Rep. Ilhan Omar issued a mea culpa Thursday afternoon to “clarify” remarks comparing the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, following a firestorm of bipartisan criticism.
“On Monday, I asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about an ongoing International Criminal Court investigations. To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel,” Omar (D-Minn.) said in a statement. “I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
The about-face came in the wake of a group of Jewish Democratic lawmakers releasing a statement calling for clarification, after Omar tweeted a video of her line of questioning during a hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
In the clip Omar says, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” and captioned the post, “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity.”
Her initial tweet prompted sharp pushback from pro-Israel lawmakers, with 12 Jewish Democrats led by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) releasing a joint statement condemning her remarks.
“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 said.
While Omar initially blasted the statement, accusing the lawmakers of “harassment” and “islamophobia,” she ultimately opted to recant her comments.
House Democratic leadership released a statement praising Omar for her “clarification,” saying they feel any rhetoric comparing the United States to terrorist organizations should be condemned.
“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both 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 said. “But 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.”
Omar’s most recent comments are not the first time she has come under fire for her rhetoric on Israel, with the House having passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia in 2019 after Omar made accusations against Jews of dual loyalty, and accused supporters of Israel of being “all about the Benjamins.”