WASHINGTON (JTA) — Ilhan Omar, newly elected as a congresswoman from Minnesota, said she supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel after saying during her campaign that it was “counteractive” and prevents dialogue.
Omar’s comment came in response to a website called Muslim Girl, which pressed her on her appearance during the campaign at a Minneapolis-area synagogue. During that candidates’ forum, she said that BDS “stops the dialogue” and is “counteractive” to achieving a two-state outcome.
Like many other Democrats, Omar noted her opposition to anti-BDS legislation but framed it as a free-speech issue.
“Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement, and has fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized,” her campaign told Muslim Girl after the election. “She does, however, have reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution.”
TC Jewfolk, the local Jewish news website that originally reported her ostensible rejection of BDS, pressed her on the issue after the Muslim Girl statement in text messages that it posted on Twitter.
Omar insisted there was no contradiction.
“I believe and support the BDS movement and have fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized,” she said. “I do, however, have reservations on [the] effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution. Which is what I believe I said at the forum.”
The TC Jewfolk reporter pressed her further, asking Omar why she didn’t simply answer “yes or no” when asked about the issue at the synagogue forum for candidates.
“It was a bigger issue and she didn’t ask for a ‘yes or no’ answer,” Omar replied, referring to the person who posed the question. Omar said her position during the campaign was not “politically expedient.”
Omar is the first Somali and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. The other Muslim woman elected last week, Rashida Tlaib of the Detroit area, also backs BDS.