One of the most stunning defeats in tonight’s primary voting across the country was that of long-time Congressional Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel in a NY primary. Engel, who served in Congress 32 years, chaired the House foreign affairs committee. Its role in bringing forward foreign policy legislation crucial to the Israel Lobby. Engel had been Aipac’s chief water-carrier during his entire tenure.
Engel’s Bronx-Westchester district was majority-minority, with Hispanic and African-Americans making up over half the population. Though the district once had a substantial Jewish population (and still does), it had become increasingly minority over the past years. Engel was viewed as isolated and out of touch with the district. During the Covid19 epidemic, he spent it in his Maryland home.
A few weeks ago at a local campaign rally, he begged the Hispanic elected official who hosted to permit him to speak, saying he wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t have a primary. These developments offered an opening for a young African-American neophyte, Jamaal Bowman, to pose a substantial challenge to Engel. A former high school principal and supporter of the progressive agenda of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bowman showed not only a fresh face, but one that looked more like the district itself.
Unlike Reps. Ilan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and AOC, Bowman did not support an agenda that could be construed as “anti-Israel.” In answer to a letter written by a local Orthodox, pro-Israel rabbi, Bowman rejected BDS. He also appears to support a two-state solution, the go-to position of virtually all moderate Democrats. Bowman’s position on Israel appears closest to Bernie Sanders who has said he would support cutting U.S. military aid to Israel unless it stopped building settlements and accepted a two state solution. This is by no means a radical, or even progressive position. But it’s worlds better than the average Democrat. This expression of solidarity with Palestinians would surely make the Lobby cringe:
The uprising we’re witnessing across the country against police violence also makes me empathize with the everyday experience and fear that comes with living under occupation. Just as the police force is a violent intimidating force in so many black communities, I can connect to what it feels like for Palestinians to feel the presence of the military in their daily lives in the West Bank.
I also can understand the crushing poverty and deprivation in the Gaza Strip. I believe Palestinians have the same rights to freedom and dignity as my Jewish brothers and sisters. I will fight for their liberation, just as hard as I will for yours.
It’s important to remember that the Congressional district still retains a sizable Jewish population, which would explain Bowman’s hesitancy in going out on a limb for these issues.
With all the progressive winners tonight, it’s worth noting the losers: the Israel Lobby first of all. Aipac and its allied PACs funneled nearly $2-million into Engel’s campaign. I’ve noted here the role of Aipac’s Democratic-PAC, the Democratic Majority for Israel. It plowed $1.2-million into the race, with $100,000 coming directly from a Republican dark money outfit affiliated with Mitch McConnell. Another pro-Israel PAC studded with Aipac donors gave over $100,000 to Engel.
This would be the second time DMFI has poured money down the drain smearing progressive Democrats. It spent over $1-million in Iowa alone in anti-Sanders attack ads. They generated so much controversy the PAC announced it was suspending them. In the Engel race, DMFI ads also generated controversy and the candidate asked it to stop them. I asked DMFI repeatedly whether they would honor Engel’s request. They never replied.
These groups never seem to learn their lesson from failure. So it’s doubtful they will change their approach. But the more sleazy s*t they attempt, the better-known their tactics become, and less effective they are. In fact, one might argue that the overall impact is to generate sympathy for the victim rather than the intended beneficiary.
The entire State Democratic Establishment also lost big-time. Engel was endorsed by Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus (a shocker!). Bowman was endorsed by Sanders, AOC and other progressive NY political leaders.
Of one thing you can be certain: the Lobby lost tonight. Its champion was knocked off. The pendulum has swung. As more progressive minority House members are elected, voices critical of Israel will become emboldened. This November’s national election promises to be another watershed moment. Trump is on the ropes. The GOP Senate majority appears in deep jeopardy. Even more progressives will win.
Though Biden’s campaign has licked the boots of the Israel Lobby and tried to out-pro-Israel even Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, new progressives in the House and Senate will prod the presumptive president in a more progressive direction. They may even offer a candidate of their own to face Biden in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary if Biden runs for a second term.
Walter Ballin says
Richard, Thanks for being the first that I saw to report this great news!
tony greenstein says
yes thanks from me too. Excellent news. Let’s hope the winning candidate now endorses BDS
Richard Silverstein says
@ tony: As they say in Yiddish: from your mouth to God’s ears! But I think it unlikely for now. There are too many pro Israel Jews in Bowman’s district. He’s surely sympathetic personally and he will vote against attempts to criminalize support for BDS. But it will take more victories like this one before he can fully break free of the Lobby.
Criminalizing support for BDS is so off the deep end. It’s amazing this was or is a serious thing.. As well talk of the two state “solution” still has some life even as an apparition. I am still scratching my head about the construing of “pro-Israel” to mean anti-Palestinian and anti ANY solution other than the Likud right wing slo destruction of any possibility of two states while getting away with the claim of wanting a two state solution. What will happen politically here when annexation of the WB goes forward?
I have to say also I am disappointed that Adam Schiff, such a hero in the impeachment hearings, supported Engel too. Maybe I don’t know Schiff all that well.
avram stern says
[comment deleted: read the comment rules. Comments offering personal opinion must be supported with credible evidence. Your opinions unsupported aren’t worth a bucket of warm piss (to quote a former American vice president).]
Linda Furr says
Note to Potter below: I’m from California and feel Adam Schiff is so pro-Likkud he’s almost untethered. He’s one of the strongest co-signers to the House anti-BDS Bill that could put you in jail for 20 years for boycotting Israel’s policies at BDS’s behest or even urging people to boycott Israel for its policies. California is one of the 28 US states that have passed an anti-BDS Bill – not as strict as the proposed House Bill, but strong enough to stifle our freedom of speech, press, thought and freedom of assembly!.
nessim dayan says
my wish is other 30+ dynosaurs feeding at the public trough will follow, in as much as one of them be the Kentucky Mitch (which may happen if the Dem imps play it with JUST ONE OUNCE OF BRAIN) the other is the New York Chuck who has done extreme harm to Israel. another aipac “slave” those 2 have brought so much ill repute to the Senate that even MacArthur’s time was angelical in comparison. Thanks to those 2 it will take a full generation to cleanse the Addelson & Kochs destructions both inside and in Israel. Even Israel will go down the Johanesburg road if it persists in the de facto annexation bought and paid for Addelson, Kooch and their speakers.
Hey not only the Donald J knows how to milk congress aids plans even Bibi knows how to milk half a mill shekels to pay his lawyers for 12 years retroactive tax refunds on his cars. whilst israel poors make the top of the oecd hit parade of hunger. yeah for Gantz another one bites the dust
nessim dayan says
Ms Furr – be grateful you are in old Callifornia when you utter BDS, here in good ole Holeyland BDS is synonym to BLM you pronounce them you got yourself a fine B&B confinement in one of Israel finest jails.
it is easier to force banks to divest from investing in petroleum corps than to force one israeli off his chalet built on court proven stolen palestinian land –
Sorry Richard to go off topic but many in Britain are mystified by the sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow Secretary of State for Education, for pointing out the connection between Israeli training of US police forces in “crowd control,” such as kneeling on the neck of arrestees, the same technique that later led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Here is a link to many images of the Israeli occupation forces using exactly this techniques:
Here also is a link to an article about how many US L.E. departments sent officers for training to Israel at tax-payer expense to learn exactly these techniques and bring them back to the US:
(You may need to copy and paste this URL as I can’t directly link it here)
Your take on the sacking of Long Bailey on the grounds of “anti-semitism” would be appreciated.
With the margin he received from the in-person votes, Bowman is almost certain to prevail, and he would provide a fresh and progressive voice in Congress, but until the absentee ballots are counted, or Engel concedes (which he hasn’t), it is premature to declare that Bowman has already won. The primary system has been so corrupted in other elections, that I always fear the worst.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Edward: Unless Aipac can pull a rabbit out of its hat, Engel is toast.
Peter, you overlook the fact that none of the Palestinians the Israeli police are restraining, are handcuffed, like George Floyd was, nor have you proven dispositively that Israel trained Minneapolis police in restraint techniques.
My understanding is that some management level police brass visit Israel and learn counter terrorism techniques and strategy. I don’t know of any instance of Israeli police coming to America and training rank and file policemen in restraint techniques.
Please present your evidence that Israel trained Minneapolis police in restrain techniques.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Kelvin: Utter nonsense. Israeli soldiers and police routinely handcuff Palestinian prisoners, often typing the plastic ties so tight they cut off circulation and cause immense pain.
Your argument is a classic one. YOu focus on a single particular of an argument and ignore the broader global implications. So for example, it doesn’t matter whether a specific Israeli trainer taught a specific Minneapolis police officer to kneel on the neck of protesters to subdue them. The overall point is clear: the Israel Lobby in collaboration with the Israeli military apparatus has designated U.S. law enforcement as a fertile field in which to invest efforts to protote Brand Israel. Israel understands that its weakest link in the eyes of the world community is its garrison state approach; its massive armaments, massive lethal machine enforcing Occupation and apartheid. So what better way to counter this bad press by making common cause with law enforcement in the U.S. They also know that Republicans, who Israel needs to court as one of its sole constituencies in the U.S. wholeheartedly support the police.
Further, when U.S. police chiefs train in Israel they bring back to their rank and file the lessons, tactics and even weapons they’ve seen during the exhibitions and demonstrations they witness. So there is a trickle-down effect in which Israel’s approach to social control and suppression of Palestinians is integrated into the culture and practices of various police departments.
YOu are done in this thread.
SCOTUS green-lighted chokeholds back in the 70’s.
Blaming Israel for American chokeholds seems a little unfair.
I mean, even Roger Waters is walking that one back.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Kelvin: I really hate people like you because of how sloppy you are. YOu cannot slip anything by me as you have tried to do here. The Supreme Court did NOT “green-light chokeholds” as you claim. IN fact, the article which you linked to concludes with the following:
The Court dismissed the case with the idiotic argument that the victim had no grounds to sue since he could not prove the LAPD would use a chokehold on him again, after they did and nearly killed him. That is not the same as green-lighting the hold or saying it’s constitutional. And in fact, Eric Garner’s killer was fired from the NYPD. He unpardonably was not prosecuted for murder then. But he surely would be now. And any police officer who does what that one did to Eric Garner will at minimum be fired; at maximum prosecuted for murder.
Once again, U.S. police don’t need training from Israeli police to know how to kill Black people. They can do it quite well without additional training. But Israeli police teach these police chiefs who tour Israel the entire Israeli punitive approach to controlling and oppressing Palestinians. They learn techniques, methods and weapons and then return to offer their rank and file the benefit of what they learned. This is a much bigger issue than chokeholds. You’ve wisely tried to make it just about this one brutal method. But it is not just about that.
Again, you are done in this thread.