Pro-Palestine Radical Democrats are Drawing Primary Challengers

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Pro-Palestine Radical Democrats are Drawing Primary Challengers

Several House Democrats who have criticized Israel over its response to terrorist attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7 have drawn primary challenges for their seats in 2024.

The Biden administration and the leaders of both parties in both houses of Congress have supported Israel in the aftermath of the attacks, which killed over 1,000 Israelis, many in a gruesome manner. However, a few members of the House Democratic Caucus who support Palestinian political interests have criticized Israel for its military response to the attacks, which has led to several candidates challenging them for their offices in 2024’s congressional elections.

Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri’s 1st District, a former Black Lives Matter activist who has strongly opposed Israeli action in Gaza following the attacks, is being challenged by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, who dropped his challenge to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri in order to take on Bush. Bell identified Bush’s posture on the issue of Israel as a primary reason for his candidacy.

“I think that we need to make certain that we are providing that effective leadership, not only in our district but in D.C. and on the world stage,” Bell said, according to a video of a press conference announcing his candidacy. “Understand this unique place that we are with the world literally on fire … we cannot give aid and comfort to a terrorist organization, and Hamas is a terrorist organization,” he added.

Bush is a member of “the Squad,” a group of left-wing Democratic members of Congress who are minorities and take similar positions on issues, often at odds with the House Democratic Caucus. Another such member is Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota’s 5th District, who was banned in 2019 from visiting Israel and the West Bank over her allegedly anti-Semitic rhetoric, and whose rhetoric since Hamas’ attack has elicited a primary challenger, Tim Peterson, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who has made Omar’s rhetoric a centerpiece of his campaign.

“This is not the first vote that proves Rep. Ilhan Omar will always support Hamas’s right to terrorize over Israel’s right of self-defense,” wrote Peterson in a tweet on Oct. 26, referring to Omar’s vote against a resolution condemning Hamas’ attack. “[S]he will never support the Palestinian people against Hamas’s ongoing 16-year reign of destruction and poverty in Gaza.”

Omar has called out the Biden administration for its support for Israel during the conflict. “Make no mistake: these human rights abuses are being carried out with U.S. weapons, U.S. funding, and with ‘no red lines,’” Omar wrote of Israel’s military attacks on Hamas positions, which she claimed violated international law.

Another member of the Squad, Democratic Rep. Summer Lee of Pennsylvania’s 12th District, has drawn a primary challenger, Bhaviai Patel, who has accused Lee of equivocating in her response to antisemitic protests in her district. “The Congresswoman’s statements have equivocated Hamas’ murdering, raping, kidnapping of grandparents, children, and so many innocent civilians. She has failed to show support after this massive loss of life,” Patel wrote on Twitter.

Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York’s 16th District, meanwhile, may gain a primary challenger in his district, which covers Yonkers and other areas of Westchester County in New York, both of which have significant Jewish populations. Democratic County Executive George Latimer of Westchester County is reportedly considering a challenge to Bowman for his seat, according to The Washington Post.

Perhaps the most outspoken pro-Gaza member of the Democratic Caucus is Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan’s 12th District, who has spoken at several pro-Gaza rallies demanding a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and was nearly censured by the House of Representatives on Wednesday amid bipartisan criticism of her position. Tlaib has not yet drawn any challengers in her district’s Democratic Primary, which has a Cook Partisan Voting Index score of D+23.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would send military aid to Israel funded by cuts to the Internal Revenue Service. Members of “the Squad” joined most Democrats in voting against the resolution, though twelve Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

Bowman, Bush, Lee, Omar and Tlaib did not immediately respond to a request for comment.