Ilhan Omar’s Comments on Israel Reopen Democratic Party’s Divisions
Minnesota congresswoman says she wasn’t equating U.S., Israel with terrorist groups
WASHINGTON—Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) moved to quell an intraparty fight by softening comments she had made earlier in the week that “appeared to equate actions by the U.S. and Israel with those of terrorist organizations.”
Ms. Omar, an outspoken critic of Israel,.. (only)… tweeted Monday: “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
Thank Allah, Omar didn’t say, “Since when did terms clearly showing “anti-Israel, anti-America” bias become offensive?”
(Steve King was driven from Congress when he was quoted by a NY Times writer asking “when terms like white nationalist, white supremacist, and Western civilization became offensive…”
King protested that the quote, as presented by a NY Times writer (?no bias? there) omitted context.
But it was enough for fellow Republicans to swing into action…as the Democrats will soon do with Omar (breath holders, call your EMT now). dlh
By Eliza Collins, WSJ
The controversy over the tweet and Democratic colleagues’ reactions highlighted the divisions in the party over Middle East policy, which deepened during the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas. During the conflict, progressive Democrats in both the House and Senate briefly attempted to stop a $735 million weapons sale to Israel.
The new dispute started when Ms. Omar, an outspoken critic of Israel, tweeted Monday: “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
The tweet was posted along with a video exchange in which she asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about how victims could find justice for alleged war crimes by the U.S. and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Israel and Hamas.
In response to the tweet, some Democrats accused her of giving cover to terrorists.
“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 group of a dozen Jewish Democrats, led by Rep. Brad Schneider (D., Ill.), said in a statement late Wednesday night. They asked that she clarify her comment.
Ms. Omar, the first Black Muslim woman to serve in Congress, initially responded on Twitter by saying her colleagues should have reached out to her personally rather than issue a statement, and accused them of using anti-Muslim tropes. “The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable,” she tweeted.
However, Thursday afternoon she offered a different take on her initial comments,
Pointing to the video exchange that accompanied the tweet. “The conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
Shortly after she released that statement, House Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responded that they welcomed the clarification. They said while criticism of the U.S. and Israel is healthy, “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 peace and security.
Ms. Omar has angered her colleagues over remarks about Israel before. In 2019, she apologized for using language that was criticized as anti-Semitic after both Democratic and Republican leaders condemned her suggestion that lawmakers’ support for Israel was driven by money from a pro-Israel group.
While Ms. Omar has been vocal in her frustrations, she isn’t alone. The party’s left flank has become increasingly public in their opposition to U.S. policy with Israel, and the liberal wing came to her defense.
“Members of the Democratic Caucus owe it to each other to pause, reflect, and engage directly with each other when misunderstandings arise, and stand together against cynical attempts to divide our caucus,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), chairwoman of the roughly 100-person Congressional Progressive Caucus, in a statement issued in support of Ms. Omar Thursday evening.
Some members were more direct.
“Enough with the anti-Blackness and Islamophobia,” tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.).
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) called Ms. Omar’s comments anti-Semitic and anti-American. He said Mrs. 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.”
A spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi pointed The Wall Street Journal to the Democratic leadership’s broader comment.
Republicans have struggled with internal division over one of their members as well and Mr. McCarthy also has been criticized for his failure to act. Eleven Republicans joined with Democrats to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) of her committee assignments earlier this year over her past embrace of conspiracy theories after Mr. McCarthy had opted not to remove her from the panels.
Last month, Mr. McCarthy and other top Republicans condemned comments she made comparing proof of Covid-19 vaccinations with actions taken against Jewish people by Nazi Germany leading up to the Holocaust.