Politics

Katherine Clark weighs in on Ilhan Omar’s controversial tweet, as Ayanna Pressley comes to her defense

“Imagine if Congress was as outraged by what Palestinians endure daily."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation are increasingly making their opinions known about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent controversial tweet grouping together the United States and Israel with groups like Hamas and the Taliban.

Rep. Katherine Clark, the assistant House speaker, signed onto a joint statement Thursday with fellow members of House Democratic leadership criticizing Omar’s tweet earlier this week,” but welcoming the Minnesota Democrat’s clarification that it was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries.”

The statement came after Omar — a frequent target of attacks by Republicans over her criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — tweeted a video of her questioning Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about investigating violence committed by “both Israeli security forces and Hamas,” as well as the Afghanistan government and Taliban (the State Department consider both Hamas and the Taliban terrorist groups).

In the tweet, she wrote, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” which set off a torrent of criticism in conservative media circles as well as disagreement among her Democratic colleagues.

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A dozen Jewish Democrats, including Massachusetts Rep. Jake Auchincloss, released a statement Thursday calling Omar’s remarks “offensive” and similarly asking for a clarification.

However, progressive allies, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley, rallied behind Omar, characterizing the criticism as “bad faith attempts” to take her words “out of context.”

“Imagine if Congress was as outraged by what Palestinians endure daily,” Pressley tweeted Thursday, along with the original clip of Omar’s exchange with Blinken.

The House Progressive Caucus also released a statement asserting that Democrats “owe it to each other to pause, reflect, and engage directly with each other when misunderstandings arise.”

In a tweet Wednesday, Omar initially called the public criticism from fellow Democrats “offensive” and “unbearable.”

“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,” she wrote.

But by Thursday, both sides were moving to smooth things over. The Jewish Democratic Council of America, a political advocacy group, announced Thursday morning that they would meet with Omar. And in an afternoon statement, the congresswoman wrote that her questions to Blinken were “about accountability for specific incidents,” and “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”

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” I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems,” she said.

Soon after, Democratic leadership released their joint statement , which include overtures to both critics of Omar as well as the congresswoman herself.

“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate. And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies,” said the statement, which was issued by the highest-ranking top House Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Clark, a Melrose congresswoman.

“But drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all,” the group continued. “We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban.” 

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