A new intra-party dispute on Capitol Hill has New York Democrats at odds.
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota drew rebukes from fellow Democrats, after she appeared to equate the actions of Israel and the U.S. to those of terrorist groups. Others came to her defense.
In a tweet this week, she wrote, “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.”
The tweet included a video of her recent exchange during a committee hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where she asked about investigations into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan.
A dozen Jewish Democrats - including Manhattan Congressman Jerry Nadler - labeled her comments offensive, saying in a statement that “the United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders in demanding Omar clarify her statement.
Queens Congressman Tom Suozzi said in his own statement that Omar “is wrong and must be called out. This is the latest in a series of wrongheaded and inflammatory statements she has made.”
Two years ago, previous comments Omar made about Israel prompted a resolution on the House floor condemning anti-Semitism.
Omar’s progressive colleagues in the “Squad” jumped to her defense Thursday. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of The Bronx tweeted, “Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus.”
By Thursday afternoon, Omar issued a clarification, saying she was "in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems."
This is just the latest Democratic flare up in a matter of weeks, with internal squabbles over voting rights, the filibuster, and U.S. policy when it comes to Israel complicating efforts at party unity. That sort of unity is key to getting much of anything done in an almost evenly split Congress.
Republicans, who have been forced to answer for the comments of far-right colleagues like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, seized on Omar’s remarks.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Jewish Republican from Long Island who is running for New York governor, tweeted, “Ilhan Omar must be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
There is a political undercurrent to all of this: Both sides are trying to paint the other as extreme ahead of the 2022 midterms.