J Street pulled its endorsement of New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, citing his “framing and approach,” a sign of how alliances on the Jewish left are shifting after Hamas’ October 7 invasion of Israel.
Bowman was one of the earliest and most outspoken members of Congress to call for a ceasefire following Hamas’ invasion of Israel on October 7 and the outbreak of the ensuing war in Gaza. He has also described Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as “genocide.”
J Street, while critical of Israel’s wartime conduct, has not called for a ceasefire in the conflict. The liberal Israel lobby also adamantly rejects the use of “genocide” to describe Israel’s counterstrikes after October 7, and opposed South Africa’s bringing genocide charges against Israel in the International Court of Justice.
“We have been pleased to work with Congressman Bowman for over four years to promote a shared set of values and principles rooted in the pursuit of justice, equality and peace,” said J Street’s statement, which was issued on Friday. “The past few months have, however, highlighted significant differences between us in framing and approach.”
The announcement comes as Bowman faces a primary challenge in his district, which encompasses parts of Westchester County and a slice of the Bronx. His rival, George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, has earned the endorsement of the PAC run by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
Bowman is seen as the most vulnerable member of the “Squad,” the group of outspoken progressive Democrats that is uniformly critical of Israel and its conduct of the war.
Latimer spoke Saturday night at the Westchester Jewish Council gala, where he received an enthusiastic reception. “You are not alone,” he said, a message that has resonated with liberal Jewish New Yorkers, some of whom have felt alienated by progressive criticism of Israel.
Bowman’s campaign did not reply to requests for comment.
The announcement is also significant as J Street is vying to act as the voice of mainstream Democrats on Israel, as opposed to its rivals to the right, including AIPAC and a more centrist pro-Israel PAC, Democratic Majority for Israel.
J Street, along with other Jewish Democrats, has for years accommodated and at times endorsed even the toughest criticism of Israel, including from Bowman. In its announcement on Friday, J Street pointed to Bowman’s support for a two-state solution, a signature issue for J Street. But since October 7, some Jewish progressives have felt rattled by the rhetoric they’ve heard on the left, including from those who have downplayed the October 7 attack or accused Israel of genocide.
In an interview, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the lobby’s president, said Bowman’s rhetoric was a step too far.
“When the rhetoric, the framing and the approach go too far, that’s where we are going to hold our line,” Ben-Ami said. “And that’s when we felt that Bowman crossed the line here.”
Ben-Ami cited the use of the term “genocide”, which Bowman has used multiple times in the months since the war began, as a breaking point. “The rhetoric around genocide, the singling out of Israel, and at times Jewish people, that happens in some of these events — that needs to be called out in real time,” he said.
Policy was previously J Street’s only red line; before this, it has withdrawn an endorsement just once, in 2018, when Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib made clear late in the election cycle that she favored a single, binational state in place of Israel.
Another Jewish group, the New York-based Jewish Vote, which is affiliated with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, has endorsed Bowman. JFREJ has also called for a ceasefire and accused Israel of genocide.