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Pro-Israel lobbying group Aipac launches ad campaign against Jamaal Bowman

Bowman accuses his opponent of being 'bought and paid for by Aipac' as he defends his congressional seat in New York
Jamaal Bowman is campaigning heavily on his pro-Palestinian credentials (AFP/File photo)

A pro-Israel super PAC has launched its first broadside against Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman, in a primary race shaping up to be a referendum on the Biden administration's Gaza policy with Democratic voters. 

The United Democracy Project (UDP), a super PAC affiliated with the Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee and better known as Aipac, launched its ad on Wednesday, accusing Bowman of “hurting" New York. Bowman is defending his seat in the 16th congressional district of the state. 

The ad is aimed at Democratic voters ahead of a primary slated for 25 June and is expected to be the first of many. Jewish Insider reported that UDP is making an initial $2m investment into the race, with $1 million going to an anti-Bowman ad and an equal amount supporting his opponent, Westchester County executive George Latimer. 

“Bowman is an anti-Israel extremist who traffics in conspiracy theories,” UDP spokesperson Patrick Dorton told Jewish Insider. “He vehemently disagrees with President Biden on the US-Israel relationship." 

Despite UDP’s focus on Israel, their campaign aid mainly has criticised Bowman over domestic politics.

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Israel’s war on Gaza has mobilised both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli voters, but polls suggest that most US voters' top concerns remain economic issues like inflation and domestic topics including immigration and crime.

Notably, at a time when Biden has come under fire from some progressive lawmakers over his support for Israel, UDP appealed to Democratic voters' sympathy for Biden on domestic issues, suggesting UDP is confident Biden still has the support among vast swaths of the Democratic Party. Bowman’s New York district is considered a Democratic stronghold.

“Jamaal Bowman has his own agenda and refuses to compromise, even with President Biden,” the ad said, slamming Bowman for voting against a bipartisan infrastructure and debt bill Biden backed. 

“Bowman voted against President Biden’s debt limit deal putting social security and medicare payments at risk along with our entire economy.”

'In the pocket of Aipac'

Bowman’s primary, however, is shaping up to be bellwether for how much the Palestinian cause resonates with Democratic voters.

Bowman is campaigning heavily on his pro-Palestinian credentials and has lost the endorsement of the pro-Israel lobbying group J Street after saying he believed Israel’s attack on Gaza was a genocide.

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During a heated debate on Monday, Bowman accused his opponent of “standing with Benjamin Netanyahu in continuing the onslaught on innocent civilians in Gaza”.

He also accused Latimar of being the “number one recipient of Aipac money”.

“My opponent is in the pocket and bought and paid for by Aipac,” he said.

Bowman was elected to Congress in 2020 after he defeated US Congressman Eliot Engel, the hawkish Democratic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

His victory was a blow to pro-Israel groups that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the race. Bowman is among the more progressive lawmakers in the Democratic Party and was endorsed in 2020 by Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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