Muslim Democratic congressional candidate calls Israel ‘apartheid regime’
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Muslim Democratic congressional candidate calls Israel ‘apartheid regime’

Ilhan Omar, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, speaking at a Hillary for Minnesota event at the University of Minnesota, October 2016. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

(JTA) — A Somali-American congressional candidate running for the Democratic nomination in Minnesota called Israel  “the apartheid Israeli regime.”

Ilhan Omar’s tweet came in response to accusations that a tweet she wrote in 2012, accusing Israel of “evil doings,” amounts to anti-Semitism.

In an interview with ABC News for a segment titled “Progressive Democrats increasingly criticize Israel, and could reap political rewards,” Omar rejected accusations of anti-Semitism by conservative critics.

“These accusations are without merit,” the Minnesota state representative said. “They are rooted in bigotry toward a belief about what Muslims are stereotyped to believe.”

Earlier she had tweeted a response to a critic who had accused her of anti-Semitism: “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews. You are a hateful sad man, I pray to Allah you get the help you need and find happiness.” She added, sarcastically: “Well you know, if a Muslim says something negative about Israeli government, they must hate Jews. Didn’t you get that memo.”

Minnesota’s primary election is Aug. 14.

Omar, who is among several Muslim women in the U.S. running for Congress, wrote in a tweet in November 2012 that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza  #Palestine #Israel”

The tweet came two days after the Israeli army began an operation in Gaza triggered by the launching of 100 rockets at Israel from the strip over a 24-hour period.

Omar has neither apologized for nor retracted the tweet.

She is running to succeed Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, who was the first Muslim elected to the Congress. Ellison is running for attorney general in Minnesota and is not seeking re-election.

Omar has received some pushback on social media in recent weeks.

A tweet from a Twitter user with the handle @shabbosgoy called her a “proud Jew hater” after she made a brief appearance in the music video of the pop group Maroon 5’s song “Girls Like You.”

The ABC News segment noted the recent upset primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, calling her one of several progressives whose willingness to criticize Israel’s actions have paid off politically.