Democrats' Pushback to Rep. Ilhan Omar's Criticism of the U.S. and Israel Obfuscated the Real Issue

The U.S. committed war crimes, you say? Well, nobody's perfect!

Illustration for article titled Democrats' Pushback to Rep. Ilhan Omar's Criticism of the U.S. and Israel Obfuscated the Real Issue
Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez (AP)

Once again, Congressional Democrats are throwing Ilhan Omar under the bus over her criticism of Israel—which in this case, also extended to the United States.


The debacle started on Monday when Rep. Omar tweeted out a video clip of a virtual conversation she had with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken about the U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court. Specifically, Rep. Omar pointed out that there is no evidence that U.S. domestic courts have the capacity to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, and asked Sec. Blinken what alternative option he would suggest we provide for victims of atrocities who are searching for justice.

But of course, instead of addressing Blinken’s inability to answer that simple and direct question about providing justice to victims of human rights violations, her fellow Democratic politicians took issue with the language in Omar’s tweet, which included the U.S. and Israel in the list of countries or entities that have committed “unthinkable atrocities” against humanity. Apparently, it’s impolite to identify the violent displacement and apartheid of Palestinians currently ongoing in Israel.

So late on Wednesday evening, a dozen Jewish House Democrats issued a statement in response to Rep. Omar’s tweet, in which they wrote that “equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided.” “The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups,” the group of Democratic House members wrote, urging Rep. Omar to “clarify her words” (in other words, telling her to apologize).

Their statement also called placing Israel and the U.S. in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban potentially reflective of “deep-seated prejudice,” a loaded phrase likely harkening back to Rep. Omar’s 2019 criticism of Israel. At the time, her words were immediately met with a landslide of unfounded accusations of antisemitism from politicians in both parties, which quickly spiraled into a blatantly racist and Islamophobic smear campaign in which a Trump campaign advisor literally called Rep. Omar “filthy.”


Personally, I think it’s actually hilarious that a country literally built by slaves stolen from Africa, on top of the graves of countless indigenous people, that is currently fighting an unprecedented number of legislative battles over whether trans children should get access to healthcare, is attempting to present itself as some sort of beacon of human rights and democracy, but what do I know? Apparently, a history of unacknowledged genocide that created racial disparities that permeate every facet of U.S. society is just an “imperfection” that typically comes along with a country that is definitely, for sure, absolutely a democracy.

Rep. Omar responded to the statement in the early hours of Thursday morning with two tweets calling out the Islamophobic tropes in the statement. “Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice,’” she wrote.


Several of Rep. Omar’s fellow progressive Democrats have spoken out on Twitter in support of her statement. “I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing @IlhanMN,” wrote Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has also spoken out against Israel’s violent occupation of Palestine. “Their obsession with policing her is sick. 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.”


Unsurprisingly the response from House Democratic leaders validated the criticism of Omar’s statements. They wrote: “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.” But of course, their statement declines to explain how exactly asking that the U.S. and Israel be held accountable for the war crimes they have committed right in front of our faces undermines the goal of “peace and security for all.”

In her own statement released later on Thursday, Rep. Omar clarified her words. “To be clear: 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.” “I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems,” she added.


It’s certainly telling that Democratic politicians would rather spend a week arguing over a tweet than come up with tangible means of providing justice to people who have been victimized by U.S. actions abroad. It’s almost as if their internal party squabbles aren’t really about helping people!

Freelance writer & night blogger at Jezebel. Lover of television, astrology, and sandwiches.