NY Democrat risks seat by pushing for two-state solution

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY; photo, left), who represents a district with many Jewish voters, faces a serious primary challenge because of his opposition to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people.

Bowman, like many American politicians, supports an eventual Palestinian state. But during a trip to Israel in 2021, he concluded there is “no political will” in Israel for the two-state solution.

Accordingly, he’s pushed in Congress for conditioning U.S. aid upon Israel’s government engaging in a “sustainable peace process.” (Read story here.) That wouldn’t happen under Israel’s current rightwing government without U.S. pressure.

Palestinians are a conquered people. They’re mistreated under occupation. Militants retaliate with rocket and terror attacks. Israel then responds with miliary force, and the cycle of violence repeats endlessly.

What if most Palestinians just want to be left alone? It’s a mistake to think that would happen if they peacefully submitted to the Israeli occupation. The status quo is not static. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers are continually abusing Palestinians and taking more land from them. Israeli troops don’t restrain them. Meanwhile, some Israeli politicians engage in eliminationist rhetoric.

Palestinians can’t be expected to take this lying down. An oppressed people will defend themselves however they can. For decades, Palestinians’ primary means of fighting has been terror attacks. That hasn’t endeared them to the world, or gained them support outside the Arab world; but if the world has learned anything from those decades of conflict, it’s that further oppression begets more conflict.

Bowman is a rare principled politician who cares more about peace than his popularity, and is running political risks to pursue a workable peace strategy, but his approach involves pressuring Israeli politicians to change their policies because they won’t otherwise. Militantly pro-Israel Americans, whether Jewish or not, don’t like that.

I don’t see how a live-and-let-live solution threatens Israel’s existence. It may not be attainable, but it’s not wrong to try. Bowman is betting the Jewish vote in his district is not monolithic, and clearly there are American Jews who want change in Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

But animosity is deeply ingrained on both sides, it spills into our domestic politics, and the “you’re either for us or against us” mentality may prevail in Bowman’s district when the votes are counted. That would be a shame.

Update (6/25/24): Bowman lost the primary election held on June 25, 2024 (see story here).

Related article (6/26/24): This writer believes Bowman lost because he focused on national politics instead of his district and constituents.

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