Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, her office told the website MuslimGirl on Sunday.
“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,” her office said on Sunday, according to MuslimGirl. Omar will likely be the first member of Congress to explicitly support BDS.
Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota who last week became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, had been criticized by some in the Jewish community for her past remarks on Israel — she tweeted in 2012 that Israel had “hypnotized the world” and had done “evil doings,” and in May 2018 called the Jewish state “the apartheid Israeli regime.”
The new statement by Omar’s office about BDS seems to be a departure from her words during a primary debate at a local synagogue in August. “I believe right now with the BDS movement, it’s not helpful in getting that two-state solution,” she said, according to the local Jewish website TC Jewfolk. “I think the particular purpose for [BDS] is to make sure that there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive. Because in order for us to have a process of getting to a two-state solution, people have to be willing to come to the table and have a conversation about how that is going to be possible and I think that stops the dialogue.”
As a member of the Minnesota state House, Omar voted in 2017 against a bill that would ban the state from working with companies that participate in BDS. The law passed 98-28 in the House and 57-8 in the Senate before being signed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
Omar will likely be the first member of Congress to publicly support BDS. Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, her fellow Muslim history-maker and likely the first Democratic member of congress to support a one-state solution, has not explicitly said she supports BDS but said in an interview with the labor magazine In These Times in August, “I‘m an ACLU card member. I stand by the rights of people who support BDS.”
Also in her interview with MuslimGirl, Omar, a former child refugee, expressed sympathy for Palestinians. “For me, in that particular region, that is one where I am constantly thinking back to my kids, knowing that as a kid, I lived through war, and I know the pains that causes you as a child. Looking at my kids, that’s not something that would I want for them now. When I see the kind of weapons that are being used to fight kids who are throwing rocks, I think that’s injustice, and so that has propelled me to feel like I needed to say something. I think when we are thinking about this particular region, it’s one that really needs true advocacy. It needs people that are not afraid to speak truth. It is a region that has power extremely lopsided. When we are given an opportunity to look at the world, and dream of a place where people are treated equally, and people are allowed the opportunity for self-determination, we cannot dream of that world without having this particular region in mind.”