COMMENTARY

Jamaal Bowman was beat by a toxic blend of militarism and Zionism

The first Democratic incumbent to lose a primary this year was up against the most powerful influences in politics

By Norman Solomon

Contributing Writer

Published June 27, 2024 5:45AM (EDT)

Former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman speaks during an interview with a reporter outside a subway station on June 17, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman speaks during an interview with a reporter outside a subway station on June 17, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman lost a primary election Tuesday after unprecedented spending against him by powerful forces that insist Israel does no wrong. The powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC had already devoted more than $14 million to defeating Bowman, in retaliation for his outspoken support of a ceasefire to the war in Gaza and human rights for all — including Palestinian — people. 

Since last fall, most Democratic voters — especially young people — have recoiled at the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. But despite the magnitude of the horrors inflicted on civilians, the vast bulk of the U.S. media and political establishment has remained on automatic pro-Israel pilot, while often tarring strong opponents of the mass murder as antisemitic. 

Although usually eager to defend Democratic incumbents facing strong primary challenges, this time the party’s leadership offered winks and nods to Bowman’s AIPAC-funded opponent, George Latimer. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries went through only perfunctory motions of supporting Bowman. Another fellow Democrat, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, was in the groove when she declared on Sunday: “I am not weighing in on primaries intentionally. But what I'm very focused on is number one, I stand strongly with Israel.” Hillary Clinton endorsed Latimer, saying the country "needs strong, principled Democrats in Congress more than ever." 

The meaning of such declarations is rote complicity with nonstop U.S. military aid to Israel as it maintains a siege of Gaza that has already lasted more than 260 days. During that time, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said last week, “more than 120,000 people in Gaza, overwhelmingly women and children, have been killed or injured” — “as a result of the intensive Israeli offensives.” 

When this week began, Save the Children reported that “up to 21,000 children are estimated to be missing in the chaos of the war in Gaza, many trapped beneath rubble, detained, buried in unmarked graves, or lost from their families.” While voters were casting ballots on Tuesday, the Washington Post summarized a new assessment from experts reporting to the United Nations: “The threat of famine in the Gaza Strip has been revived after Israel’s military operation in the southern city of Rafah disrupted aid deliveries, leaving more than 500,000 Palestinians on the brink of starvation.”

Israel’s warfare — fully enabled by the U.S. government — is continuing to cause those systematic atrocities.

“All available evidence indicates that U.S. officials hold Israel to a lower standard than just about any other country,” Responsible Statecraft reporter Connor Echols pointed out last month. The evidence is ample.

The rock-bottom standards applied to the Israeli government are in sync with what the U.S. media and political establishment routinely apply to the United States government. The same basic mass-messaging patterns that confer absolution on whatever the U.S. military does (as described in my book War Made Invisible) are operative in making excuses for what the Israeli military does.

The militaries of the two nations are enmeshed. Not only does the U.S. send huge amounts of weapons and ammunition to Israel. The countries are also constantly exchanging intelligence as well as data on evaluating the efficacy of weaponry and warfare tactics. They share, and create, the same enemies in the Middle East. And the two nations execute highly deceptive maneuvers from the same propaganda playbooks.

In short, while their command structures are separate and they can sometimes be at odds over tactics and proprieties, the Israeli military largely operates as an extension of the U.S. armed forces. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, dominant mentalities — constantly reinforced by mass media and mainstream politics — run along parallel ruts of Zionism and militarism that are mutually reinforcing and increasingly intersecting. Along the way, toxins draw strength from the poisons that Martin Luther King Jr. denounced as “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”

All the denials notwithstanding, a bedrock of unwavering support for Israel as it continues the mass killing of Palestinian civilians is the base assumption — conscious or not — that Palestinian lives are far less valuable than Jewish Israeli lives. Or American lives. 

The merger of American and Israeli militarism is now more comprehensive than ever. Both are driven by extreme nationalism, war profiteering, and ethnocentric bigotry. Nonviolent unyielding resistance is not futile. It is essential.


By Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of many books, including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." His latest book, "War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine," was published in June 2023.

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Commentary Democrats Elections 2024 Gaza Jamal Bowman Zionism