Jun 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Jewish Democrats clash with Ilhan Omar after comments on U.S. and Israel

Ilhan Omar.

Rep. Ilhan Omar. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

A group of Jewish Democrats in the House is publicly feuding with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) after she tweeted about "unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban," in reference to investigations by the International Criminal Court.

Why it matters: The clash threatens to reopen a fault line within the party that could cost Omar her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, writes Punchbowl News.

  • The House previously passed a resolution by Democrats condemning antisemitism in response to comments on Israel by Omar, and Republicans have long accused the Minnesota congresswoman of antisemitism — a charge she denies.
  • Unlike the 2019 resolution, a statement issued by Democrats late Wednesday called out Omar by name.

Driving the news: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” Omar tweeted at Secretary of State Antony Blinken Monday, in reference to U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court investigating potential war crimes in the Gaza conflict and Afghanistan.

  • “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban," she wrote.

A group of 12 Jewish House Democrats issued a statement shortly after Omar's comments, calling on her "to clarify her words placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban."

  • "Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided," they wrote. "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 United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups," the Democrats added.

Omar responded to the Jewish House Democrats in a tweet, saying it was "shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for 'clarification' and not just call."

  • "The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable," Omar wrote.
  • "Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from 'deeply seated prejudice,'" she added. "You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever."
  • In a statement on Thursday, she offered a "clarification."
    • "To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel," she said.
    • "I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems," she added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her Democratic leadership team welcomed Omar's clarification in a statement.

  • "Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate. And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies," the group wrote.
  • "But drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all."
  • "We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Omar's clarification and the statement by House Democratic leadership.

Go deeper