House Democrats condemned Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) on Thursday for equating the United States and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban, saying her false equivalency "foments prejudice" and "undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all."
"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," House Democratic leaders said. The joint statement was issued in response to pressure from Jewish Democratic lawmakers, House Republicans, pro-Israel groups, and Jewish groups.
Omar on Monday said "the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban" had committed "crimes against humanity," equating the United States and Israel, two democracies, with the terrorist group that recently waged a deadly 11-day war on the Jewish state and the group that harbored terrorists responsible for 9/11. The congresswoman on Wednesday received harsh backlash for her remarks from 12 Jewish Democratic lawmakers, who said her false equivalency "give[s] cover to terrorist groups."
"Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided," the group of 12 representatives, led by Brad Schneider (Ill.), said in a statement. "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 lawmakers urged Omar to "clarify her words."
Pro-Israel and Jewish groups joined with the Democratic lawmakers on Thursday in condemning Omar.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America said it will meet with the congresswoman during its Week of Action "to discuss her recent comments on Israel, as well as other priorities of Jewish Dems in Minnesota." And the American Israel Public Affairs Committee applauded the lawmakers for "rightly condemning this dangerous worldview and assault on democracy."
"There is no moral equivalence between the American troops and Israeli soldiers who risk everything to protect their nations, and the terrorists who target them," AIPAC said.
Omar defended her remarks Thursday before issuing a clarification and said it was "shameful" and "offensive" for the Jewish Democratic lawmakers to go behind her back and put out the statement. She accused them of using "islamophobic tropes" and of "constant harassment & silencing."
"You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us [sic] that the truth can't be hidden or silenced forever," she tweeted.
Omar also accused journalists and members of Congress of inciting death threats and perpetuating racist attacks against her for "speak[ing] out about human rights."
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) came to Omar's defense, saying she was "tired" of members of Congress "demonizing" Omar for addressing "human rights abuses."
"Their obsession with policing her is sick," Tlaib said. "She has the courage to call out human rights abuses no matter who is responsible. That's better than colleagues who look away if it serves their politics."
While Omar is often critical of the United States and Israel, in particular their law enforcement and militaries, she has not always spoken as forcefully about violence by terrorist groups. In 2019, she referred to the 9/11 terror attacks as "something" done by "some people."
Omar later tried to clarify her Monday remarks, saying they were "not a moral comparison" and that she "was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems." She maintained, however, that both the terrorist organizations and the democratic nations required "accountability for specific incidents" as part of International Criminal Court investigations.
Update 3:00 p.m.: This piece has been updated to include Omar's statement and a statement from House Democratic leadership.