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Rep. Jamaal Bowman meets with Israeli Consul General after criticism of Israel’s vaccination drive

Congressman Jamaal Bowman from New York engaged in a “thoughtful conversation” with Israel Nitzan, acting Israeli consul general in New York, on Wednesday.

Bowman, who defeated longtime congressman Eliot Engel in the 16th District last year, criticized Israel earlier this year for not offering to distribute coronavirus vaccines to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a since-deleted tweet in January, Bowman, who represents one of the largest Jewish districts in the country, joined a number of his progressive colleagues in criticizing Israel for not distributing vaccines to the Palestinian population. “This cruelty is another reminder of why the occupation must end,” he wrote. After facing backlash from local Jewish leaders, Bowman sent a letter to Nitzan, saying he was “heartened” to learn that Israel sent 5,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Palestinian territories.

Bowman, 45, was a middle-school principal in the Bronx before he ran for office. Last year, he received the backing of the Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders in his challenge against Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was supported by pro-Israel groups. Bowman said in an interview following his victory that part of his foreign policy focus is to be “more involved” in the humanitarian needs of Palestinians.

In his lengthy letter to Nitzan, Bowman said he’d accept an invitation to meet to learn more about the issue and develop a working relationship.

The two met in person at the Israeli Consulate in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday. In a tweet following the meeting, Nitzan thanked Bowman “for the thoughtful conversation” and said he’s “looking forward to building upon this relationship.”

Itay Milner, the consulate’s spokesperson, told the Forward that the meeting was part of an ongoing effort to reach out to all segments of the Democratic party. “The progressive movement and the State of Israel share common goals,” Milner said. “That is why we welcome and encourage dialogue with all local elected officials, regardless of their political affiliations.”

A representative for Bowman didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the meeting. Bowman responded to Nitzan’s tweet, saying he “thoroughly enjoyed speaking” with him.

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