Who’s they? — The Joooos?

Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) – Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, one of only two Muslim-Americans in Congress, reacted Thursday to the controversy over his party’s newly-updated platform that references Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel.

“I do not want to see this issue used as a cudgel to beat on the president with,” Ellison said. “They’re trying to use the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a way to divide people.”

When pressed to explain who “they” are, Ellison said: “By ‘they’ I mean people who try to make the Israel-Palestinian conflict into a political football. And try then to out pro-Israel each other.”

“That’s an unfortunate circumstance. This is a serious conflict which requires real focus and the world needs a solution to it. It should not be reduced to whose platform is more pro-Israel. It’s a game that we’re playing. But we’re playing a game with people’s lives.”

The Minnesota Democrat is influential among many American Muslims. He is the first Muslim ever elected to Congress and is politically active with Muslim groups.

His comments came at a meeting of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus in Charlotte. Many in the audience are attending the Democratic National Convention.

Ellison was asked about his party’s updating of their platform with the Jerusalem reference. But the congressman said the focus on it was misplaced.

“This issue is a side issue, it’s a distraction issue,” Ellison said. “And I personally believe that the last thing we need to do is have a big fight about the emergence of this issue. Because at the end of the day, we need a president who will try to bring these people together. And it won’t be easy.”

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