The war in the Middle East is upending the dynamics of the 2024 Democratic House primaries


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Most members of Congress have stood firmly behind Israel since World War II Hamas attack last monthBut not Cori Bush. The Democratic representative from Missouri described the Israeli response as a “war crime” and a “campaign of ethnic cleansing,” and was among the few House members who opposed the resolution. The resolution supporting Israel.

Her firm stance has angered some in her area. St. Louis County District Attorney Wesley Bell on Monday shot down an attempt by the U.S. Senate to advance a motion to the Senate Bush challenge In the 1st District Democratic primary next year, moderate Democrats believe he can win.

Bush is not alone. She is among a small group of Democrats viewed by critics as insufficiently supportive of Israel — whether long before or after Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7 — or not sufficiently critical of Hamas. In those areas, moderates like Bell are encouraged to run. particularly, Summer Lee In Pennsylvania, Jamal Bowman in New York, Ilhan Omar In Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib will likely face challengers.

All five condemned the Hamas attack and anti-Semitism, but all made statements that Israel’s staunchest supporters considered inflammatory and criticized US military aid to Israel.

Bush and Omar accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” Summer Lee said she had committed “human rights violations.” At a recent ceasefire rally, Bowman said: “We cannot allow anyone’s life to be erased. “This erasure of Palestinian lives and experiences has been happening for decades.”

Adding to the fraught politics for Democrats is the fact that others may face pressure for the opposite reason — e.g Shri Thanedar In Detroit, which is a heavily Democratic district with a large Muslim population but supports Israel.

Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution supporting Israel. Bush, Bowman, Lee, Omar and Tlaib were among nine Democrats who opposed the measure, saying it failed to call for a ceasefire, create a path to peace or express the need to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Bowman, Lee, Omar and Tlaib were also among the 17 cosponsors of the Bush resolution requiring the Biden administration to call a ceasefire. Critics of that resolution said it failed to point out Hamas’ unprovoked attack on Israel, the hostages held by Hamas, or that the United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

All five are considered progressive in the Democratic caucus and represent strongly Democratic districts, so the main threat to their re-election prospects may come from the Democratic Party.

The challenges faced by Bush and others were possible even before the Hamas attack on October 7, or the subsequent Israeli attack on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But their positions after October 7 fueled calls for major rivals.

Lee and Omar – who narrowly outpaced their main rivals in 2022 – may be particularly vulnerable.

The progressive group Justice Democrats, which has backed primary challengers against moderate Democrats across the country, blamed the primary challenges on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and a network of Republican donors who help fund AIPAC’s efforts to elect unequivocal allies of Israel. . .

“The Democratic members are not really in line with their voters and bases who don’t want to see us heading toward another war over taxpayer money,” Justice Democratic Party spokesman Osama Andrabi said.

Andrabi said it was unfortunate that the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives did not take a stronger stance against AIPAC’s efforts to bash rank-and-file Democrats.

It remains unclear whether House Democrats will help incumbents fend off primary challengers with campaign fundraising weapons. One organization, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it would likely participate in a primary race to protect the incumbent, but declined to discuss details.

Before October 7, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., issued statements of support for Omar and others, saying he would support the re-election of every Democratic incumbent in the House, regardless of their ideology.

AIPAC declined to discuss her campaign efforts, saying: “There will be time for political action, but our priority now is to build and sustain congressional support for Israel’s fight to permanently dismantle Hamas, which committed this barbaric terrorist attack on the Jewish state.” “

Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, was an outspoken opponent of the Biden administration’s response to the conflict.

While Tlaib easily defeated her primary challenger last year, pro-Israel groups have already indicated they will be focused on defeating her in 2024. Democratic Majority for Israel — which describes itself as “the voice of pro-Israel Democrats” — has begun running ads. Against Tlaib in Detroit this week.

Talib metro detroit The House District includes a large Arab-American population in Dearborn and heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Southfield.

Her congressional neighbor, however, is in a different situation: Tlaib and Tanidar have had a public spat since he criticized her comments about a Hamas attack on Israel, and Tanidar — a freshman who represents Detroit — has since come under fire from Tlaib over the way he is running his party . office.

The Detroit area of ​​Thanedar was the center of Pro-Palestinian retreat In the state, where thousands of demonstrators called for a ceasefire in the city center on October 28.

He has a primary challenger in former state Sen. Adam Hollier — Thanedar beat Holyer by five percentage points in a nine-way primary in 2022 — but Holyer’s campaign said his candidacy is not a response to Thanedar’s stance on Israel.

In Pittsburgh, Lee faced widespread criticism from the Jewish community, whose members had just marked the fifth anniversary of an armed attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 people in the worst attack on Jews on American soil.

On Tuesday, a group of 36 rabbis and four cantors issued a letter criticizing Lee for voting against a House resolution that expressed support for Israel and support for Bush’s ceasefire resolution.

“It’s a rare day in any Jewish community when there are Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chabad and Reconstructionist together on one page,” said Rabbi Daniel Fellman of Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, who helped organize the effort. “But the truth is that Rep. Lee does not represent her constituents.”

Lee already has one announced opponent, and there may be more to come.

Bhavini Patel, 29, said she would have run regardless of Lee’s position on Israel. But she said Lee’s standing in the Jewish community shows how Lee doesn’t try to understand the people she represents.

In Minneapolis, Don Samuels, a former school board member, is considering launching a second campaign against Omar after him It came within 2 percentage points By ousting her in the 2022 primaries.

This mostly close race turned on the future of policing in the city where George Floyd was killed. It remains to be seen how Ilhan Omar’s position on Israel will be reflected in her region, which has a large Somali-American Muslim population.

Omar has long faced accusations of being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic – accusations that have intensified since the Hamas attack.

In New York, George Latimer, the current Westchester County executive, is considering challenging Bowman.

Latimer said people encouraged him to challenge Bowman long before October 7, including over initiatives that had nothing to do with Israel. But after the Hamas attack, some in the Jewish community intensified their efforts.

Last month, a group of more than two dozen rabbis published a letter they wrote asking Latimer to challenge Bowman, citing the congressman’s stance toward Israel.

Latimer said he would make his decision in the coming months.

In Missouri, Bush – who described Israel as an “apartheid” state – said she was pushing a “pro-peace agenda.”

“The collective punishment imposed by Israel on Palestinians due to the actions of Hamas is a war crime,” she wrote on social media. I strongly condemn Hamas and its horrific human rights violations, but human rights violations do not justify further human rights violations in retaliation.

Her competitor, Bell, said that these types of comments “send the wrong message, and we must send to rogue states and dictators and terrorist groups the message that they cannot have missiles directed at Israel as we see with Hamas, as we see with Iran.”

Like Bush, the Rev. Darrell Gray, a prominent civil rights activist in St. Louis, said he sees Bush as an advocate for peace. He said that she believes that Israeli leaders “are not looking for a halt to escalation, nor are they looking for a ceasefire, but rather are looking for revenge.”


Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Steve Karnovsky in Minneapolis, Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, and Anthony Izaguirre in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.

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