Jamaal Bowman Accused Israel of Genocide. Now, Vandals Are Defacing Jewish Businesses in His District With the Same Message.

Left-wing congressman condemns 'stoking divisions and hatred' after saying Israel committed 'ethnic cleansing'

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
January 25, 2024

Jewish-owned businesses in Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman's New York district were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti that read, "Genocide supporter," an accusation Bowman himself hurled at Israel following Hamas's Oct. 7 attack.

Local police discovered the graffiti early Thursday morning at two stores in the Golden Horseshoe Shopping Plaza, which is located across from the Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester. Both stores display "We stand with Israel" signs in their windows, and both are Jewish-owned. Police are investigating the vandalism as possible hate crimes.

In a Thursday statement, Bowman condemned the vandals for "stoking divisions and hatred" and called the graffiti "unacceptable." Omitted from that statement, however, was any mention of Bowman's own rhetoric disparaging the Jewish state. Bowman in November attended a "ceasefire now" protest outside of the White House, which saw him deliver a fiery speech accusing Israel of "mass murder," "genocide," and "ethnic cleansing."

"We demand a permanent ceasefire," Bowman said. "And the reason is simple: We are against mass murder, we are against genocide, we are against ethnic cleansing, we are against the continued slaughter of civilians, we are against the mass murder of children."

"We have all read about genocides," Bowman continued. "I cannot believe I'm living through one. And I cannot believe I'm living through one, and the U.S. government is condoning it and being complicit! Shame!"

It's unclear if Bowman believes those comments stoked "divisions and hatred." The congressman did not return a request for comment.

The anti-Semitic display comes as Bowman faces a primary challenge driven in part by his hostility toward Israel. In addition to his November speech, Bowman has said both Israel and Hamas are to blame for Oct. 7 and argued that supporting an Israeli ceasefire is "what it actually means to be Jewish."

Those comments prompted condemnation from 26 rabbis in Bowman's district, who wrote a letter in October urging Westchester County executive George Latimer to launch a primary campaign against the congressman. Latimer entered the race in December.

"Inexplicably, but predictably, while Congressman Bowman condemned the attacks, he put the blame on Israel for its ‘blockade of Gaza,’" the rabbis wrote. "Since being elected, Bowman has led the effort to erode support for Israel on Capitol Hill and within the Democratic Party."

Bowman has done little since then to improve his relationship with his district's Jewish community. The congressman on Jan. 14 attended a panel discussion titled, "Palestine Oct. 7th and After," where he gushingly introduced anti-Israel author Norman Finklestein.

"I"m also a bit starstruck, because I watch them all the time on YouTube," Bowman said of Finklestein, who celebrated Hamas's massacre as a "heroic resistance" that "warm[ed] every fiber" of his soul. "You have given me the knowledge on YouTube even before coming here."

Bowman went on to distance himself from Finklestein, claiming roughly one week after the event that he was hardly familiar with the author. "I had seen a few interviews but was unaware of Norman Finklestein's completely reprehensible comments before this event," he said.

In the wake of the anti-Semitic vandalism, members of the local Jewish community announced a rally to express support for the targeted businesses, with Latimer set to attend.

"Today at 4:00 p.m., the Scoop Shop, one of the vandalized stores, will be hosting an ice cream meet-up to demonstrate that hate has no home in Westchester," said Rabbi Jonathan Blake. "Bring your children and your Israeli flags."