Ilhan Omar defends comments comparing Israel, US to Hamas, Taliban

CNN's Jake Tapper called out Omar's original tweet, which drew criticism from members of Congress, asking if she regretted sharing it with the public.

U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
Rep. Ilhan Omar  defended her statements comparing Israel and the United States to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Taliban, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Following the 11-day escalation in May between Israel and allied terror groups in the Gaza Strip, Omar attempted to draw comparisons between the war in Afghanistan and the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating atrocities have been committed by all sides and each should be held accountable for their “crimes against humanity.”
Tapper called out Omar’s original tweet, which drew criticism from members of Congress, asking if she regretted sharing it with the public.
“I don’t,” Omar replied on Tuesday. “I think it’s really important to think back to the point that I was trying to make. Obviously, I was addressing Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken.”
 
Tapper then questioned whether Omar understood why these comments and her track record of anti-Israel rhetoric could be seen as antisemitic by her fellow Jewish congressional members, onto whom she then shifted the blame.
“I’ve welcomed any time my colleagues asked to have a conversation to learn from them [and] for them to learn from me,” replied Omar. “I think it’s really important for these members to realize that they haven’t been partners in justice.
“They haven’t been engaging in seeking justice around the world and I think I will continue to do that,” she said. “It is important for me as someone who knows what it feels like to experience injustice in ways that many of my colleagues don’t.”
To illustrate her original point, Omar shared a video of a conversation she had with Blinken, where she asked him what mechanisms are in place in the US for victims of alleged crimes against humanity in Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan to seek justice.
“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity... We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.”
Omar specifically mentioned the Israeli security forces, Hamas and the Taliban by name, comparing them with each other.
After a dozen Jewish Democrats in Congress asked Omar to clarify remarks in which she grouped Hamas and the Taliban with the US and Israel, she complied, but said an insinuation that she was covering for terrorists was Islamophobic.
 “I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
The House leadership team, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-California), was satisfied with the explanation.
“We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the US and Israel, and Hamas and the Taliban.”
Omar’s intent seemed clearer if one watched the video that accompanied her tweet. It showed her question and answer session in Congress the same day, where she pressed Blinken on how the Biden administration proposed that alleged victims of war crimes seek redress, given that it opposed the ICC investigations into the two conflicts she cited.
“Where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice, and what justice mechanisms do you support?” she asked Blinken.
Omar’s spokesman, Jeremy Slevin, who is Jewish, said in a separate tweet that accusing a Muslim member of Congress of covering for terrorism was Islamophobic.
Ron Kampeas of JTA contributed to this report.