Progressives back Ilhan Omar after Israel comments backlash

CAIR condemns attacks on Representative Ilhan Omar following her statement on Israel
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
16 June, 2021
Ilhan Omar continues to face backlash for comments she made last week about accountability for war crimes, as progressive politicians and activists show their support.
Messages of support are posted by the door of Ilhan Omar's office [Getty images]

Progressive politicians and NGOs have backed Congresswoman Ilhan Omar after a backlash over her recent comments on holding international actors - including Israel and the US - accountable for war crimes.

The representative from Minnesota asked Secretary of State Anthony Blinken last Monday during a hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee: "You opposed the court's investigation in both Palestine and in Afghanistan.

"In both of these cases, if domestic courts can't or won't pursue justice, and we oppose the ICC, where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice, and what justice mechanisms do you support for them?"

She followed with  a tweet: "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. I asked @SecBlinkenwhere people are supposed to go for justice."

Her comments were met with waves of condemnations from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, criticising her for putting the US, Israel, in the same sentence as Hamas and the Taliban.

Some lawmakers accused her of using false equivalencies and asked her for clarification on the comments. In some cases, the condemnation reached an extreme level with right-wing Representative Lauren Boebert calling Omar an "honorary member of Hamas" and suggested that she was a terrorist sympathiser.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has accused Omar of anti-Semitism and said he wants her removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

These initial condemnations of Omar were followed by voice messages of racial slurs and death threats, which she shared on Twitter. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has condemned the threats against her, suggesting they are motivated by racism and Islamophobia.

The organisation sees the backlash against her - particularly by members of Congress - as misplaced.

"It's time for Congress to reject the racist double standards and the agenda that is being pushed to attack her and her allies," Kareem El-Hosseiny, government affairs director at CAIR-Georgia, told The New Arab.

"You literally had a Republican member of Congress equating mask requirements to the Holocaust. There's real antisemitism."

For Robert McCaw, government affairs department director with CAIR, told The New Arab that Omar is "daring to say what others in Congress are afraid to say.

"It's good to see [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi listening to concerns of the squad without overtly censoring her. There's a taboo in Congress to speak about America's historic foreign policy and human rights violations. Ilhan Omar is among the new generation of members of Congress challenging that narrative."

Brooke Anderson is The New Arab's correspondent in Washington D.C., covering US and international politics, business and culture.

 

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