The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution: The Case against Israel and Palestine in the 2024 Voting Season of Donald J. Bowman
As the left-leaning journalist Ryan Grim points out in his forthcoming book, “The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution,” the politics of Israel and Palestine have bedeviled the group ever since its first members burst onto the political scene in 2018.
She betrayed a feeling of how dangerous the issue could be, but she couldn’t have known how much she had underestimated it.
Before he went to Israel and Palestine, he had co-sponsored legislation that encouraged Arab states to improve relations with Israel. When he returned, he withdrew his sponsorship and said that he wouldn’t vote for the bill because it wasn’t taking Palestinian interests into account. The move appalled rabbis in his district. Later, Bowman angered many Jewish constituents by co-sponsoring Tlaib’s resolution commemorating what Palestinians call the nakba, or catastrophe, referring to their expulsion from Israel during the country’s founding. He boycotted the speech by Israel’s president to Congress in July.
“I’ve been in politics for 30 years, local, state and federal,” said Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat and former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “But last cycle was the first time I saw a really disturbing new phenomenon, which was two groups — cryptocurrency folks and AIPAC — getting involved in Democratic primaries with huge amounts of money,” often more than the candidates were spending themselves. We can expect to see even more outside money from groups supporting Israel deployed against the Squad in 2024. “The level of concern and engagement on the part of the pro-Israel community is at an extraordinarily high level,” Mellman, of Democratic Majority for Israel, told me.
The Democratic Majority for Israel tried to put a halt to Bowman’s campaign after he was defeated in the Democratic primary in 2020. The group spent almost $2 million in the race, much of it on ads slamming Bowman for unpaid taxes. It would have been considered tone-deaf to hit a black man for financial troubles before he had risen to become a successful principal during the New York Democratic primary. The attack failed; Bowman ended up winning a blowout 15-point victory.
These big-footed donors, who are overwhelmingly targeting representatives of color, are going to exacerbate the fissures in the Democratic Party. They didn’t create them. I was struck by the fact that some of the people who were depressed at the event had also suffered through a loss.
Omar is going to have a rematch against a former Minneapolis City Council member, Don Samuels, who lost to her by about two points in the 2022 primary. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat who emerged from the Black Lives Matter movement, is facing a primary challenge from a former political ally, the St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell. Summer Lee, a Pittsburgh Democrat whose district includes the Tree of Life synagogue, site of an antisemitic mass murder in 2018, is being challenged by Bhavini Patel.
Should a few members of the Squad lose their primaries, the blow to Democratic unity could be severe. “Many of the young people or people of color, Muslim and Arab Democrats who support the Squad will feel like the party is not a place for them,” said Waleed Shahid, former communications director of the Justice Democrats, the group that recruited Ocasio-Cortez to run for office, and a senior adviser on Bowman’s 2020 campaign. “And they’ll either stay at home or they’ll go to a third party.”
Already, there are signs that the party is fracturing over Israel. The majority of Democrats want a cease-fire, but few in the Democratic establishment are in favor of it. Last week, over 100 congressional staffers walked out to demand that their bosses stop the fighting. More than 500 alumni of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and Democratic Party staff members have signed a letter imploring Biden to call for a cease-fire, saying, “If you fail to act swiftly, your legacy will be complicity in the face of genocide.”
He saw firsthand how the expansion of settlements is making a contiguous Palestinian state nearly impossible. I left feeling pretty overwhelmed and pretty dejected, because the rhetoric at home didn’t match the reality on the ground. Bowman still believes in two states, but said, “The policies of the Israeli government haven’t gotten us there, and the U.S. hasn’t held Israel accountable towards helping us to get there.”
It was familiar to Bowman, too. It is difficult to not see parallels between the congressman and a racially conscious Black person.
While hanging posters of kidnapped Israelis around town he came to believe that their views on the Middle East are irreconcilable. “I think he sees what he believes to be an injustice, a grave injustice,” and that his votes are coming from a deep “moral consciousness,” she said. “And I think the pain and suffering he is causing to his constituents is some kind of collateral damage to that higher principle.”
A more transactional politician would have compromised on an issue so fraught in his community. For better or worse, he is very sincere. Lovett was dreading “an insanely divisive primary,” but didn’t see any way around it. She said that he wouldn’t convince them and they wouldn’t convince him.
There is a crowd of protesters in Washington, just minutes from the White House. The 23-year-old is one of the thousands calling on President Biden to demand a cease-fire in Gaza and halt additional aid to Israel.
The comments were made as a group of lawmakers and voter organizations voiced their displeasure with Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war.
Over a week after pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched on Nov. 4 for a cease-fire, tens of thousands of people met on the National Mall in support of Israel.
“We want to continue to have generations of Jewish people stay alive and the Jewish faith stay alive,” said 23-year-old Sheindl Spitzer-Tilchin, a Jewish student who attended the march on Nov. 14.
She said that she appreciated him standing up for Israel as well as understanding how terrible this is for college students, families, and the world in general.
Young Americans are wondering how the White House’s response to the war in the Middle East may affect their view of politics. There are some people who vote for Democratic candidates, but against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, some people’s opinions are shifting.
The Israeli–Palestinian War: A Tale of Two Protests, a Sharp Divide among Young Voters on the Israel-Hamas War
According to Shalabi, he will likely vote for a third-party candidate. Political experts say that Democrats sitting out the election or voting for another party in protest could actually help Republicans.
Pro-Palestinian protesters are angry about Biden’s consistently strong levels of support for Israel and his commitment to send the country $14 billion in aid. After a Hamas attack killed over a thousand people in Israel, the Jewish state launched a military offensive in Gaza. A total of more than 250 hostages were taken by Hamas.
Since then, the president has expressed increasing concern for the safety of the Palestinian people living in areas affected by Israeli military offensives. There have been more than 11,000 deaths in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry.
Teddi Shalabi said that she doesn’t think that we need to choose between the two candidates.
Alam, who is Indian American and Muslim, finds backing Biden painful now, especially given that Muslim voters have historically aligned with Democrats.
“[Biden] has a lot of work to do. He has lost the trust of Muslim Americans who have been largely, almost all of us, were raised to identify with this party,” she said, “And the past month especially has been very, very isolating and gut-wrenching.”
Gitlan said he needed to be here to show support for his friends who are here and also to show that this could be over.
Gitlan said he was happy with Biden’s response thus far and pointed out the Democratic leaders attending the march, including Schumer and Jeffries. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. was also on stage and gave remarks.
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“I feel like the far left doesn’t support Israel. And Israel is an important part of who I am as a person,” Levin said. “I don’t know if I can really associate with that party anymore.”
“I feel like the Jewish people have always stood up for everyone else,” said the grandson of a holocaust survivor, “and right now it seems that people aren’t standing by the Jewish people.”
The sentiment was echoed throughout the country by Jewish communities that identify as Democrats and have supported progressive movements in the U.S.
“This does have the potential of being an issue where there could be that kind of division,” Hais explained. I haven’t found evidence of it yet. I don’t think it’s gone far enough. But it is the first time I think I’ve seen the potential for a generation gap within the Democratic Party.” he added.
“Older and younger Democrats are pretty much in accord with what they think is important and issues they favor,” said Mike Hais, a Democratic researcher who has studied youth politics for decades.
He says that his own research shows the majority of voters in the Democratic Party agree on major social issues, such as protecting abortion and addressing climate change. But the issue of Israel and the Palestinian people could break that unity.