Last time Rep. Bill Pascrell faced a serious primary challenge, he ended up winning by a 20-point margin after the Arab American community rallied in support of the New Jersey Democrat. Now that same constituency is turning against him, posing a major threat to the 14-term House member over his stance on the Israel-Hamas war.
Arab Americans protested outside his district office in Paterson, home to Little Ramallah, the largest Palestinian American enclave in the country. They’ve held press conferences demanding a cease-fire and, last week, interrupted a fundraiser to confront him over his pro-Israel position. Most consequentially, some Arab Americans plan to mobilize against the 86-year-old when he seeks reelection next year.
Former supporters now call him a “charlatan” and a “mouthpiece for the dehumanization of Palestinian people.” They say Pascrell’s seeming indifference to their concerns over Israel’s offensive in Gaza and his refusal to back a cease-fire has led them to consider backing Democratic challengers in June — including a former aide.
“You can’t call yourself a friend of the community and then turn your back on them,” said Feras Awwad, a local school board member in the city of Clifton whose grandparents hail from Ein Karem, a village outside Jerusalem. “There’s not a chance in hell anybody’s going to be supporting him.”
The rising tension in Pascrell’s 9th congressional district is a striking reflection of the broader fault lines running through the national Democratic party following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Federal lawmakers have strongly backed Israel’s right to defend itself but, after two months of Israel pummeling Gaza, killing about 20,000 people, they’ve faced increasing pressure from the left to push for an end to the offensive. [Continue reading…]