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Minnesota’s Omar faces criticism over Israel sanction issue

November 14, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, set to be one of the first two Muslim women in Congress next year, is facing criticism from groups that say she’s reversing her position on Israel.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune report ed Omar told several websites this week that she supports the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Though she told the website MuslimGirl.com that she has “reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution,” she made clear she supported the movement, known as BDS. She repeated that stance to the Minnesota website TC Jewfolk, pointing to her vote in the Minnesota Legislature against a ban on using contractors supportive of the movement.

But during a candidate forum in August, when Omar was running a crowded primary to replace Rep. Keith Ellison in the Minneapolis-area congressional district, Omar called that movement “counteractive.” She added then that she supports a two-state solution for Israel.

Asked about the BDS movement, she said: “I think that stops the dialogue, and so I want to make sure we are furthering policies and advocating for things that gets people closer to having that conversation.”

Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said he was “deeply disappointed” by Omar’s latest answer.

Omar’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to an interview request from The Associated Press on Wednesday. The Minneapolis Star Tribune said it did not receive a response from Omar after a campaign spokeswoman forwarded questions to her.

As an incoming freshman congresswoman, Omar will play little direct role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. But her rising political star — she became the nation’s first Somali-American state lawmaker in 2016 before moving on to Congress — and previous statements about Israel have made her a visible figure.

She referenced Israel’s “evil doings” in a 2012 Twitter post and said the country had “hypnotized the world.”

Omar will be sworn into Congress in January, joining Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib as the first two Muslim women in Congress.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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