Unable to reach bipartisan agreement on major pieces of legislation that would aid the American people, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have instead joined together to verbally assault Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) for having the audacity to address war crimes committed by the U.S. and Israel.
The latest hypocritical outrage from some Jewish House Democrats and Republicans comes after Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken where Palestinians living in occupied territory can go to receive justice.
After days of Israel and Hamas trading rocket fire, resulting in a lopsided death toll in which dozens of Palestinian children were brutally killed, the government of Israel has decided not to stop Israeli settlers from literally kicking Palestinians out of their homes. For instance, while Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim land they left in 1948 during the tense formation of the State of Israel, the law doesn’t recognize Palestinian ownership of lands they also fled, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.
International Criminal Court investigating war crimes in Israel, Palestine
“I know you oppose the Court’s investigation in Palestine and Afghanistan,” Rep. Omar began during a video conference with Secretary Blinken. Amidst the destructive bombing and razing of buildings in Gaza following a flurry of Hamas-launched rockets, Secretary Blinken told the nation the U.S. would not be recognizing the International Criminal Court’s investigation into Israeli government and Hamas war crimes in Gaza or Taliban and Afghan government war crimes in Afghanistan.
In March, months before some of the worst fighting between Israel’s military and Hamas occurred since the 2014 Gaza war, the International Criminal Court announced war crimes investigations into the “situation in Palestine.”
Prosecutors had been trying to open an investigation of Israel’s actions in the 2014 Gaza War since at least 2019, but didn’t receive final approval to move forward until February of this year.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked a simple question
The March announcement included a preliminary report stating, “there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
Specifically, it wrote “in the context of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza, members of the Israel Defense Forces (“IDF”) committed the war crimes of: intentionally launching disproportionate attacks in relation to at least three incidents which the Office has focussed on (article 8(2)(b)(iv)); willful killing and willfully causing serious injury to body or health (articles 8(2)(a)(i) and 8(2)(a)(iii), or article 8(2)(c)(i)); and intentionally directing an attack against objects or persons using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions.”
In her questioning of U.S. Secretary of State Blinken, Rep. Ilhan Omar simply wanted to know how it’s possible for victims of war crimes in Israel and Palestine, along with Afghanistan, to seek justice when the U.S. refuses to recognize the ICC, the one system of justice tasked with the ability to prosecute these international crimes. It’s also a court that has largely only been successful at prosecuting war criminals in African countries.
U.S. doesn’t recognize authority of International Criminal Court
“I haven’t seen any evidence in any cases that domestic courts both can and will prosecute alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Rep. Omar continued. “If domestic courts can’t or won’t pursue justice, and we oppose the ICC, where do we think the victims of these supposed crimes can go for justice?”
Secretary Blinken responded saying, “Whether it’s the United States or Israel, we both have the mechanisms to make sure that there is accountability in many situations where there are concerns about use of force and human rights, etc. I believe that both of our democracies have that capacity. We’ve demonstrated it and we’ll need to continue to demonstrate it going forward.”
“And in the case of Afghanistan,” Rep. Omar shot back.
“It is our objection to the assertion of jurisdiction,” Secretary Blinken responded, explaining that without a security council referral, the U.S. doesn’t believe an international court should be able to hold States accountable for crimes.
Rep. Omar receives backlash for tweet
In other words, Secretary Blinken and his boss, President Biden, have no plans to encourage an investigation into war crimes that might place longtime ally Israel in a bad light. And when it comes to Afghanistan, the U.S. government isn’t trying to open up a can of worms that would reveal the crimes we also committed in the region.
Yet, it was Rep. Omar’s subsequent Tweet that initiated the most recent round of hypocritical backlash from members of Congress who are quick to call out antisemitism but rarely highlight instances of islamophobia or violence against muslims.
“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 U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” Rep. Omar tweeted.
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 U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) June 7, 2021
This time no apologies
Much like in the past, when Rep. Omar spoke about Congress’ unyielding support for the State of Israel despite their well-documented crimes against humanity, a group of Jewish House Democrats, along with Republicans in the media, have condemned her words and publicly called for her to “clarify” her statements.
Rather than acknowledging the truth in Omar’s questions and comments, the group of 12 Democratic lawmakers went after her saying, “Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided. Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice.”
What they didn’t seem to find offensive is the long list of war crimes our own government, the United States of America, has committed on foreign soil for decades in the name of “defending democracy.”
Jewish House Democrats condemn Omar’s comments
The statement went on to read “The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups. We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”
Group of House Democrats is out with a statement tonight condemning Ilhan Omar’s recent comments, saying they “give cover to terrorist groups.” pic.twitter.com/kDxSkb7OCi
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) June 10, 2021
Adding insult to injury, instead of responding to Rep. Omar’s multiple private calls to discuss their concerns, they released the public statement without saying a word to her.
While it’s clear that U.S. residents enjoy freedoms not found in many oppressive regimes, the US, through its police forces, also has committed and continues to commit crimes against Black Americans, Indigenous people, and others. Not to mention, Israel has blatant laws on their books that discriminate against non-Jewish people living in the state.
Verbal attacks against Congresswoman Omar stem from islamophobia
Unlike her previous responses to colleagues calling her antisemitic for speaking truth to power, in which she apologized, this time she asserted her right to call out the horrendous treatment of all people, including victims of the Israeli government.
“It’s shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for “clarification” and not just call. The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable,” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar clapped back.
Ultimately, time that could’ve been spent building support for major pieces of legislation needed to help the country “build back better,” as President Biden puts it, was once again used to gang up on one of the few muslim members of Congress, and one of the few willing to stand up to imperialism and crimes against humanity, period.
Rep. Omar faces death threats
Perhaps, the group of 12 members of Congress who lashed out at Omar in a passive-aggressive statement truly were outraged by the comparison of Israel and the U.S. to Hamas and Afghanistan’s Taliban, despite the facts indicating all have committed war crimes. Perhaps, these members honestly want to stand up against hate in all forms, and view this as their most effective way to do that.
If that’s the case, the nation should expect them to denounce the death threats that Rep. Omar has received thanks to the islamophobic contextualizing of her honest calls for recognizing humanity and seeking accountability.
“Muslims are terrorists and she’s a raghead n*****. And every anti-American communist piece of s*** that works for her, I hope you get what’s coming for you,” one caller said on a voicemail shared by Rep. Omar on Twitter.
Rep. Omar forced to “clarify” her statement
Nevertheless, Rep. Omar eventually did “clarify” her statement, writing that her original comments were about specific ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court and “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”
By Thursday night, in order to appease Republican backlash, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and other Democratic leaders released a rare joint statement acknowledging that legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by free speech but adding, “drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and underminess progress toward a future of peace and security for all.”
Nevermind the fact that Rep. Omar never in the first place made any attempts to morally compare the nations, (it was conservative media taking her words out of context). The joint statement completely omits the fact that whether the U.S. or Israel is truly a democracy remains up for debate.
I would love to see members of Congress utilize that same self-righteous anger to draft a resolution denouncing these racist, domestic terrorist wanna-be’s sending death threats to Congresswoman Omar and others, but considering they can’t even agree on investigating a white supremacist attack on the nation’s capitol, I won’t hold my breath.