Ilhan Omar Backs Down in Latest Blowup With Democrats

Ilhan Omar and Nancy Pelosi participated in another dust-up over Middle East policy that Republicans joyfully exploited. Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Shutterstock

You could see this latest episode of Democratic “disarray” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict coming from a distance, with due respect to the differing perspectives of the contestants. Both parties in the House became embroiled Thursday in the kind of brouhaha that seems to break out whenever Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar expresses an opinion on the Middle East.

Here’s how it started, according to the New York Times:

The latest contretemps began on Monday, when Ms. Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, wrote on Twitter about a virtual exchange she had with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. In the actual exchange, Ms. Omar pressed for an investigation of human rights abuses both by Israeli security forces and by Hamas. But on Twitter, she seemed to compare Israel and the United States not only to Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the State Department, but also to the Taliban.

“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” she wrote. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

From Omar’s point of view, you can see how she felt she should anticipate a recurrence of past complaints about her criticisms of Israel, and so she tossed other periodic malefactors into the mix, much as she made it clear she condemned anti-Semitism after condemning Islamophobia in an earlier brouhaha.

It probably didn’t occur to her that any criticism of multiple perpetrators of atrocities required an explicit calibration of how much evil to apportion to each. But that was implicitly what a group of Jewish House Democrats more or less asked her to do in a public statement. That they didn’t come to her privately first really annoyed her, and she said as much on Twitter:

Very quickly, the House Democratic leadership (basically Nancy Pelosi’s team) weighed in with a statement, and not on Omar’s side:

Omar quickly complied, as reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Thursday that she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems … ”

“To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”

By the time of this step back from confrontation, of course, Republicans had already gone wild attacking Omar, the Times noted, eager to offset criticism they recently received over the outrageous Holocaust analogies deployed by Marjorie Taylor Greene. “Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, called Ms. Omar’s comments anti-Semitic, anti-American and ‘abhorrent.’”

It seems unlikely GOP members will acknowledge Omar’s clarification, or the actual meaning of her original statement, which, whatever it was, surely wasn’t “anti-Semitic” or “anti-American.”

Omar’s close congressional allies seem disgusted by the fire so readily directed at her from multiple directions:

This was clearly an allusion to the many death threats Omar has received in the past when Republicans and Democrats alike have gone after her in a high-volume manner. You will know when the debate on Middle East policy has reached a new equilibrium when Ilhan Omar expresses an opinion and hardly anyone freaks out.

Ilhan Omar Backs Down In Latest Blowup With Democrats