House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday sided with Jewish Democrats in rebuking Rep. Ilhan Omar’s statements equating the U.S and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.
Ms. Pelosi stopped short of taking official punitive action against Ms. Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and member of the far-left “Squad” that has often been at odds with party leadership.
The scolding of Ms. Omar was delivered in a statement by Ms. Pelosi and the entire House Democratic leadership team.
“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate,” they said in the statement. “And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies. 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.”
They said Ms. Omar’s clarification of her remarks was satisfactory: “We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban.”
Still, Ms. Omar’s anti-America and anti-Israel rhetoric widened the rift between far-left members and the rest of the Democratic caucus.
The episode builds on divisive anti-Israel statements made by Ms. Omar and her far-left colleagues during the Israel-Hamas fighting last month, as well as other others inflammatory rhetoric in prior years.
In March of 2019, the House approved an anti-hate resolution following remarks Ms. Omar made regarding Israel’s influence in U.S. politics, which were viewed as anti-Semitic by some of her colleagues and for which she later apologized.
That time, the rebuke of Ms. Omar began as a move to censure her but the resolution was watered down by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants to broadly condemn hate speech. Ms. Omar was not specifically named in the resolution.
Mrs. Pelosi and her Democratic leadership team issued their statemen as House Republicans began calling for action against Ms. Omar.
“Speaker Pelosi’s continued failure to address the issues in her caucus sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of anti-Semitism and sympathizing with terrorists,” House Republican Leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, said via Twitter Thursday.
Ms. Omar posted the offending remarks on Twitter Monday following her questioning of Secretary of State Antony Blinken about U.S. support for the International Criminal Court.
“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” Ms. Omar asked Mr. Blinken at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
A group of 12 Jewish Democratic lawmakers issued a statement condemning the remarks and calling on Ms. Omar to clarify her statement.
“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” the lawmakers said. “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.”
But the statement led to further infighting Thursday, with several Squad members coming to Ms. Omar’s defense, claiming the Jewish Democrats mischaracterized Ms. Omar’s statement and calling the response Islamophobic.
“Stop attacking @IlhanMN. Stop attacking us,” said Rep. Cori Bush, Democrat from Missouri. “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.”
“Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat. “They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her.”
Ms. Omar’s office released several statements in response to the uproar.
In the first, Ms. Omar’s senior Communications Director, Jeremy Slevin accused the far right of inciting death threats in response to the events.
“As usual, the far right is ginning up hate against Rep. Omar for a technical question about an ongoing investigation,” Mr. Slevin said in the statement. “This has already led to an increase in death threats against her and our staff. And now some of her own Democratic colleagues are ginning up the same Islamophobic hate against her, accusing her of giving ‘cover to terrorist groups’ simply for exercising oversight over a criminal investigation.”
Ms. Omar later released a statement to clarify her remarks from Monday. She said that her remarks during Mr. Blinken’s testimony were concerning ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court and not meant to equate Hamas and the Taliban to the U.S. and Israel.
“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,” she said. “I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”