WASHINGTON (JTA) — The campaign for the reelection of Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., asked an unaffiliated political action committee to remove an ad targeting his primary opponent for failing to pay his taxes.
The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC came under fire from the left wing of the Democratic Party this week for running an ad in the district showing that Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx educator, had failed in the past to pay his taxes.
Bowman and his allies hit back, saying the ad was unfair and that the $2,000 he had owed until recently in taxes was typical of working New Yorkers. The PAC said the ad was truthful and his taxes were fair game.
In a video, Bowman conflated Engel and the PAC, although there are no ties between the campaign and the political action committee. Bowman said Engel should call for the ad’s removal.
On Thursday, the Engel campaign told the Huffington Post that it had no connection to the ad, but “we’d ask those running it to please take it down.” Engel opposes dark money in elections.
Engel, who is Jewish, is the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and one of the Democrats most closely allied with the pro-Israel center and right.
Separately, Bowman in an exchange with Rabbi Avi Weiss, a pro-Israel activist in the district, said for the first time that he opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. He also likened Palestinians to the African-Americans victimized in the U.S. by police brutality, a subject that has roiled the country with protests.
“Just as the police force is a violent intimidating force in so many black communities, I can connect to what it feels like for Palestinians to feel the presence of the military in their daily lives in the West Bank,” Bowman wrote in the Riverdale Press.
Engel and Bowman face off June 23 in a race to represent a district that comprises parts of New York City and suburban Westchester County.
Separately, Bowman responded to a Riverdale, N.Y. rabbi who accused the candidate of holding Israel to a double standard.
In an open letter to Rabbi Avi Weiss in The Riverdale Press, Bowman asserts that he opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and believes “firmly in the right of Israelis to live in safety and peace, free from the fear of violence and terrorism from Hamas and other extremists, and support[s] continued U.S. aid to help Israel confront these security challenges.”
He also writes that he opposes “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s move toward annexation, increase settlement expansion, and racist rhetoric toward minorities. I will defend democracy and human rights for all, and I believe that our government should play no role in encouraging activities that undermine a two-state solution and peace, security and freedom for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.”
In an earlier open letter, Rabbi Weiss noted that Bowman was quoted as saying that the United States “should seriously consider placing conditions on the billions of dollars of military aid our government provides” Netanyahu’s government.
Wrote Weiss: “I am especially alarmed that at no time have you mentioned Palestinian violation of human rights – specifically, the Palestinian Authority’s policy of funding the families of those who have committed murderous terrorist acts.”