When progressive insurgent Jamaal Bowman beat incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel in New York’s 16th district this summer, he didn’t just change things in the Bronx. Engel is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and now he needs to be replaced.
In a zoom event hosted by the lobbying group Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) made it clear that, if appointed to the position, he would defend Israel with the same zeal that Engel has. He also called on pro-Israel organizations to support his effort to become chairman of the committee. “You went to bat for Eliot Engel in a huge way, and demonstrated that you understood how important that chairmanship is,” he told DMFI members. “Eliot Engel was Plan A. I strongly supported him. But now I’m going to try to ask you to go with Plan B. And I won’t compare myself to my good friend Eliot Engel, except to say that when it comes to having one’s heart in the right place, Eliot and I are in the exact same place.”
Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX) are also competing for the spot. Castro (who supports conditioning military aid to Israel) is certainly the most progressive House member of the bunch, but Sherman made it clear that he’s also to the right of Meeks when it comes to Israel. Both Castro and Meeks boycotted Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to congress in 2015, where the Israeli Prime Minister attacked the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is not my favorite Israeli, and I’ve never met an Israeli who doesn’t criticize him for one position or the other, but I attended the speech because Prime Minister Netanyahu embodies the Jewish state,” Sherman explained.
Sherman also called out progressive groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow for supporting Castro’s candidacy, claiming that anti-occupation organizations were building a movement to block him from acquiring the chair.
“For the first time in a very long time, the chairperson for the House Foreign Affairs Committee could actually be guided by the belief that all people, including Palestinians, deserve human rights and dignity. For years, HFAC was a committee where hawkish, anti-Palestinian policies thrived and where calls for accountability were silenced,” Jewish Voice for Peace Action Governance Affairs Manager Beth Miller told Mondoweiss.
“Thanks to the defeat of Rep. Engel, we finally have a chance to change this. As he made clear in this DMFI briefing, Rep. Sherman has no interest in pursuing justice or lasting peace. While Jewish Voice for Peace Action has not officially endorsed anyone running in this race, Rep. Castro stands out as the only one of the three contenders to demonstrate an interest in including Palestinian voices and in pursuing a foreign policy that puts people and human rights first.”