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Pro-Palestinian lawmaker shakes up Israel status quo with seat on foreign affairs panel

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Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is one of two freshmen Democrats openly embracing the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. On Wednesday she joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee, giving her an unprecedented opportunity to elevate BDS as an issue on the traditionally pro-Israel panel — should she choose to do so.

Regardless of her intentions, Republicans are already using her appointment on the committee to highlight growing divisions on Israel within the Democratic caucus. While Democratic leadership has traditionally sided with Israel, Republicans are eager to highlight Omar as representative of a Democratic base that is increasingly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Indeed, a December University of Maryland poll found that 56% of Democrats favor sanctions or more serious action against Israel should it continue expanding its settlements in the West Bank. Only 26% of Republicans agreed.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., the co-chairman of the House Republican Israel Caucus, pointed to Omar’s support for BDS and a tweet from six years ago that has been panned as anti-Semitic. Zeldin was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the last Congress; Republicans have yet to unveil this year's roster.

“Instead of the Dems supporting Israel & combatting BDS & anti-Semitism on college campuses & elsewhere, they’re now empowering it,” Zeldin tweeted today.

Zeldin was referring to Omar’s 2012 tweet stating that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

The New York Republican also took aim this week at Congress’ only other pro-BDS lawmaker, freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Tlaib has condemned the Senate’s Combating BDS Act, asserting that the bill’s supporters “forgot what country they represent.”

After the House voted 424-1........

© Al Monitor