House

Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats

Greg Nash

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is feuding with Jewish House Democrats about Israel — again.

A dozen Jewish Democrats who support Israel are publicly pushing back on Omar, a Somali refugee and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, for appearing to compare the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban while discussing war crimes.

“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 12 Democrats, led by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), a staunch Israel ally, said in a joint statement.

The group also called on Omar to “clarify” her comments.        

“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 lawmakers said. “We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”

 

The eleven other Democrats who signed on to the Schneider statement are Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Ethics Committee Chair Ted Deutch (Fla.) and Reps. Jake Auchincloss (Mass.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Elaine Luria (Va.), Kathy Manning (N.C.), Dean Phillips (Minn.), Kim Schrier (Wash.) and Brad Sherman (Calif.).

The controversy began when Omar was questioning Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Monday about the International Criminal Court’s investigations of alleged crimes by the Taliban and the U.S. in Afghanistan, in addition to allegations against Hamas and Israel in the Gaza conflict.

“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” Omar wrote in a tweet earlier this week with a video of her questioning. “I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.”

Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, signed on to the joint statement but issued even more pointed criticism of Omar on his own.

“It’s not news that Ilhan Omar would make outrageous and clearly false statements about America and Israel. 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,” Sherman said in a statement.

But Omar, a member of the group of progressive women of color known as the “squad,” is showing no signs of backing down.  

Shortly after Schneider tweeted his statement about 11 p.m. Wednesday, Omar took to Twitter to call her colleagues “shameful” for issuing a public statement criticizing her instead of speaking to her directly. She further implied that her fellow lawmakers were being overly harsh out of inherent anti-Muslim bias against her. 

“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,” Omar wrote in a tweet responding to Schneider. 

“The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive,” Omar continued. “The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable.”

 

Omar reached out to the Democrats organizing the joint statement before it was released to “offer clarification,” but her calls were not returned, according to her office. Schneider’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to “act” in response to Omar’s comments, but didn’t specify what he thinks should be done.

“Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic & anti-American comments are abhorrent. Speaker Pelosi’s continued failure to address the issues in her caucus sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of anti-Semitism and sympathizing with terrorists,” McCarthy tweeted Thursday. “It’s time for the Speaker to act.”

But the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, is calling on Democrats to demand Omar’s removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

A spokesperson for Pelosi didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only other Muslim woman elected to Congress, came to Omar’s defense.

“I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing @IlhanMN. Their obsession with policing her is sick. She has the courage to call out human rights abuses no matter who is responsible. That’s better than colleagues who look away if it serves their politics,” Tlaib tweeted.

Another fellow progressive, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), said that the Democrats taking issue with Omar’s remarks should have settled it privately instead of potentially making her a bigger target for threats.

“Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus. They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

It’s not the first time Omar has openly feuded with Jewish and pro-Israel members of her party.

In 2019, the House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia after Omar questioned the pro-Israel lobby as a “political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” a sentiment seen by many as based on an antisemitic trope.

Omar also drew ire for tweeting that U.S. politicians’ support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” which was also viewed as as antisemitic for invoking tropes about Jewish people using money for influence. 

Omar said Thursday that she is receiving death threats. She posted audio of a person saying: “Muslims are terrorists. And she is a raghead n*****. And every anti-American communist piece of s*** that works for her, I hope you get what’s f***ing coming for you.”

—Updated at 1:27 p.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Antony Blinken Brad Schneider Brad Sherman Dean Phillips Debbie Wasserman Schultz Elaine Luria Ilhan Omar Jerrold Nadler Jerry Nadler Josh Gottheimer Kevin McCarthy Kim Schrier Lois Frankel Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib Ted Deutch
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