WASHINGTON - Nearly half of the Jewish-Democratic lawmakers in the House on Wednesday urged Rep. Ilhan Omar to clarify a statement that they claim placed the U.S. and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.
The statement from the 12 House Democrats comes after Omar - among the most vocal critics of Israel in Congress - shared a video of her questioning Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday during a House committee hearing on what mechanism victims of alleged war crimes victims could access outside the International Criminal Court.
“I haven’t seen evidence in either [the Afghanistan or Gaza conflict] that domestic courts both can and will prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Omar originally said to Blinken. “Where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice, and what justice mechanisms do you support?” Her subsequent tweet, however, read that “we must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” continuing “we have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
"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 led by Rep Brad Schneider read.
"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 added.
The lawmakers drafted the statement following a debate at a Wednesday meeting, first reported by JTA. Schneider was joined on the statement by Reps. Jake Auchincloss, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Josh Gottheimer, Elaine Luria, Kathy Manning, Jerrold Nadler, Dean Phillips, Kim Schrier, Brad Sherman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
None of those who signed reached out to Omar over the course of the day, despite the Minnesota Congresswoman's attempts to provide clarification.
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Omar directly criticized 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."
Jeremy Slevin, Omar's communications director, said in a statement provided to Haaretz: "In 2020, the International Criminal Court—the multilateral criminal justice court that the United States helped found but has not joined—opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed by both the Taliban and the United States in Afghanistan, as well as allegations against Hamas and Israel in the 2014 Gaza conflict in 2021.
"President Donald Trump opposed this investigation and went as far as to sanction individual staff of the court—a blatant interference with the rule of law and international justice. Thankfully, President Biden repealed those sanctions, but has thus far opposed the investigations. Rep. Omar thanked Secretary of State Blinken for the Administration’s decision to repeal the sanctions and asked about justice mechanisms for victims of war crimes outside the criminal court.
"As usual, the far right is ginning up hate against Rep. Omar for a technical question about an ongoing investigation. It is the Congresswoman’s role as a Member of Congress conducting federal oversight to follow the facts, ask questions of the Administration and work to make sure the public understands our government shouldn’t deny any person from seeking justice."
Conservative media and right-wing publications accused Omar of comparing America to Hamas and the Taliban. She shared on Twitter audio of a death threat she and her staff received following the coverage, saying it is "incited directly by [articles and far-right politicians] and enabled by a political culture - in both parties - that allows and often fuels Islamophobia."