Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) called for a ‘clear distinction’ between Israel’s citizens and its government Saturday, explaining that being anti-war in Gaza does not equate to antisemitism.
“The Israeli government is not representative of the Jewish people. Those are two different things,” he continued. “And so when I criticize the Israeli government, I’m not criticizing Jewish people. … When I’m criticizing Saudi Arabia, I’m not criticizing Muslims.”
Criticism of Israel, both among pro-Palestinian protesters and members of Congress, has sparked debates over antisemitism and the role of the U.S. in supporting the Israeli state.
Bowman and other progressive Democrats have been critical of the Israeli government and U.S. support for the Israeli war effort. He is one of over a dozen lawmakers who signed a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the war last month.
Bowman also called on the Biden administration to be tougher on Israel in ensuring that the country is following international law in its war against Hamas in Gaza.
“I think when we’re having the conversation about human rights and international law, we have to have honest conversations and we have to hold even our allies accountable when they are violating international law,” Bowman said Saturday. “I think the U.S. hasn’t done a good enough job of that”
“Yes, we want them to be our allies. Absolutely. They have a right to defend themselves and to self-determination,” Bowman said of Israel. “The Palestinians have that same right.”
The Biden administration has strongly backed Israel in its conflict against Hamas, including pledging billions in aid for the country. In recent days, the administration has called for a “humanitarian pause” in the war in order to assist Gaza civilians.
Humanitarian organizations have described a dire situation in Gaza, where over a million people have been displaced and most are running out of food, water and medical supplies. Israeli air strikes leveled entire neighborhoods, and Israel briefly cut off all communication in the territory last week.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel on Friday to advocate for the Biden administration’s proposal of a humanitarian pause in the conflict, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that there will be no pause.
The war began early last month after Hamas militants killed over a thousand Israeli civilians in a surprise attack on Israel. Responding Israeli air campaigns and a recent ground offensive have killed over 9,200 Palestinian people, including over 3,800 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.