US Representative Ilhan Omar on Tuesday said some of her fellow Democratic House members — specifically those who have criticized remarks she has made about Israel, some of them Jewish — “haven’t been partners in justice.”
In an interview with CNN, Omar was asked about some of her past comments that were critical of the Jewish state, including a 2012 tweet in which she claimed Israel “hypnotized the world” and another from 2019 implying Jewish money explained American elected officials’ support for Israel. Anchor Jake Tapper asked Omar if she could understand why House Democrats, and particularly Jews, would consider such remarks antisemitic.
“I’ve welcomed anytime, you know, my colleagues have asked to have a conversation, to learn from them, for them to learn from me. I think it’s really important for these members to realize they haven’t been partners in justice,” the Minnesota Democrat said.
“They haven’t been, you know, equally engaging in seeking justice around the world… I will continue to do that. It is important for me as someone who knows what it feels like to experience injustice in a way my colleagues don’t, to be a voice in finding accountability,” added Omar, who move to the US as a refugee from Somalia.
It was not clear whether Omar was referring to Jewish representatives in particular, as Tapper’s phrasing of the question was somewhat vague. She appeared, rather, to be talking about general criticism of her in the House.
Omar later tweeted: “I know that many of my colleagues — both Jewish and non-Jewish — deeply share [a] commitment to fighting injustice… the Black community and the Jewish community have historically stood side-by-side in the fight against injustice and throughout our history we have faced efforts to divide us based on our differences… we must stand in solidarity.”
Pressed again by Tapper on why her Jewish colleagues could see past remarks she has made as antisemitic, Omar said, “I hear that. I have obviously clarified and apologized when I have felt my words have offended.”
Omar, a Muslim, then went on to again accuse some colleagues of using “Islamophobic tropes.”
“I have yet to receive an apology,” she said.
Ilhan Omar to @JakeTapper on her Jewish colleagues who criticized her comments:
"they haven't been partners in justice… they haven't been, you know, equally engaging in seeking justice around the world."pic.twitter.com/gqXArTpSj4
— Sia Kordestani (@SiaKordestani) June 29, 2021
She previously made such an accusation earlier this month when a group of 12 Jewish House Democrats said her grouping of Israel and America with Hamas and the Taliban in remarks on alleged war crimes being invested by the International Criminal Court gave “cover to terrorist groups.”
Omar was widely reported in conservative US media to have been referring exclusively to Jews when she spoke of those who “haven’t been partners in justice.”
Subsequently, Conservative Jewish groups such as the Republican Jewish Coalition quickly criticized her.
Avi Mayer, managing director of global communications for the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee, said Omar’s words “draw on classic antisemitic themes about Jewish clannishness, the notion that Jews only look out for themselves.”
Republican lawmakers also slammed Omar, with Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas questioning why she has not been removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Ilhan Omar is a rabid antisemite who has no problem smearing Jews, even in her own party,” Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona charged in a tweet. “Shameful and un-American.”
Democrat Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island said on Twitter that “right-wingers in Washington are once again claiming Rep. @Ilhan Omar said something she didn’t say, and trying to create a controversy where there is none.”
“It’s pathetic that they are (once again) demonizing a young woman of color to score political points,” he added.
Omar retweeted Cicilline’s comments, adding: “It’s their mission to turn and twist everything I say until I am completely silenced.”
In the CNN interview, Omar was also asked by Tapper if she regretted the remarks comparing the countries with extremists and terrorists.
“I don’t,” Omar said.
She continued: “I tend to think that people around the world who have experienced injustice need to be able to have a place where they can go. And as a country that helped found the [International Criminal Court] and supported it, I think that it is really important for us to continue to find ways in which people can find justice around the world.”
Neither the US nor Israel are members of the court and both have denounced the ICC’s investigations of their military operations in Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip, respectively. The investigations are also looking into the actions of the Taliban and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.
Hamas also slammed Omar for her “unacceptable comparison” of the group with Israel.
“She equated between the victim and the executioner when she treated the resistance of the Palestinian people, the Israeli crimes in Palestine, and the US aggression in Afghanistan as an equal footing,” a spokesman for the Islamist terror organization said.
While Omar has faced criticism from all directions, several fellow progressive Democrats have defended her.
JTA contributed to this report.