Ilhan Omar called out the US and Israel for separately committing 'unthinkable atrocities' in Afghanistan and Palestine. The statement rubbed both Democrats and Republicans up the wrong way.
Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American Congresswoman, is known for her grit and determination when promoting the values of equality and speaking truth to power.
In a statement she shared on Twitter on Monday, Omar displayed the same spirit and did not shy away from criticising the US and Israel for inflicting violence in Palestine and Afghanistan while describing armed groups like the Taliban and Hamas in the same light.
“We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” wrote Omar, referring to human rights abuses across Palestine and Afghanistan.
The rights of thousands of Afghans and Palestinians have been violated for decades by occupying forces and armed groups like the Taliban, according to human rights groups and the International Criminal Court. Israel has been an occupying force in Palestine for decades while the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and has stayed in the country for two decades.
After the statement, she received a public letter, signed by a dozen of Jewish-American lawmakers from the Democratic Party, criticising her comments by wrongly comparing democratic countries with armed groups.
It appears that the signatories had taken offence that Omar drew parallels between Israel and Hamas. But Omar shot back saying the reaction from both Republicans and some of her party members amounted to "harassment".
“The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable,” Omar wrote in another tweet on Wednesday, referring to co-sponsors of the statement, which was led by Brad Schneider, a pro-Israeli lawmaker.
Omar has been the target of pro-Israeli groups for a long time.
In 2019, she criticised some of her colleagues on their "dual loyalty," a reference to those lawmakers who aggressively champion Zionist causes while having vowed to serve the American interests. After her comments, many pro-Israeli lawmakers and pundits accused her to have anti-Semitic motives, which she strongly denies.
Under the pressure of the party leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Omar later clarified her comment saying that “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.”
Despite the pressure coming from the Democratic leadership, which also appreciated Omar’s clarification, the Muslim progressive congresswoman has also received considerable support from a nearly 100-person Congressional Progressive Caucus, showing deepening divisions inside the Democratic Party toward the US Israel policy.
Even the Democratic leadership needed to emphasise the importance of constructive criticism towards Israel and the US in their statement.
Are US lawmakers okay with ‘unthinkable atrocities’?
Interestingly, in the letter, Jewish-American lawmakers did not object to Omar criticising the US and Israel for committing “unthinkable atrocities” in Afghanistan and Palestine. They maintained silence over the issue.
Instead, their statement was focused on Omar's attempts to put the US and Israel in the same spot as Hamas and the Taliban. “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 letter said.
Hamas, a Palestinian political movement, which controls Gaza and has previously participated in the Palestinian Authority elections as a legal party, is not recognised as a terrorist organisation by the UN despite the best efforts of Washington.
The Taliban, an Afghan armed group, controls large parts of Afghanistan and has been treated by the US as a political movement, with whom the Trump administration has developed direct diplomatic connections to facilitate the American withdrawal from the country.
The rule of law and ‘atrocities’
The letter’s contents also suggest that the signatories have a limited understanding of the rule of law.
While disgruntled lawmakers claimed that Omar should have desisted from comparing countries like the US and Israel— both champions of the rule of law — with Hamas and the Taliban, they also conveniently chose to skip the human rights part, since both the countries have killed and tortured civilians in Palestine and Afghanistan while taking pride in upholding democracy and human rights.