Jamaal Bowman Said He Was 'Starstruck' By Anti-Israel Author Who Praised Hamas. Now He Claims He Barely Knew the Guy.

'I watch them all the time on YouTube,' Bowman said of Norman Finkelstein and other controversial speakers

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
January 22, 2024

New York Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman said he was "starstruck" by an anti-Israel author who praised Hamas's Oct. 7 slaughtering of innocent Israelis. Now, Bowman is claiming he was "unaware" of the author's comments.

During a Jan. 14 panel discussion titled, "Palestine Oct. 7th and After," Bowman gushingly introduced anti-Israel author Norman Finkelstein, who celebrated Hamas's massacre as a "heroic resistance" that "warm[ed] every fiber" of his soul. "I'm also a bit starstruck, because I watch them all the time on YouTube," Bowman said of Finkelstein and two other anti-Israel panelists. "You have given me the knowledge on YouTube even before coming here."


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Roughly one week later, Bowman is singing a different tune. After a Jewish Insider report exposed Bowman's praise for Finkelstein, prompting criticism, the left-wing lawmaker took to X, formerly Twitter, to downplay his affinity for the author. "I had seen a few interviews but was unaware of Norman Finkelstein's completely reprehensible comments before this event," Bowman wrote.

The ordeal comes as Bowman faces intense pushback from his New York district's Jewish community over his response to Hamas's Oct. 7 assault on Israel. Bowman since the attack has accused Israel of "genocide," "mass murder," and "ethnic cleansing." He's also blamed both sides for the violence and said that supporting an Israeli ceasefire is "what it actually means to be Jewish."

Those comments prompted dozens of rabbis in Bowman's district to condemn the congressman and call on Westchester County executive George Latimer to launch a primary campaign against him. Latimer entered the race in early December.

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

Bowman alluded to that criticism during his Jan. 14 speech, denouncing "powerful lobbies that bully, that intimidate, and use scare tactics." Those "lobbies," Bowman added, are "calling you anti-Semitic whenever you offer a criticism."

In addition to Finkelstein—who has denounced those who "dare criticize" the "tactics" Hamas employed on Oct. 7—the Jan. 14 panel featured Fida Adely, a Georgetown University professor who has accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and endorsed the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Finkelstein and Adely, Bowman said during his speech, made up an "incredible panel to tell us the truth."

"The fact that you all have put together this incredible panel to tell us the truth about what has been happening there for 75 years is incredibly important for this community," Bowman said. "We have fed ourselves a myth and a lie and propaganda as facts and truth and knowledge, and as a result of that, people are consistently dying and being slaughtered and killed."

Finkelstein's views on Oct. 7 were well documented prior to Bowman's speech. The Anti-Defamation League highlighted the author's praise of Hamas in an Oct. 7 blog post, which quoted a post from Finkelstein's Substack.

"I, for one, will never begrudge—on the contrary, it warms every fiber of my soul—the scenes of Gaza's smiling children as their arrogant Jewish supremacist oppressors have, finally, been humbled."