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Ayanna Pressley Is Much More Pro-Israel Than Other New Faces In Congress

(JTA) — Ayanna Pressley is the first black woman that Massachusetts elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the media coverage of this wild and woolly election, her bio gets her lumped in with other women of color, all Democrats, who made history this cycle: Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and the now ubiquitous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, at 29 the youngest woman elected to Congress. 

It’s a natural trend that these women share the same outlooks. It’s also an unfortunate one because it can lead to a lazy assumption that “first” makes them “same.”

Pressley’s views on Israel differ little from the long-serving Democrat she unseated in the primary, Michael Capuano. That’s of a piece with her broader campaign strategy — she noted that on policy, she differed little with Capuano, a progressive, and instead argued that she was better positioned to lead progressives. The local media pointed out the lack of differences between the two.

The Boston Jewish community has a longstanding and friendly relationship with Pressley, a city councilor, said Jeremy Burton, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.

“The Jewish community in Boston has enjoyed a warm and productive relationship with congresswoman-elect Pressley during her nine years holding a Boston citywide elected position,” Burton said in an email.

“During that time and during this year’s campaign, Pressley has sought out the input and perspectives of our leaders and organizations on a range of issues, including the US-Israel partnership,” he said.

“We were pleased, though hardly surprised, to see during the campaign that Pressley specifically posted policy positions opposing BDS and supporting peace-building toward achieving a two-state resolution for Israelis and Palestinians,” Burton said.

Pressley does reportedly back a bill that centrist pro-Israel groups, including the Boston JCRC, don’t love: It would prohibit U.S. money to be used by Israel for the “military detention, interrogation, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.” But that measure also has the backing of 29 progressives in the House and is not extraordinary.

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