Jewish Democrats Condemn Ilhan Omar for ‘Equating U.S. and Israel to Hamas’

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Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) addresses the media and community organizers at a press conference at the vigil site for Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn., April 20, 2021. (Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters)

Nearly half of the Jewish Democratic lawmakers in the House signed a letter on Wednesday urging Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) to clarify a recent comment that they say equated the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.

“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” Omar wrote in a tweet on Monday. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

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The statement by the group of Jewish Democrats, led by Representative Brad Schneider (D., Ill.), said that “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,” it adds.

“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,” the lawmakers wrote.

The statement follows a meeting of an unofficial caucus of 25 Jewish House Democrats on Wednesday, where there appeared to be “unanimous frustration” with Omar’s comments, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

Some lawmakers at the meeting reportedly wanted to release a statement saying that Omar’s comments “discredited” the party. The lawmakers wanted to name Omar in the statement, a shift from statements earlier in the Gaza conflict where Jewish members called out statements on Israel by lawmakers on the left but did not name them.

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The letter was also signed by Representatives Jake Auchincloss, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Josh Gottheimer, Elaine Luria, Kathy Manning, Jerrold Nadler, Dean Phillips, Kim Schrier, Brad Sherman and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The tweet in question also included a video of Omar questioning Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Congress about why the Biden administration opposes efforts by the International Criminal Court to investigate nationals of certain countries for alleged war crimes.

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The progressive “Squad” member said she did not believe that Hamas, the Afghanistan government, the Taliban and Israel have in place military justice systems that sufficiently independently pursue justice.

“I haven’t seen in evidence in either case,” the Afghan and the Gaza conflicts, “that domestic courts both can and will prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she said. “Where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice, and what justice mechanisms do you support?”

Omar fired back at the lawmakers who issued the statement, saying “it’s 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 and silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable,” she continued, adding that “citing an open case against Israel, U.S., Hamas and Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice.’ You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims, but history has taught us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever.”

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Omar’s recent comments are far from the first time she has upset Jewish Americans: in 2019, she was named “anti-Semite of the year” by stopantisemitism.org. The organization listed a number of reasons why Omar had won the designation, including that she accused American Jews of possessing dual loyalty to the U.S. and Israel and that she claimed Jews buy their influence with money, having infamously said, “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

The list adds that she accused Israel of having hypnotized the world and that she had supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

The caucus meeting comes as Republicans have criticized Democrats for not doing more to tamp down on antisemitism within their ranks. The GOP, however, condemned Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia for her conspiracy theory rhetoric that has invoked the Holocaust.

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