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Representative Ilhan Omar released a statement clarifying comments she made earlier this week that appeared to compare the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, drawing criticism from both sides of the aisle and the Democratic leadership. .
The backlash came when the Minnesota Democrat tweeted a video of her question to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. His legend on the Tweeter read: “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the United States, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to seek justice. ”
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 United States, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.
– Representative Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) June 7, 2021
A group of 12 Democrats, led by Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, denounced Omar’s comments in a joint statement late Wednesday.
“To equate the United States and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” lawmakers said, asking Omar to clarify his words.
“Ignoring the differences between rule-of-law democracies and despicable organizations that engage in terrorism discredits the intended argument at best and at worst reflects deeply rooted prejudices,” they said. “The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, sometimes deserve criticism, but false equivalences cover terrorist groups. “
Omar first replied with criticize colleagues for issuing a statement instead of speaking to him directly and saying it included “Islamophobic tropes”. However, she provided clarification on his words, saying they had been misinterpreted.
“To be clear: the conversation was about responsibility for specific incidents involving these ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the United States and Israel,” she wrote in a statement. Press release.
She added: “I in no way equated terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.
The six-person Democratic leadership team, which includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, issued a rare joint statement following Omar’s statement, writing that they “stand by congratulated [Omar’s] clarification.”
“Legitimate criticism of the policies of 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, ”the statement read. “But establishing false equivalents between democracies like the United States and Israel and terrorist groups like Hamas and the Taliban fosters prejudice and undermines progress towards a future of peace and security for all. ”
Omar’s original tweet renewed calls from various Republican lawmakers to remove it of the House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs.
This week’s backlash echoed criticism Omar sustained during her first term, when a series of comments were berated by both sides as being anti-Semitic, for which she ultimately apologized.