GREATEST HITS, 12: Minnesota’s first Muslim congresswoman changes her tune on Israel after election

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by WorldTribune Staff, November 16, 2018

As a candidate, Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar presented herself as a moderate on Israel. Soon after her victory in the 2018 midterms, however, Minnesota’s first Muslim congresswoman said she is committed to sanctioning Israel.

The Minnesota Democrat, during the campaign, had called the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “counteractive.”

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar. / AP

During a Democratic Party candidates’ forum at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park on Aug. 6 – one week before she defeated four other candidates in the Democratic primary – Omar said she supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and that the BDS movement aimed at pressuring Israel was not helpful in trying to achieve that goal, Gatestone Institute reported on Nov. 16.

After winning the seat vacated by Rep. Keith Ellison (the first Muslim elected to Congress), Omar admitted she supports the BDS movement.

On Nov. 11, Omar’s office told the website “Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement, and has fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized. She does however, have reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution.”

In her acceptance speech, which Gatestone Institute reported was delivered without an American flag, Omar said: “I stand here before you tonight as your congresswoman-elect with many firsts behind my name. The first woman of color to represent our state in Congress. The first woman to wear a hijab. The first refugee ever elected to Congress. And one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.”

In a May tweet, Omar had referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime.” In a tweet from November 2012, she stated: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Representative-elect Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, in Washington, D.C, on Nov. 30. / Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty Images

In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Omar characterized the controversy over her tweets about Israel as an effort to “stigmatize and shame me into saying something other than what I believed.”

In a July 8 interview with ABC News, for a segment entitled, “Progressive Democrats Increasingly Criticize Israel, and Could Reap Political Rewards”, Omar defended her tweets. She said accusations of anti-Semitism “are without merit” and “rooted in bigotry toward a belief about what Muslims are stereotyped to believe.”

On Sept. 22, Omar was the keynote speaker at a Minneapolis fundraiser focused on providing monetary support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas. The U.S. State Department has officially designated Hamas a terrorist group.

After the event, Omar tweeted: “It was such an honor to attend the ‘Dear Gaza’ fundraiser … I know Palestinians are resilient people, neither hateful protesters nor unjust occupation will dim their spirit.”

Writing in the New York Post, political commentator David Harsanyi noted that Omar’s rhetoric had anti-Semitic undertones: “Now, it isn’t inherently anti-Semitic to be critical of Israeli political leadership or policies. The Democratic Party antagonism toward the Jewish state has been well-established over the past decade. But Omar used a well-worn anti-Semitic trope about the preternatural ability of a nefarious Jewish cabal to deceive the world….

“Omar had a chance to retract, or at least refine, her statement. Instead, she doubled down … blaming Jewish Islamophobia for the backlash….

“Omar’s defenders will claim she’s anti-Israel, not anti-Jewish. ‘Anti-Zionism’ has been the preferred justification for Jew-hatred in institutions of education and within progressive activism for a long time. Now it’s coming for politics. Democrats can either allow it to be normalized, or they can remain silent.”

Meanwhile, in Michigan, Rashida Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, won a largely uncontested race for the open seat in state’s heavily Democratic 13th congressional district, the Gatestone Institute report said.

In her acceptance speech, delivered with a Palestinian flag, Tlaib credited her victory to the Palestinian cause. “A lot of my strength comes from being Palestinian,” she said.

During her campaign for the Democratic nomination, Tlaib actively “sought out the support and received the endorsement of J Street.” J Street is a left-leaning organization that is highly critical of the Israel government, and through “JStreetPAC,” it also allocates financial support to those who back J Street’s policies.

J Street endorsed Tlaib “based on her support for two states” with the JStreetPAC website claiming that she “believes that the U.S. should be directly involved with negotiations to reach a two-state solution. Additionally, she supports all current aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

After her primary win on Aug. 7, Tlaib shifted her positions on Israel, so much so that Haaretz suggested that she pulled a “bait-and-switch.”

In an Aug. 14 interview with In These Times magazine, Tlaib was asked whether she supported a one-state or two-state solution. She replied: “One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work…. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.”

Tlaib also declared her opposition to U.S. aid for Israel, as well as her support for the BDS movement.

On Aug. 17, J Street withdrew its endorsement of Tlaib’s candidacy. J Street noted:
“While we have long championed the value of a wide range of voices in discussion of the conflict and related issues, we cannot endorse candidates who conclude that they can no longer publicly express unequivocal support for a two-state solution and other core principles to which our organization is dedicated.”

Commentator Jonathan Tobin noted that many American Jews seemed indifferent to victories by the anti-Israel Democrats: “The base of the Democratic Party has been profoundly influenced by intersectional arguments that, like Tlaib’s slurs, view the Palestinian war on Israel as akin to the struggle for civil rights in the United States….

“With many Jews expressing distaste for an ‘illiberal’ Israel, it’s little surprise that the bulk of American Jewry isn’t overly bothered about the election of Socialists who are unsympathetic to the Jewish state or consider Zionism to be racist.”

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