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Ilhan Omar claims Jewish Democrats ‘harassing her’ as public feud over Israel splits party

Thursday June 10, 2021
By Louise Hall

Members called recent controversial remarks ‘offensive’ and ‘misguided’

Representative Ilhan Omar speaks in Brooklyn Center, Minn., during a news conference at the site of the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright (AP)

US rep Ilhan Omar has claimed that Jewish Democrats are “harassing her” after members called her controversial remarks on Israel “offensive” and “misguided” as the public feud with the lawmaker threatens to divide the party.

A group of Jewish Democrats and Ms Omar have clashed after she said “unthinkable atrocities" had been committed by the US, Israel, Hamas, and the Taliban, lumping the two nations in with terrorist organisations.

“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” Ms Omar said in a caption alongside a video on Monday.

She added: “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

The captions came alongside a short video in which Ms Omar asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken why the federal government opposed investigations by the International Criminal Court into alleged war crimes.

Following the comments, a group of 12 congressional Democrats released a statement criticising the lawmaker, saying 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,” the statement said.

The group called on Ms Omar to “clarify her words placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban”.

The Minnesota representative then hit back at the statement, calling it “shameful” and accusing those who signed the letter of “constant harassment” and use of “islamophobic tropes”.

“Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice’,” Ms Omar wrote.

The Independent has contacted the office of Brad Schneider regarding a response to Ms Omar’s most recent statement.

On Thursday after, Ms Omar released a new statement clarifying her comments.

“I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems,” she said.

House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also released a statement criticising Ms Omar’s previous comments but expressing gratitude for her walk-back.

“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,” Pelosi and Democratic leaders said.

A spokesperson for Mr Schneider confirmed to Politico that the Democrats signing the statement are not calling her actions antisemitic.

Ms Omar previously came to blows with members of the party in 2019 over her remarks surrounding Israel. The Democrat was one of two first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018.

In 2019 the House passed a resolution condemning antisemitism and other forms of hate following other provoking remarks by the representative that were seen to have used antisemitic tropes.

The Democrat in the past apologised for the use of such tropes, saying she did not intend to stir up anti-semitic sentiments.

Her most recent remarks also proved divisive among Jewish groups on social media, with CEO of the American Jewish Committee David Harris calling them “beyond shocking. Beyond reprehensible.”

IfNotNow, an American Jewish progressive activist group that opposes Israel, said that those who signed the letter are “more interested in protecting Israeli occupation and apartheid than working towards Jewish safety and equal rights for Palestinians & Israelis.”

Republicans have also hit out at Ms Omar for comments having in February revealed a measure pushing for the removal of her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Reports have speculated that such a measure could likely be again proposed by Republicans in light of the recent controversy.

"Speaker Pelosi’s continued failure to address the issues in her caucus sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of antisemitism and sympathizing with terrorists," tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Elsewhere, members of the progressive Democratic “Squad” of which Ms Omar is considered a member, were quick to jump to her defence, with AOC saying she was “sick & tired of the constant vilification” of Ms Omar.

Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib also said she was “tired” of Republican and Democratic colleagues “demonizing” Ms Omar and “policing her”.

The polarising conflict exposed sharp divisions within the party in 2019 and the most recent clash appears only more likely to deepen such tensions.


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