Israel critic elected to House backtracks on her previous opposition to BDS
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Israel critic elected to House backtracks on her previous opposition to BDS

Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar now says she ‘believes in and supports’ boycott movement, after calling it ‘counterproductive’ during election campaign

Democrat Ilhan Omar on November 7, 2018, in Minneapolis after winning Minnesota's 5th Congressional District race in the 2018 US midterm elections. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Democrat Ilhan Omar on November 7, 2018, in Minneapolis after winning Minnesota's 5th Congressional District race in the 2018 US midterm elections. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

WASHINGTON — A newly elected congressperson from Minnesotta who spoke out against boycotts of Israel during her campaign now says she supports the BDS movement.

Ilhan Omar, one of two Muslim women who became the first elected to Congress last week, had said during her campaign that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was “counteractive” and prevents dialogue.

Omar’s comment came in response to a website called Muslim Girl, which pressed her on her appearance during the campaign at a Minneapolis area synagogue.

During that candidates’ forum, she had said that BDS “stops the dialogue” and is “counteractive” to achieving a two-state outcome.

Like many other Democrats, she noted her opposition to anti-BDS legislation but framed it as a free-speech issue.

“Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement, and has fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized,” her campaign told Muslim Girl after the election. “She does, however, have reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution.”

TC Jewfolk, a local Jewish news website which originally reported her ostensible rejection of BDS, pressed her on the issue after the Muslim Girl statement in text messages which it posted on Twitter.

Democrat Ilhan Omar speaks after winning in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District race during the election night event held by the Democratic Party on November 6, 2018, in St. Paul, Minnesota. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

Omar insisted there was no contradiction. “I believe and support the BDS movement and have fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized,” she said. “I do, however, have reservations on [the] effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution. Which is what I believe I said at the forum.”

The TC Jewfolk reporter pressed her further, asking Omar why she didn’t simply answer “yes or no” when asked about the issue at the synagogue forum for candidates.

“It was a bigger issue and she didn’t ask for a ‘yes or no’ answer,” Omar replied, referring to the person who posed the question. Omar said her position during the campaign was not “politically expedient.”

Omar had earned notoriety in the pro-Israel community for a 2012 tweets posted in which she said that Israel had “hypnotized the world” to ignore its “evil doings.” Defending that tweet earlier this year, she said on the same platform that calling attention to the “Israeli Apartheid regime” was not anti-Semitic.

Omar is the first Somali and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. The other Muslim woman elected last week, Rashida Tlaib of the Detroit area, also backs BDS.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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