Trevor Norwitz

On Open Letter to Congressman Jamaal Bowman

Dear Representative Bowman:

You have to stop with the irresponsible anti-Semitic blood libels.

There is hardly a statement emanating from your campaign lately that does include grotesque Holocaust-inverting fabrications accusing Israel, the homeland and nation-state of the Jewish people, of “genocide” and “mass murder.”

You are endangering hundreds of thousands of Jewish people – especially vulnerable women, children and the elderly – including tens of thousands in the very district you are supposed to be representing.

This is not just hypothetical.  The bomb threats (hopefully all false alarms) made to dozens of synagogues in the New York area ahead of Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – are not unrelated to lies of the type that you are spreading and to which you are giving credence.

Genocide?  Mass murder?  You are an intelligent educated person so you cannot claim ignorance or the reckless foolishness of youth.  You know that those accusations are not just hyperbole but vicious and poisonous lies.  You know that the only parties in that conflict with genocidal intent are Hamas and its allies who do not even try to hide it but proudly proclaim it.  You may have legitimate beef with some actions of the Israel Defense Forces in their extremely difficult war against Hamas’ terrorist army, but you know very well that the only mass-murder in this war happened on October 7, along with mass-rape (although you initially dismissed that as Israeli “propaganda”) and mass kidnapping.  And you know that up to 130 of those kidnapped hostages (some have doubtless already been murdered) are still suffering in Hamas dungeons.

There is no denying the terrible suffering of the people of Gaza, nor that their suffering is mostly the fault of Hamas.  Reasonable people can debate whether the permanent ceasefire you have been calling for “since day one” would advance peace or merely hand Hamas victory and the opportunity to repeat the atrocities of October 7 over and over and over again, as they have promised to do, ensuring that both the Israeli and Palestinian people will continue to suffer.

Reasonable people can also debate whether a group of students (along with professional anti-Israel activists) should be entitled to disregard rules at their universities, spew anti-Semitic hate speech, incite violence and advocate genocide, take over and damage university property, and ruin the educational prospects and graduation ceremonies for the vast majority of students at their institutions.   You purported to be “crushed” watching police “brutality” be forced upon these “peaceful” students.  As an educator, as a father, as a Black man… it hits differently, you said.  For me, as a Columbia alum, teacher and father, and as a Jewish man the vast majority of whose family was exterminated in the Holocaust, it hits differently too.  Reasonable people can debate issues like that.

What a reasonable person would not do is spread irresponsible lies just to win votes, especially lies that, like the blood libels of the Middle Ages, are designed to stir up age-old hatred of Jews and now hatred of their nation-state as well, lies that are liable to lead, sooner or later, to tragedy.

I don’t know if you are an anti-Semite.  I would hope not.  But your recent campaign rhetoric certainly is anti-Semitic.  From the way it has degenerated over the last few weeks, it seems you have concluded that mainstream Jewish voters will not support you and so you may as well lean-in hard to the “other side.”  You describe your opponent as “an AIPAC-backed “Democrat” who’s spending his days rubbing elbows with billionaires,” an anti-Semitic dog whistle if ever there was one.  You say your opponent has “zero morals” because of who he takes money from, yet you accept fundraising support from notorious anti-Semites like Nihad Awad, who cheered and celebrated the barbaric October 7 pogrom.

Whatever good you may have done in the past or may do in the future, if you do not reverse course on this, then this will be your legacy: that you were a politician who was willing to spread poisonous lies and stir up hatred against Jews to try get yourself reelected.


Trevor Norwitz

New York, NY

Note:  Jamaal Bowman is, since 2021, the U.S. representative for New York’s 16th congressional district (which includes the northern part of New York City and the southern part of Westchester County).

About the Author
Trevor Norwitz is a practicing lawyer in New York, who also teaches at Columbia Law School.