on the hill

Jewish House Dems slam Omar’s comments equating U.S., Israel to Hamas, Taliban

The group of 12 Democrats said the Minnesota Democrat's comments may ‘reflect deep-seated prejudice' and urged her to 'clarify her words’

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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks during a press conference at a memorial for Daunte Wright on April 20, 2021 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

A group of 12 Jewish House Democrats spoke out against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) late Wednesday night for comments made by the Minnesota lawmaker on Monday that critics say appeared to liken wartime actions by the U.S. and Israel to terrorist activities of Hamas and the Taliban.

In a tweet on Monday about the status of the International Criminal Court’s probes of the U.S. and Israel, Omar wrote, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” and argued that the U.S. and Israeli justice systems were either unwilling or unable to address these issues.
The tweet included a video of the congresswoman questioning Secretary of State Tony Blinken earlier that day.

Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Kim Schrier (D-WA), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) responded in a joint statement Wednesday night.

“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided. Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice,” the statement reads.

“The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups. We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the U.S. and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban,” it continues.

That joint statement came in the wake of discussions among the full group of 25 House Jewish Democrats on Wednesday over how to rebut Omar’s claims and whether to address her by name. The other 13 Jewish Democrats had yet to respond to Omar’s comments as of Wednesday evening.

Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) issued a separate statement condemning Omar’s comments in more strident terms, because he “wanted to express himself now” before the joint statement was complete, spokesperson Arya Ansari told JI.

“It’s not news that Ilhan Omar would make outrageous and clearly false statements about America and Israel,” Sherman said. “What’s newsworthy is that she admits Hamas is guilty of ‘unthinkable atrocities.’ It’s time for all of Israel’s detractors to condemn Hamas. And it’s time for all those of good will to reject any moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel on one hand, and Hamas and the Taliban on the other.”

In response to both statements, Omar spokesman Jeremy Slevin said that Omar was seeking information about the processes available for adjudicating the accusations against the parties she listed.

“As usual, the far right is ginning up hate against Rep. Omar for a technical question about an ongoing investigation,” Slevin told JI. “It is the congresswoman’s role as a member of Congress conducting federal oversight to follow the facts, ask questions of the Administration and work to make sure the public understands our government shouldn’t deny any person from seeking justice.”

Omar tweeted on Wednesday that her office has been “inundated with death threats” following the comments, adding that such behavior is “directly incited” by coverage from news outlets and comments from politicians, citing Fox News and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who tweeted on Tuesday that Omar was an “honorary member of Hamas.”

“It is enabled by a political culture — in both parties — that allows and often fuels Islamophobia,” Omar continued.

The Minnesota congresswoman’s comments have also attracted criticism off of Capitol Hill.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan condemned the comments on Tuesday night, tweeting, “How can a member of Congress, compare Israel [and] the US — two vibrant democracies with robust legal systems [and] militaries that strive to avoid civilian casualties — with jihadi terrorists who purposely murder civilians? The difference should be clear to everyone.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called Omar’s remarks “Beyond shocking. Beyond reprehensible,” and called on other Democrats to speak up in a tweet Tuesday morning.

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