House

Omar says she doesn’t regret past comments on Israel

Greg Nash

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday said she does not regret her previous comments about Israel, which attracted widespread criticism across the ideological spectrum, with some accusing her of antisemitism.

Earlier this month, Omar in a tweet wrote, “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. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.”

Days later, she made efforts to clarify her remarks, saying she was not equating the U.S. and Israel with terrorist organizations.

“On Monday, I asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about … ongoing International Criminal Court investigations. 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,” Omar, a Somali refugee and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, said in a statement.

When asked during an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” if she regrets making these comments, Omar responded without hesitation, telling host Jake Tapper, “I don’t,” before arguing that the U.S. should “continue to find ways in which people can find justice around the world.”

“I think it’s really important to think back to the point that I was trying to make, obviously I was addressing Secretary of State Blinken. The cases are put together in front of the ICC, ICC has been investigating. I know that, you know, some of my colleagues don’t lend legitimacy to the ICC, but I tend to think that people around the world who have experience on justice need to be able to have a place where they can go and as a country that helped found the ICC and supported it, I think that it is really important for us to continue to find ways in which people can find justice around the world,” Omar said.

When pressed by Tapper on what she would say to her fellow House Democrats who have called some of her previous remarks antisemitic, Omar said she has apologized and clarified her remarks when she felt that her words offended others, before accusing her colleagues of saying Islamophobic tropes.

“I have obviously clarified, and, you know, apologized, when I have felt that my words have offended. And it’s really important, right, as I’ve explained to my colleagues, they have engaged in Islamophobic tropes. I have yet to receive an apology,” Omar said.

“I think, you know, when we are engaging in a space where we don’t know how our language will be received, it is important for us to be open-minded and I think I have always been someone who is humbled, someone who understands how words can be harmful and hurtful to people, and I’ve always listened and learned and behaved accordingly and showed up with compassion and care,” she continued.

The congresswoman also said “it’s really important for these members to realize that they haven’t been partners in justice, they haven’t been, you know, equally engaging in seeking justice around the world.”

Omar’s comments attracted criticism from some Democratic colleagues, and even prompted a rare joint statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her entire leadership team that said “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.”

The group also said that “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.”

One day later, Pelosi dismissed the idea of taking further action against Omar, despite calls from some House Republicans to remove the congresswoman from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

A group of 12 Jewish Democrats in the House also issued a joint statement, urging Omar to clarify her remarks.

Tags Antony Blinken Ilhan Omar Jake Tapper Nancy Pelosi
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