Israel-Palestine conflict takes center stage at Minnesota CD-5 forum

With Congressman Keith Ellison running for state attorney general, the race for his seat in the Fifth Congressional District is a big one.

The DFL candidates are vying for a spot on the ballot in November. At the forum were founder of the Somali-American DFL caucus Jamal Abdulahi, realtor Frank Drake, former Minnesota Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Representative Ilhan Omar and Senator Patricia Torres Ray.

A synagogue in St. Louis Park hosted the forum. The audience included many people of Jewish faith, which meant the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States’ role in that conflict was a question that took center stage.

“I think it is going to be important for us to recognize Israel’s place in the Middle East and the Jewish people’s rightful place within that legion,” said Omar. “It’s also important that we are going through a process that we are guaranteeing that to the Palestinians.” 

Omar declared her support of the two-state solution amidst criticism for a 2012 tweet in which she said, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

While the tweet was not mentioned directly during the forum, print-outs of the tweet were left on car windshields in the synagogue parking lot.

Other topics tackled throughout the evening included health care reform and working alongside President Donald Trump. On all topics, most didn’t stray from party lines, but things did get personal - at least for Kelliher - when the topic of gun violence came up. Kelliher said her push for gun reform has been largely influenced by the 2012 Accent Signage shooting.

“Five people died that day, including Reuven Rahamim, who many of you knew. Our UPS driver died that day because he was in his truck making a delivery. No one should go through that sort of violence ever,” Kelliher said through tears. “Whether they are in north Minneapolis, whether at Accent Signage or a work or in a school.”

“If the NRA is so powerful, if people are contributing to these campaigns and you have powerful corporations and powerful groups investing in campaigns, these reforms are not going to take place,” said Torres Ray. “I think in particular, money is driving that issue in Washington right now and we need to put reforms in place to make sure people represent the will of the community.”