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By Karen Attiah

“Shut up or else” is the message a pro-Israel lobby is sending to Black lawmakers in America who are critical of what’s happening in Gaza. The front line is New York’s 16th Congressional District, where Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D) is facing one of the most expensive primary challenges in history.

The conservative pro-Israel lobbying giant AIPAC announced this spring that it would take extraordinary steps to remove progressive lawmakers who have called for a cease-fire in Gaza. Through a new super PAC called the United Democracy Project, funded primarily by right-wing billionaires, the group has pledged to spend $100 million this year to oust candidates it considers unsupportive of Israel.

Keep in mind: The Biden administration backs a plan for Gaza that would include a cease-fire, and polls show Americans increasingly support a cease-fire. Yet AIPAC is going full steam ahead. Bowman is the lobby’s first major target. As the June 25 primary approaches, the two-term congressman is facing what could prove to be the most expensive primary challenge in history. AIPAC has pledged to spend, through the super PAC, up to $25 million to elect Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Bowman vs. Latimer showdown for progressives. The outcome represents much more than just the issue of money in politics. It raises concerns about right-wing money being funneled into Democratic primaries and tests the ability of AIPAC to shield Israel from criticism. But bigger than that, it is a test of how far America’s right wing will go to crush progressive movements. No one should be surprised that a Black politician is the canary in the coal mine.

I recently spent some time with Bowman and his supporters to get a sense of their strategy to defeat this historic challenge.

Alicia Singham Goodwin, the political director of Jews For Racial & Economic Justice, told me that her group has been canvassing, phone-banking and organizing “Jews for Jamaal” events around the mixed urban-suburban district. “Jewish communities are already in deep mourning over [Hamas’s deadly attacks on] Oct. 7,” she told me. “Now it’s like AIPAC, the media, so many vultures have come in to press on our pain to keep us unhealed in order to serve their political aims.” Campaigning for Bowman is a way of redeeming that pain, she explained. “We organize to get out of the spiral of grief, pain and anger for something more beautiful.”

Click here to read the full article in the Washington Post