Rep. IIhan Omar accuses her Democratic colleagues of ‘harassment’ and invoking ‘Islamophobic tropes’ about her comments on US opposition to war crimes investigations

Ilhan Omar
Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minneapolis. AP Photo/Morry Gash
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar called out a group of fellow Democrats for taking her comments out of context.
  • 12 of Omar’s House colleagues accused her of equating the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.
  • Omar said they invoke “Islamophobic tropes” on top of “constant harassment and silencing.”
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Rep. Ilhan Omar called a group of her Democratic colleagues “shameful” for taking her comments on war crime investigations out of context and said they invoke “Islamophobic tropes” on top of “constant harassment and silencing.”

A group of 12 fellow House Democrats put out a statement condemning remarks Omar made in an exchange with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during a Monday congressional hearing.

They accused her of “equating” the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban and saying her comments “at worst [reflect] deep-seated prejudice” and that “false equivalences give cover to terrorist groups,” encouraging her to “clarify” her remarks.

Omar says the comments in question, however, were taken out of context. She was not directly equivocating the United States or Israel to the Taliban but rather mentioning the US, Israel, Hamas, Afghanistan, and the Taliban together in the context of the US’s position on international war crime investigations involving those parties.

In a Thursday statement, Omar again clarified that she was not making a moral equivalence between counties like Israel and the Taliban and was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”

In the hearing, Omar pressed Blinken on the US’s opposition to potential war crime investigations by the International Criminal Court, of which the US is not a member.

“I know you oppose the Court’s investigation in both Palestine and in Afghanistan. I haven’t seen evidence in either cases that domestic courts both can and will prosecute alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. And I would emphasize that in Israel and Palestine, this includes crimes committed by both Israeli security forces and Hamas. In Afghanistan, it includes crimes committed by the Afghan national government and the Taliban,” she said.

She added: “So in both of these cases, if domestic courts won’t or can’t pursue justice and we oppose the ICC, where do you think the victims of these supposed crimes can go for justice?”

-Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 10, 2021

The US and Israel do not recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court – which can try individuals for war crimes – and neither are listed among the 123 countries that are party to the ICC’s Rome Statute, or founding treaty.

“Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice,’ Omar said in a follow-up tweet. “You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever.”

Omar also said on Twitter that she’s been “inundated” with death threats as a result of Republican politicians and conservative news outlets taking her comments about war crimes out of context, posting one voicemail where a caller called her “a terrorist” and used other Islamophobic and racist slurs.

“This is incited directly by articles like this and far right politicians like this. And it is enabled by a political culture-in both parties-that allows and often fuels Islamophobia,” she said, referring to a Fox News article and a tweet from GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert calling her an “honorary member of Hamas.”

Fellow congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who, along with Omar, was one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018, spoke out in support of Omar.

“I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing @IlhanMN. Their obsession with policing her is sick. She has the courage to call out human rights abuses no matter who is responsible,” Tlaib tweeted. “That’s better than colleagues who look away if it serves their politics.”

John Haltiwanger contributed reporting.