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Omar Is Forced To Clarify After Democrats Say She Equated U.S., Israel With Terrorists

Photo caption:

Photo by Stephen Maturen Getty Images

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., seen here at a press conference in April, issued a clarification Thursday of comments she made that appeared to equate the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.

Rep. Ilhan Omar issued a statement clarifying comments she made this week that appeared to compare the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, prompting criticism from both sides of the aisle and from Democratic leadership.

The backlash unfolded when the Minnesota Democrat tweeted a video of her question to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Her caption on the tweet read: "We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice."

A group of 12 Democrats, led by Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois, denounced Omar's comments in a joint statement late Wednesday.

"Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided," the lawmakers said, asking Omar to clarify her remarks.

"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," they said. "The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups."

Omar first responded by criticizing her colleagues for releasing a statement instead of speaking to her directly and saying it included "Islamophobic tropes." She went on, however, to provide a clarification on her remarks, claiming they were misinterpreted.

"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," she wrote in a press release.

She added: "I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems."

The six-person Democratic leadership team, which includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, issued a rare joint statement following Omar's statement, writing they "welcome [Omar's] clarification."

"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," their statement read. "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."

Omar's original tweet renewed calls by various Republican lawmakers to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

This week's backlash echoes criticism Omar sustained during her first term, when both parties rebuked a series of comments she made as being antisemitic, for which she ultimately issued an apology.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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