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Bowman and Latimer fight over Israel, AIPAC in final debate for NY-16

“When you call three days after the attack for ‘ceasefire,’ what you’re really saying is, ‘We want Hamas to keep the hostages and now we want to start negotiating,’” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer on March 4, 2020. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer on March 4, 2020. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Westchester County Executive George Latimer traded blows over Israel and AIPAC in their final debate for the Democratic nomination to represent New York’s 16th Congressional District on Tuesday.

The race for the Democratic congressional nomination in N.Y.-16, which includes Westchester County and parts of the Bronx, has been one of the most vicious of the 2024 cycle. It is also the epicenter of a battle between pro- and anti-Israel groups for control of the seat that was once held by staunch Israel advocate Eliot Engel until Bowman unseated the 16-term incumbent in a 2020 primary upset.

Bowman, a member of the so-called “Squad” of left-wing progressives and one of the most strident critics of Israel in the U.S. House of Representatives, leveled accusations of racism against Latimer, who accused Bowman of being a liar.

Some “14% of the children in Westchester County are black. They make up 62% of the children in child prisons, and he’s looking to build another child prison,” Bowman said just minutes into the hour-long debate. “He has stated I take money from Hamas. His campaigns have sent mailers darkening my skin.”

Latimer denied that he had sent fliers darkening Bowman’s skin and defended the charges he has made about Bowman’s fundraising.

“It’s been shown at his fundraisers in both Northern Virginia and in Los Angeles that some of the people that were there to give money said positive things about Hamas,” Latimer said.

Both Bowman, who is black, and Latimer, who is white, have accused the other of race-baiting after Latimer said in a June 10 debate that Bowman was catering to donors in San Francisco and the Arab-American-majority city of Dearborn, Mich.

“This Islamophobic dog whistle shows the difference between my opponent and me,” Bowman wrote in response. 

Asked about that social-media post in Tuesday’s debate, Latimer said Bowman was making “baloney allegations.”

“I think this is an example of using race as a weapon,” Latimer added.

‘This is not a simple process’

Israel and the question of AIPAC’s role in the race dominated much of the debate and produced some of the most explosive exchanges between the two.

“They are spending more money in this primary than any PAC has ever spent in U.S. history,” Bowman said. “Why? Because I’m an outspoken person of color. I’m an outspoken black man. I fight against genocide in Gaza.”

Jamaal Bowman
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) on March 14, 2022. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

“His supporters don’t want that because it challenges their power,” Bowman added. “He is siding with big money and power to buy the district from the people.”

In response, Latimer touted AIPAC’s support for black, Latino and Asian Democrats, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), as evidence that the nonpartisan pro-Israel group was simply backing supporters of the Jewish state.

“Just because you’ve got a few black friends doesn’t make you an anti-racist organization,” Bowman replied. “He keeps naming off these black names as if that doesn’t make AIPAC and their supporters racist.”

Latimer slammed Bowman for his call to end the fighting just days after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in southern Israel perpetrated by Hamas and Palestinian operatives, as well as for his Nov. 17 address to an anti-Israel protest in which he said that claims that Hamas committed rape were “lies” and “propaganda.”

“All of this began because of the horrific action on Oct. 7, the way that people went in and raped women and murdered people, which he denied until it was impossible for him to continue to deny it,” Latimer said. “When you call three days after the attack for ‘ceasefire,’ what you’re really saying is, ‘We want Hamas to keep the hostages and now we want to start negotiating.’”

In contrast to Bowman, Latimer placed himself as a supporter of U.S. President Joe Biden’s positions on Israel.

“I think Joe Biden is trying to work through a very difficult situation,” Latimer said. “He’s trying to deal with both the Arab world and the Israeli world. And there are allies in the Arab world that want to see peace, and there are nations in the Arab world that want to continue war. Iran, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon. This is not a simple process.”

“When a congressman thinks he’s the Secretary of State, and he starts pontificating on this and that, I think that shows his immaturity as a congressman,” he added. “You need to work through the Democratic leadership to influence the president to make progress on this negotiation.”

Latimer also picked out on Bowman’s dating the start of Israel’s “military occupation” to the founding of the Jewish state.

“You heard from Jamal about ‘75 years of occupation.’ That’s how he defines the State of Israel being in their present location,” Latimer said. “And you heard him use the word ‘apartheid’ as dealing with the Israeli government. I think you understand what Jamal Bowman is on this issue. You understand what George Latimer is on this issue.”

New York’s primaries will be held on June 25.

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