WASHINGTON — A dozen House Democrats publicly criticized their colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., late Wednesday, accusing her of giving “cover” to terrorist and suggesting her remarks about Hamas and the Taliban reflect a “deep-seated prejudice.”
“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” the group, led by Rep. Brad Schneider, of Illinois, said in a statement, urging Omar to “clarify” her remarks.
Omar initially responded Wednesday to her critics on Twitter by calling their statement “offensive” and defending her initial remarks, which she said were taken out of context. On Thursday, she responded to the letter by saying, “To be clear: I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then issued a statement saying “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 a future of peace and security for all.”
“We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban,” the statement from leadership said.
Omar’s fellow “Squad” members voiced outrage at the Democratic lawmakers who’d criticized her.
“Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus. They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., wrote, “I’m not surprised when Republicans attack Black women for standing up for human rights. But when it’s Democrats, it’s especially hurtful. We’re your colleagues. Talk to us directly. Enough with the anti-Blackness and Islamophobia.”
The statement by the group of lawmakers said that the U.S. and Israel are “imperfect” and are at times deserving of critique, “but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups.”
“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 wrote.
The statement by a group of Jewish lawmakers was a rare public display of the long simmering tensions over what some fellow Democrats have argued are anti-Jewish sentiments by Omar. The House previously voted in 2019 to condemn antisemitism in response to statements Omar made, but the resolution did not name her.
Omar posted a video on Twitter on Monday showing her speaking on a video call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“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 U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” she wrote on Twitter, echoing her remarks on the video.
Omar responded to the group in a separate tweet early Thursday, calling it “shameful” that the group released a statement instead of speaking to her directly.
“The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable,” she wrote.
In a follow-up tweet, Omar defend her initial remarks: “Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the [The International Criminal Court] isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice’. 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.”
The statement criticizing Omar was also signed by Reps. Jake Auchincloss, of Massachusetts; Ted Deutch, of Florida; Lois Frankel, of Florida; Josh Gottheimer, of New Jersey; Elaine Luria, of Virginia; Kathy Manning, of North Carolina; Jerry Nadler, of New York; Dean Phillips, of Minnesota; Kim Schrier, of Washington; Brad Sherman, of California; and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida.
Dareh Gregorian contributed.