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June 22, 2021 3:27 pm

Jewish Democrats Rise to Defend Rep. Ilhan Omar Over Israel, Hamas Comparison

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in 2016. Photo: Lorie Shaull via Flickr.

A number of Jewish Democrats leapt to the defense of Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar in comments to Politico on Tuesday, over her prior comparison between Israel, the US, Hamas and the Taliban.

On June 7, Omar shared video on Twitter of a prior exchange with Secretary of State Antony Blinken during House testimony, while adding, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.”

The comments quickly drew criticism from members of both parties, including a group of 12 Jewish Democrats — who in a June 9 statement called the comparison “as offensive as it is misguided,” and argued that “false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups.”

But without any penalty from her party and with other Democrats defending Omar’s remarks, left-wing Israel critics like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) have cast the aftermath as a foreign policy “victory” for them, Politico reported.

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In 2019, when Omar made antisemitic statements about a Jewish conspiracy funding US support for Israel, a move to censure Omar was blocked by progressive Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This time, a handful of Democrats rose to defend Omar, including several Jewish members who did not sign the June 9 statement.

“She is attracting much more scrutiny than anybody, like a person like me, would,” Kentucky Democrat Rep. John Yarmuth told Politico, alluding to a race- or gender-based motivation behind the criticism of Omar. “People are ready to parse every word that she says. And I just think that’s unfair.”

“The idea that you can’t mention the US, Israel, and Hamas in the same sentence without being accused of being antisemitic? That’s just stupid,” he added.

Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), also defended Omar, arguing that she was merely standing up for “human rights.”

“Do you believe in accountability for human rights, for war crimes? How can you believe in it for everybody except yourself or your friends?” he said. “That is what Representative Omar was actually saying. And since I’ve taken that position myself for many years, why does everybody jump on her when she says it?”

On June 10, Omar claimed that she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems,” a statement welcomed by her party’s Congressional leadership and the group of 12 Jewish Democrats.

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