Ilhan Omar calls out fellow Democrats for criticizing her as new controversy flares

The internal dispute over Omar’s comments on U.S. foreign policy comes more than two years after she faced public pushback from both parties over comments seen as antisemitic. The House GOP raced Thursday to turn the dozen Democrats’ statement into a political weapon against Omar, with leaders likely to plot floor action on the chamber floor next week. But unlike in 2019, Omar’s latest remarks have drawn no specific complaints of antisemitism from fellow Democrats.

Rather, her Democratic colleagues took issue with her “false equivalencies” between the U.S. and Israel on one hand, and Hamas and the Taliban on the other. The critical statement from 12 Democrats, led by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), rebukes Omar’s comments during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Monday, when she asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about a International Criminal Court probe of allegations against both the Taliban and the U.S. in Afghanistan and by Hamas and Israel in their own recent Middle East conflict.

Omar later shared the exchange in a tweet that read: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity.”

The comments spurred a fierce debate among many Jewish Democrats, several of whom have previously taken issue with Omar’s remarks that they described as anti-Semitic. Out of several dozen Democrats who took part in discussions this week, 12 lawmakers signed the statement. Those discussions were first reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” the 12 Democrats wrote in the statement, adding that “false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups.”

A spokesperson for Schneider said Omar did not attempt to call him, and doesn’t know about attempts to reach other members. The spokesperson also confirmed that Democrats signing the statement do not call her actions antisemitic.

Several House Republicans publicly condemned Omar’s comments earlier this week, with many in the party eager to tear open the growing Democratic schism over her views on foreign policy. GOP leaders could pursue as a resolution to censure her or remove her from committees when lawmakers return to Washington next week.

“Speaker Pelosi’s continued failure to address the issues in her caucus sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of antisemitism and sympathizing with terrorists,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The GOP’s campaign arm also said in a statement Thursday that Democrats should strip Omar of her committees — as Democrats did this year to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after a series of incendiary comments and actions by the controversial Georgia Republican, including endorsing the assassination of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Many Democrats, however, reject the comparison of Greene to Omar. And one of Omar’s allies in the progressive alliance known as “the Squad” came to her defense Thursday morning.

“I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing” Omar, tweeted Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), elected alongside Omar in 2018 as Congress’ first Muslim woman lawmakers. “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.”

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), another “Squad” member, tweeted that “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.”

On Wednesday night, Omar shared a sample of what she described as frequent threats she’s received when she speaks on human rights issues, tweeting a recording that included multiple racist and Islamophobic slurs directed at her.

This week is not the first time Democrats have faced a furor within their caucus over Omar’s political speech. Shortly arriving in Congress, some of Omar’s comments sparked complaints of antisemitism and a raging debate over how Democrats should punish her through a resolution the floor. In one instance in 2019, Omar suggested that pro-Israel advocates had “allegiance” to Israel, which several Democrats said alluded to painful, decades-old discriminatory tropes of Jews who display “dual loyalties.”

Democratic leaders ultimately crafted a resolution condemning hate speech in all forms, indirectly rebuking Omar — a move that infuriated several Jewish Democrats who wanted to condemn her directly.

Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

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