Omar accuses Democrats of “Islamophobic tropes" after party rebukes Congresswoman for saying "atrocities have committed by US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and Taliban" in a conversation on need for international courts for crimes against humanity.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has been forced by her own party to explain a tweet about the need for international courts to investigate war crimes, including those by Israel and Hamas, after it triggered a backlash from the old guard as well as Jewish leaders in the Democratic Party.
Omar said she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries" after Jewish Democratic lawmakers accused her of likening the US and Israel to Hamas and Afghanistan's Taliban in a tweet.
In her tweet, shared with a more detailed video that explains the need for international justice mechanisms, Omar said: “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.”
Backlash to the tweet came in the form of death threats to the Muslim congresswomman and a rebuke from her party leaders.
The three-sentence follow-up statement by the Minnesota Democrat said her comments were “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the US and Israel".
In a series of tweets, Omar also said her critics' public rebuke of her was “shameful," accused them of “Islamophobic tropes" and said she was merely seeking justice “for all victims of crimes against humanity.”
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib defended her, tweeting:
"Freedom of speech doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress."
Her tweet came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the other top five House Democratic leaders issued an unusual joint statement making clear they'd disapproved of Omar’s initial comments.
“Drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the US 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 leaders said.
In 2018, Tlaib and Omar became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Tlaib said the House Democratic leadership should be "ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of colour."
"The benefit of the doubt doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress," she wrote.
Cori Bush of Missouri also tweeted support for Omar. Bush said she expects criticism from Republicans, but it was “especially hurtful” that Omar was facing backlash from Democrats.
“We’re your colleagues,” she tweeted. “Talk to us directly. Enough with the anti-Blackness and Islamophobia.”
Freedom of speech doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress. The benefit of the doubt doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress. House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) June 10, 2021
Democratic Party cracks over Israel occupation
That schism over Israel's occupation of Palestine has generally pitted younger progressives against older, establishment-leaning lawmakers who are more pro-Israel, a divide that has intensified since last month’s 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Israeli air strikes killed at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children.
A progressive caucus in the party issued a statement of support, saying, "We cannot ignore a right-wing media echochamber that has deliberately and routinely attacked a Black Muslim woman in congress, distorting her views ... and resulting in threats against Rep Omar and her staff."
The Republican party is expected to train attention on Omar's words when the House returns next week from recess.
The National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted Thursday, “@Housedemocrats must vote to strip anti-Semite @IlhanMN of her committee assignments.” The NRCC is the House GOP campaign organisation.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said Pelosi's failure to take action “sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of anti-Semitism and sympathising with terrorists.”
McCarthy has resisted Democrats' calls to punish Marjorie Taylor Greene, who last month compared Pelosi's requirement that lawmakers wear masks in the House chamber to Nazis requiring Jews to wear yellow stars during the Holocaust.
A Republican effort to remove Omar from her committees would likely fail in the Democratic-run chamber but would spotlight divisions within the party that the GOP has sought to exploit before.
A top House Democratic aide would not comment on whether Pelosi and party leaders had pressed Omar to issue her latest statement.
Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 10, 2021
They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her.
A frequent focus on Omar
This week's flareup involving Omar, 38, was the most recent instance in which she has clashed with fellow Democrats over the Middle East. Two months after she arrived in Congress in 2019, the House approved a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry – without mentioning her – after she made remarks that critics said accused Israel supporters of having dual allegiances.
The latest confrontation between Omar, a Muslim-American born in Somalia, and fellow Democrats began when she tweeted a Monday exchange with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a video conference in which she called for justice “for all victims of crimes against humanity.”
In remarks that drew the most attention, she said, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.”
Late Wednesday, Brad Schneider and 11 other Jewish House Democrats issued a statement labelling those remarks offensive and misguided. They said she should “clarify” what she meant.
They said that while the US and Israel are “imperfect” and merit occasional criticism, “false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups.”
TW: Every time I speak out on human rights I am inundated with death threats. Here is one we just got.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 10, 2021
“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.” pic.twitter.com/Kid7qUgZDZ
Omar accuses fellow party members of 'silence'
On Thursday, Omar tweeted that it was “shameful” that fellow Democrats who sometimes seek her support on issues didn’t ask her for an explanation by simply calling her.
“The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable,” she wrote.
She also wrote, “Every time I speak out on human rights I am inundated with death threats.”
She posted an excerpt of an expletive-laden voice mail she said she’d just received with a caller saying he hopes she gets “what’s coming for you.”
She also said her comments did not reflect prejudice and cited an International Criminal Court investigation of the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas.
“You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever,” she wrote.
In her later statement, Omar said her conversation with Blinken "was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the US and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”