Florida socialist party targets activist over Israel trip

Image copyright EPA Image caption Jamaal Bowman says he was forced out of US to take ‘that opportunity’

A social justice campaigner has been targeted for expulsion by his own party for taking part in a visit to Israel.

Jamaal Bowman, a Socialist Workers Party MP in Texas, became a European member of Israeli socialist organisation Keka Haredim.

But the US branch of the organisation expelled him.

Mr Bowman said that as a Jew he was “really, really, really saddened” and has been meeting with his party leadership to see if an expulsion can be avoided.

In recent years, the party has in the past expelled members on different grounds, he said.

Photo : Consulate General of Israel in New York, in collaboration with Keshet Rabbis

“They talk about violation of party policy, violation of contracts, gender bias. The thing I find disconcerting is the party never tells me what it does not like before deciding what to do,” he told BBC News.

“We just wrote a letter of support for what was really a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity for me to learn a whole lot.”

Communication with the party’s leaders has not been smooth, and Mr Bowman said that at one point he was barred from entering the party’s headquarters.

He said he had heard that a second member had already been expelled from the party.

During the visit, Mr Bowman and others were held for questioning by Israeli authorities in a move condemned by Palestinian opposition groups, the BBC’s James Copnall reported.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Mr Bowman became a socialist activist in the 1960s

The chairman of the Socialist Workers Party in the US, Dennis Sheehan, described the expulsion decision as “a disappointing decision, and one that the party is aware of”.

“We are aware of these reports that there was a disciplinary proceeding that did not go in his favour and he was expelled from the party.

“We feel that the decision to expel him was not appropriate, and that the party leadership is aware of that. So, no this is not a happy announcement,” he said.

There is no local party to uphold a dispute in the US, but it would be referred to the national body if it did come to that, he added.

“We hope to have an amicable resolution between Jamaal and the party leadership,” he said.

‘Extreme right’

Mr Bowman said he was reluctant to leave Texas, where he had campaigned on fighting for rights for workers, most recently for fair wages.

He added: “It’s going to take a while to get the support I need in Texas to reverse the party leadership decision. We’re still exploring avenues of dealing with the breach.”

The current president of Keka Haredim in Texas is Russell Price, who has described Mr Bowman as a “political friend and ally”.

He said that the actions of Keka Haredim in the US were in keeping with the group’s ideology.

“Jamaal will be following all the rules of the socialist organisation and will get access to all the organisation’s facilities, including meetings and workshops,” he told the BBC.

“From what I’ve been told so far, he won’t be expelled from the socialist organisation, however we certainly have an issue with what he’s doing abroad with that international organisation.

“We’re aware of that we will deal with it. We’re going to take the decision of the collective Keka Haredim.”

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