A Muslim congresswoman accused of “drawing false equivalences” between the US, Israel, Hamas and the Taliban.
Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives tried to stifle outrage among lawmakers over a question by Representative Ilhan Omar about U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigations into alleged war crimes in Israel and Afghanistan.
Omar, one of the three Muslim members of the United States House, had asked at a hearing on June 7 where victims of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas should seek justice if US opposes action in the ICC.
It was a fair but timely question and Secretary of State Antony Blinken replied that U.S. and Israeli courts can provide appropriate judicial forums for such claims.
However, Omar’s question sparked the condemnation of some of his own fellow Democrats and howls of “anti-Semitism” by the Republican right amid a new round of death threats in his office.
“Equating the United States and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is wrong,” a group of 11 Jewish Democrats said in a statement two days after Omar asked Blinken his question.
We urge Rep Omar to clarify his words by placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban pic.twitter.com/KfcnmpLRO6
– Representative Brad Schneider (@RepSchneider) June 10, 2021
Omar backed down and called the Democrats’ group’s statement “shameful.”
“The Islamophobic troops in his statement are offensive. The constant harassment and silence of the signatories of this letter is unbearable “, tweeted Omar.
And Omar shared an example of the kind of death threats his office receives every time he is the target of accusations like the ones he received this week.
TW: Every time I talk about human rights I am inundated with death threats. Here is one we just got.
“Muslims are terrorists. And it’s a cloth head n *****. And every piece of anti-American communist shit that works for her, I hope you get what’s coming for you. ” pic.twitter.com/Kid7qUgZDZ
– Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 10, 2021
Democratic House leaders jumped into the fight in hopes of avoiding a conflagration like the one consumed by Democrats in 2019 when the House voted to condemn anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination after Omar had suggested that Israeli supporters of Israel had double allegiances.
“Legitimate criticism of both U.S. and Israeli policies is protected by the values of freedom of speech and democratic debate,” six Democratic House leaders, including President Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement Thursday.
“But establishing false equivalences between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and terrorist groups like Hamas and the Taliban encourages prejudice and undermines progress,” the group said.
In a gesture toward his concerns, Omar offered a clarification of his question to Blinken to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents related to these ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban, the US and Israel, “Omar said in a statement issued by his office.
“In no case did it equate terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
But the war of words did not end here. Omar’s progressive allies, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, jumped to his defense.
I am quite sick and tired of the constant defamation, intentional misconception and public orientation of @KeepinDay coming from our caucus.
They have no concept of the danger they put in skipping private conversations and jumping to feed news cycles directed around them.
– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 10, 2021
Meanwhile, Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican ally of former President Donald Trump, told Omar’s question to an Alabama radio interviewer that it came from “the growing influence of the Islamic religion in the Democratic Party.” .
“Keep in mind that Muslims, more than most people, have a strong animosity toward Israel and the Jewish faith,” Brooks said.
Omar condemned Brooks’ comments and noted in a tweet that his fellow Democrats had failed to address him.
“When will our caucus face strong hatred towards its Muslim colleagues and components?” she asked.