Stephen Ripen/Getty Images
Stephen Ripen/Getty Images
Rep. Ilhan Omar released a statement clarifying comments she made earlier this week that appeared to compare the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, sparking criticism from both sides of the aisle and from democratic leadership.
The reaction unfolded when the Minnesota Democrat tweeted a video of her question to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Her caption on the tweet read: “We have seen unimaginable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people should go for justice.”
We must have the same level of responsibility and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity.
We have seen unimaginable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) June 7, 2021
A group of 12 Democrats, led by Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, denounced Omar’s comments in a joint statement late Wednesday.
“Equating the United States and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misleading,” lawmakers said, asking Omar to clarify her comments.
“Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and despicable organizations engaged in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deeply held prejudices,” they said. “The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, sometimes deserve criticism, but false equivalence provides cover for terrorist groups.”
Omar responded by first criticize her colleagues for releasing a statement rather than speaking to her directly and saying it contained “Islamophobic tropes”. However, she went on to explain her comments, claiming they had been misinterpreted.
“To be clear, the conversation was about liability for specific incidents related to those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the US and Israel,” she said. wrote in a press release.
She added: “I have in no way equated terrorist organizations with democratic countries with established legal systems.”
The six-member Democratic leadership team, which includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, issued a rare joint statement following Omar’s statement, writing that they “welcome [Omar’s] clarification.”
“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of freedom of expression and democratic debate. Indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies,” they said. statement read. “But drawing false equivalence between democracies like the US and Israel and groups engaged in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban feeds prejudice and undermines progress towards a future of peace and security for all.”
Omar’s original tweet renewed calls from several Republican lawmakers to remove her of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
This week’s response reflects the criticism Omar received during her first term, when a series of comments were reprimanded by both sides as anti-Semitic, for which she eventually apologized.