary

Squad member who accused Jerusalem of genocide will face off against Israel supporter George Latimer in the Democratic primary on Tuesday

File: Rep. Jamaal Bowman at SUNY Westchester Community College, May 10, 2023, in Valhalla, New York (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
File: Rep. Jamaal Bowman at SUNY Westchester Community College, May 10, 2023, in Valhalla, New York (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has led a massive record-making campaign in the last month against Congressman Jamaal Bowman ahead of the New York Democratic primary next week, The New York Times reports.

The interest group, along with its super PAC the United Democracy Project as well as advocacy group Democratic Majority for Israel, has reportedly spent $14.5 million on television ads, leaflets, and phone calls to constituents all attacking Bowman, a member of the hard-left Squad and one of the first to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

While the campaign against Bowman seemingly stems from his views critical of Israel, the report said the contents of the messages rarely mention Israel, except in some ads that can be targeted toward specific audiences.

Instead, the messages mostly frame Bowman as a “pariah” who is disloyal to US President Joe Biden and who “courts controversy, chaos and conspiracy.”

The ads have also drawn voters’ attention to a blog post published by Bowman in 2011 that contained a poem he wrote promoting multiple 9/11 conspiracy theories. These included claims that no planes crashed into the Pentagon and that the US government was responsible for the collapse of Building 7, which fell due to debris from the World Trade Center towers.

The Times quotes one TV spot, which has likely been seen 180 million times, as saying that “Jamaal Bowman has his own agenda, and he’s hurting New York.”

Illustrative: A visitor to the US Capitol, wearing a yellow ribbon to raise awareness for hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, clutches an AIPAC folder while taking the elevator in the Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, DC, March 12, 2024. (Alex Wong / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP)

According to the report, the campaign may be working, as Bowman’s opponent George Latimer, who is backed by AIPAC, has taken a significant lead in the polls.

“This race offers an unambiguous choice. George Latimer is a progressive, pro-Israel candidate while Jamaal Bowman has refused to support the Jewish state as it fights a moral and just war against Iranian terrorist proxies,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann told The Times.

“Assuming the outcome is as we expect it, the message is going to be that being pro-Israel is not just wise policy, it’s smart politics,” Democratic Majority for Israel pollster Mark Mellman told the paper.

In a speech to voters earlier this month, Bowman said he was being “attacked by the Zionist regime we call AIPAC.”

“I’m an outspoken person of color. I’m an outspoken Black man. I fight against genocide in Gaza, and I fight for justice right here. And [Latimer’s] supporters don’t want that because it challenges their power,” he said in a debate with his opponent last week.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who has campaigned with Bowman, told The Times that the campaign’s message was that if “you stand up to powerful interests, they will try to bring you down.”

Composite photo: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (left), a New York Democrat at a campaign stop in White Plains, New York, on June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey); Westchester County Executive George Latimer speaks in White Plains, New York, March 20, 2023. (Tania Savanna/The Journal News via AP)

“Today, they’re in the Democratic primary. Tomorrow, they’ll be in the Republican primary. They don’t care,” he said.

With the New York primary set to be held on Tuesday, the United Democracy Project has begun to turn its attention to Bowman’s fellow Squad member Cori Bush. According to the report, the group has so far spent $1.5 million on a campaign against the Missouri representative who will be facing a primary election in St. Louis in August.

Following the October 7 attacks, AIPAC warned lawmakers like Bowman and Bush to moderate their views on Israel or face political campaigns against them. While Bowman condemned the attack at the time, he and Bush co-sponsored a resolution calling for a ceasefire on October 16, shortly after Israel’s campaign to root out Hamas began. It made no mention of Hamas or the hostages it was holding.

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