(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- Ilhan Omar, a newly elected Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, secured a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, bringing to that high-level forum experience as a Somali refugee, perspective as one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and dissent as a harsh critic of America's longstanding allies in the Middle East.
The freshman lawmaker has called for cuts in defense aid to Saudi Arabia and questions Israel's right to exist. Within the very hour of her committee appointment, Omar expanded on that criticism, referring to Israel as a "regime."
She spoke with CNN and defended a tweet she posted in 2012 that claimed "Israel has hypnotized the world."
"May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel," she wrote at the time.
While she supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and has not endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she has rejected characterizations of her views as antisemitic.
“I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish-Americans,” she told two of CNN’s anchors. "My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War, and I am clearly speaking about how the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war."
Only one other member of Congress also openly supports the BDS movement: Rashida Tlaib, who is also a freshman lawmaker. She has publicly called for a one-state solution to the conflict that would threaten Israel's status as a Jewish state.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is Eliot Engel, Democrat from New York, who has long pioneered bipartisan legislation supportive of Israel.
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