Jamaal Bowman ‘Proud To Stand' With Group That Excused Aaron Bushnell's Self-Immolation

Bowman has leaned on anti-Israel activists in the final stretch of his embattled primary campaign

Jamaal Bowman
Jamaal Bowman (Getty Images)
June 7, 2024

New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D.) expressed his support for a left-wing group that excused the anti-Israel airman who lit himself on fire to protest President Joe Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

Bowman on Thursday touted an endorsement from the anti-Israel grassroots veteran organization Common Defense, saying he was "honored" to be endorsed by the group. "Proud to stand with Veterans. Let's continue fighting to protect our democracy and put a stop to never-ending wars. I'm honored to be endorsed by @commondefense," Bowman wrote in a post.

Common Defense in February released a statement justifying Aaron Bushnell’s suicide. Bushnell, a 25-year-old active-duty member of the United States Air Force whom Hamas praised as "heroic," stood outside the Israeli embassy and declared he would "no longer be complicit in genocide" before pouring a liquid on himself and setting it ablaze.

"This devastating incident highlights the outrage and desperation that many—especially those in the military community—are feeling as the US Government continues to enable Prime Minister Netanyahu's extreme military campaign against Palestinian civilians," the group wrote.

"Common Defense continues to demand that the Biden administration call for a cease-fire in Gaza, and for Congress to ensure that US weapons aren't being used to commit war crimes. As the nation's largest grassroots veterans organization, Common Defense members also see Airman Bushnell's death as emblematic of the hidden cost of the ongoing, US-backed war."

Common Defense also said government leaders did not know the "moral injury" that Israel’s war against Hamas causes veterans and encouraged leaders to listen to "voices of dissent … not just dismiss them."

"Leaders may not appreciate the moral injury inflicted on veterans and Servicemembers watching their government continue to send US weapons and funding to support a military campaign that has killed nearly 30,000 innocent civilians."

Bowman’s coziness with the group is reflective of how he has leaned on anti-Israel activists in the final stretch of his embattled primary campaign. For example, RootsAction, the Working Families Party, and IfNotNow joined forces with Justice Democrats—the far-left group aligned with the "Squad"—to help raise funds for Bowman in May. RootsAction blamed Israel for the Oct. 7 attack, citing "cruel Israeli occupation and expansionism" as the "root" of the violence. Bowman also cozied up to Maher Abdel-qader, the founder and administrator of a Facebook group called "Palestinian American Congress," where members have posted anti-Semitic content and cheered Hamas terrorists. Abdel-qader also shared a video that called Jews "satanic." Bowman and other "Squad" members attended an Arab American Heritage and Culture Month ceremony and posed for photos alongside Abdel-qader.

Common Defense also compared Biden’s original opposition to a ceasefire to the "mistakes" made in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks—Biden has since called for a ceasefire and withheld arms from Israel. The group in November called for an "immediate ceasefire" in order to avoid repeating the "mistakes" of war after Sept. 11.

"As veterans, we recall the aftermath of 9/11 and urge the Biden administration not to repeat those mistakes," Common Defense wrote in a post. "Join our call for an IMMEDIATE ceasefire, aiding Palestinians and Israelis. As peace-seeking veterans, we need YOUR voice!"

Common Defense and Bowman have worked together since his first bid for Congress in 2020. The group endorsed him early during his primary campaign in February 2020 and held a virtual campaign event for Bowman and Katie Porter (D., Calif.) later that year.

Bowman this week lost a key endorsement from his onetime ally in Congress, former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D., N.Y.), over the two-term congressman’s callousness toward Jewish people.

"I want to be clear: I am making this endorsement to stand up for my Jewish constituents because Rep. Bowman and I have very different views on Israel," Jones said Tuesday in a press conference highlighting his endorsement of Bowman's opponent George Latimer. "I have been horrified by his recent acceptance of the DSA endorsement, his denial of the sexual assault of Israeli women by Hamas on October 7, and his embrace of Norman Finkelstein, a well-known anti-Semite."

Bowman and Common Defense did not return requests for comment. Latimer and Bowman will face off at the ballot box June 25.