In the northern suburbs of New York, George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, is contemplating a challenge to Representative Jamaal Bowman, who defeated the staunchly pro-Israel chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, in 2020.
And progressive organizations are girding for possible challenges to Representatives Cori Bush of Missouri, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and others, funded from the deep pockets of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups.
“They spent a historic amount of money to intervene, and try and buy primaries in 2022,” said Usamah Andrabi, spokesman for Justice Democrats, the liberal insurgent group that helped elect many of the progressives now on the primary target list. “I think we will see a doubling and tripling down, because no one in the Democratic leadership is trying to stop them.”
Officially, AIPAC is neutral for now.
“There will be a time for political action, but right now our priority is building and sustaining congressional support for Israel’s fight to permanently dismantle Hamas,” said the group’s spokesman, Marshall Wittmann.
But AIPAC’s jabs have already begun. Responding to a post by Mr. Bowman extolling his “Ceasefire Now” resolution, the lobbying group called it “a transparent ploy to paint Israel as the aggressor and allow Hamas to control Gaza.” Hitting Ms. Lee, AIPAC wrote on X, “Emboldening a group that massacres Israelis and uses Palestinians as human shields will never achieve peace.”
Waleed Shahid, a former leader of Justice Democrats, predicted that the current environment, in which leaders of both parties, including President Biden, are aligned with Israeli leadership and the Palestinian cause is represented by protesters in the streets and on college campuses, would yield a trove of fundraising for pro-Israel groups ahead of 2024. He suggested that there may be an “asymmetrical” fight during the primaries.
“I think we’re in a post-9/11 environment where there’s a lot of fear to speak out against war, and there could be political electoral consequences for not lining up for the cause of war, the way there was in 2002,” he said.
Progressive Democrats like Ms. Lee have other constituents to consider, including progressive Jews who remain by her side. Avigail Oren, a nonprofit professional in Pittsburgh, said that the Tree of Life attack led her to conclude that Jewish safety rested with securing the safety of all vulnerable communities, especially those targeted by white supremacists. That propelled her to work toward Ms. Lee’s election, she said, and her support for the congresswoman “was reinforced, not shaken” by the events in Israel, which she said underscored the need for an Arab-Jewish-Muslim alliance.
Ms. Lee said Jews were “10 percent of our district, but we also have Muslim, Arab, Palestinian constituents who are afraid for their families and their lives.”