The Anatomy Of An Ilhan Omar Scandal: From ‘Some People Did Something’ To Comparing The US To Hamas

(Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
Font Size:

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar has the full support of her party’s leadership, despite her refusal to apologize for comments in which she conflated the U.S. and Israel with the Taliban and Hamas.

At this point, Omar’s scandals follow a predictable pattern. Omar will make remarks that are perceived as anti-American anti-Semitic. Next, Omar’s remarks will be met with vociferous Republican and some tepid Democratic criticism. When pushed on them, Omar and her allies will fight back by claiming the criticism rooted in Islamophobia, racism, or is incitement to violence.

Most recently, Omar claimed during a June 7 congressional hearing that “we have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.” (RELATED: Hamas Releases Statement Denouncing Rep. Ilhan Omar For Equating Them With ‘Crimes’ Of America, Israel) 

She later added that she was not “equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”

However, Pelosi’s hand was pushed back by The Squad, who insisted that criticism of Omar’s comments was “Islamophobic.” Omar’s backup consisted of Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, and Democratic New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

With an entire group defending Omar, Democratic leadership would not condemn her comments.

“We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban,” Pelosi and five other House Democrats said in a statement. Pelosi later emphasized that leadership “did not rebuke” Omar, and called her a “valued member of our caucus.”

A similar pattern emerged in early 2019 when Omar’s tweet surfaced which called for “Allah [to] awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel” as “Israel has hypnotized the world.” She later deleted the tweet, claiming that “there is a difference between criticizing a military action by a government that has exercised really oppressive policies and being offensive or attacking to particular people of faith.” In another tweet, she peddled the anti-Semitic trope that American support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins.”

One month later, in a February town hall, Omar claimed that she and Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib are accused of anti-Semitism because of “the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Jewish groups and politicians slammed the comments.

The charge of dual loyalty has long been used to attack Jews, well before the state of Israel even existed,” the Anti-Defamation League tweeted at the time.

“It’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” then-Democratic New York Rep. and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel added. He described her “invok[ing] an anti-Semitic stereotype” as “outrageous and deeply hurtful.” (RELATED: McCarthy Backs Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism And Anti-Israel Sentiment)

The dual-loyalty trope accuses “Jews of being disloyal citizens whose true allegiance is to Israel or a hidden Jewish agenda,” according to the American Jewish Committee.

Instead of condemning Omar’s anti-Semitism, however, House Democrats walked back and passed a generic resolution condemning “hate… targeting traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants, and others.”

Although the resolution did condemn the use of the dual-loyalty trope, it did not specifically name Omar. A similar resolution condemning Republican Iowa Rep. Steve King named him directly after he asked when language such as “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization” became offensive. (RELATED: Steve King Votes For House Disapproval Motion Rebuking Him)

Twenty-three House Republicans voted against the resolution, arguing that it did not appropriately address Omar’s anti-Semitism. That was by design since Democratic leadership wanted to “try to keep unity as much as possible for our caucus,” according to Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended Omar’s comments as simply “rais[ing] the issue of lobbyist [money] in politics.”

Omar “demonstrated a capacity to acknowledge the pain and apologize, use the opportunity to learn about [the] history of anti-Semitism, and grow from it while clarifying her stance,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. She also blamed people for “trying to police communities on they are/aren’t allowed to be upset by.”

Omar plunged into hot water again in April 2019, when she described the 9/11 terrorist attacks as “some people [doing] something,” in a speech at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). (RELATED: ‘The Hamas Caucus’: Republicans Launch Explosive Term For Ocasio-Cortez ‘Squad’)

After Republican Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw claimed her comment was “unbelievable,” Omar accused him of “dangerous incitement.” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Crenshaw “should go do something about” right-wing terrorist attacks and that Omar did “more for 9/11 families than the GOP.” Crenshaw lost his eye in an IED explosion while serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan.