Hamas raps Ilhan Omar for equating resistance with Israeli crimes

Woman leather jacket stands holding microphone

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Gage Skidmore)

The Palestinian resistance organization Hamas has hit back at US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar after she accused the group of crimes against humanity, denounced it as “terrorist” and praised Israel as “democratic.”

Omar has been under intense attack for days by Democratic and Republican lawmakers over her questioning of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

During a congressional hearing on Monday, Omar took Blinken to task for American opposition to International Criminal Court investigations into alleged crimes by Israel and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza and by the US and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But in the exchange with Blinken, Omar claimed that Hamas has committed “atrocities” and “crimes against humanity” – accusations that do not withstand a fact-based analysis of the recent escalation of violence.

“Very peculiar”

Omar’s remarks were “very peculiar,” Dr. Basem Naim, a member of Hamas’ international relations office, said on Saturday.

Naim said Hamas “highly appreciates Omar’s stances in support of justice and the rights of the oppressed around the world, foremost among them is the just rights of the Palestinian people.”

However, he added, “it is unacceptable to make such an unfair comparison, which contradicts basic norms of justice and international law.”

Hamas admonished Omar for equating “the victim and the executioner” by placing “the resistance of the Palestinian people, the Israeli crimes in Palestine and the US aggression in Afghanistan” on “an equal footing.”

Naim said that Palestinians “have the right to resist the Israeli occupation with all means possible, including armed resistance.” He quoted Nelson Mandela’s statement that “it is always the oppressor, not the oppressed, who dictates the form of the struggle.”

The late Mandela led the African National Congress’ armed struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Now almost universally viewed as a hero, he was on an official US list of “terrorists” until as late as 2008.

Naim asserted that for years, Hamas has “offered several initiatives to avoid civilian casualties.” But “all of these proposals were rejected by the Israeli occupation, which deliberately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure,” including during Israel’s 11-day intense bombardment of Gaza last month.

This is likely a reference to longstanding Hamas proposals for a long-term truce that Israel has rejected.

“The deliberate and brutal targeting of Palestinian civilians during this aggression was intended to inflict a heavy cost on the Gazan population in a bid to break the Palestinians’ will and their support for the Palestinian resistance,” Naim said of last month’s escalation.

Hamas, according to Naim’s statement, “welcomed the formation of all international investigation commissions and expressed its readiness to cooperate with them for the sake of achieving justice and holding the perpetrators accountable.”

In contrast, Israel habitually rejects any international investigation of its actions and blocks investigators from entering all of the territories under its control.

As this writer argued, the violence committed by Israel and the US in pursuit of domination and empire is vastly greater in scale than that used by Hamas in the context of an occupied people exercising its right to resistance and self-defense.

Omar caves to pressure

Yet Omar came under a storm of protest – including racist and bigoted attacks – from Israel supporters and white supremacist American nationalists who believe that colonial and imperial violence is morally justified while Palestinian armed struggle is “terrorism.”

Omar caved under apparent pressure from the leadership of her Democratic Party.

On Thursday, she issued a “clarification” asserting that the exchange with Blinken days earlier was “about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the US and Israel.”

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

Not content with accusing Palestinians of “atrocities” and “crimes against humanity” against the state occupying and colonizing their land, Omar threw in the label “terrorist” – reproducing and reinforcing decades-old Israeli propaganda.

Meanwhile, she appeared to be describing Israel as a “democratic” country, despite the recent findings by such mainstream groups as Human Rights Watch and Israel’s human rights group B’Tselem that Israel commits the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people.

Omar’s decision to throw Palestinians under the bus appeared to satisfy House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, one of the most hardline supporters of Israel in the Democratic Party, had rejected Omar’s “drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the US and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban.”

She claimed that such a comparison “foments prejudice and undermines peace and security for all.”

“We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the US and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban,” Pelosi added.

Omar’s rapid collapse in the face of pressure raises serious questions about the role of supposed supporters of Palestinian rights within the US political system.

The Minnesota congresswoman – one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, along with Rashida Tlaib – has been using her rhetorical support for Palestinians to raise election campaign money.

The racist attacks have also made her the center of advocacy by liberal and progressive groups and individuals who have rallied around her, many using the hashtag #IStandWithIlhan.

Palestinian American activist and human rights attorney Noura Erakat offered the congresswoman unqualified support in the face of the attacks. Omar “insists on repping her constituents” and “refuses to be a token,” Erakat tweeted.

“She came to slay and we must help her.”

Thus the right-wing Democratic and Republican attacks on Omar succeeded in shifting the attention away from accountability for Israel’s massacres of Palestinians and towards a narcissistic internal squabble among US political figures and elites in which the rejection and demonization of Palestinian resistance is taken as a given.

At the same time, the damage done to Palestinians by Omar’s comments echoing Israeli propaganda that resistance is “terrorist” is overlooked or excused because she is under attack from the right.

Palestinians have fought for decades against propaganda demonizing virtually any form of resistance as “terrorist.” That label is intended to shut down debate and analysis, disrupt solidarity and provide justification for Israel’s regular colonial massacres of Palestinian civilians.

For advocates of Palestinian rights to accept such rhetoric from a supposed ally sends a signal that any fundamental principle is a mere bargaining chip to be used in pursuit of illusory gains and alliances with members of the US imperial establishment.

There can be no question that Omar deserves to be defended against racist and anti-Muslim attacks and threats – just as President Barack Obama deserved to be defended against such attacks from white supremacists who falsely claimed he was Muslim to disparage him or questioned the country of his birth.

The fact that Obama faced such attacks in no way excuses his responsibility for openly pandering to this racism and anti-Muslim bigotry or committing war crimes while president.

Similarly, one can take a principled stance against racist attacks on Omar, while rejecting her anti-Palestinian comments aimed at appeasing Israel’s insatiable American fanatics inside and outside her party.

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There is no question that Omar bowed to pressure from the Democrat Party which those who criticize do not have to experience. It would have been better, I am sure they would say, if she hadn't questioned Blinken at all.

The problem I have with all this is the silence on the part of the Palestine solidarity movement when male members of the Congressional Black Caucus with more seniority and experience in Congress have repeatedly bowed and scraped before their Zionist party masters, such as the legendary John Lewis who left his civil rights movement behind to become a pitchman for AIPAC when it hosted meetings of new members of Congress or when the CBC failed, under party pressure to publicly criticize Israel for its arms sales to South Africa or when Barbara Lee voted against inserting into the 2016 Democrat Platform a plank opposing Israel's settlement policies and continued occupation. If one is going to fault Omar, it should be put into that context.

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I suppose one could expect more of our CBC members as statesmen from an oppressed community but they have their own loyalties and political constraints, so it's not surprising but I hear you, it seems like solidarity for human rights and dignity would be a 1st priority. Look at the flip side though, you'd think Native Americans would have automatic solidarity with African Americans but the consensus in the "five civilized tribes" is to ignore the fact that they held slaves who were promised equal reparations and instead pretend they never knew them. Especially surprising are the Cherokee and even moreso when it comes to solidarity with Palestinians when they should get a chill looking at the similarities between their experience in their own land and the Palestinian's in theirs.
There is movement in the CBC though, the 'Holy Rockets' haven't advanced that cause but hopefully the bonding agency between the "Great March of Return" and "Bloody Sunday" on the Edmond Pettis Bridge won't be completely erased by Hamas' self indulgent and international solidarity damaging violence.

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At first glance, I thought this headline was a parody from The ONION or The Borowitz Report. The attacks on Representative Omar are all sideshows and they should stop. Yes, no one should equate Israel's horrific attacks on civilian populations with Hamas' rockets. But, there is no question that Hamas' indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian populations is a violation of international human rights principles and none of us should excuse such attacks for any reason. If you stand for the principles of human rights, you do so regardless of the offenders and regardless of proportionality. It is sad that Representative Omar is a lightning rod for the right wing and liberal zionists and it is sad that she is in a position where here words are parsed so routinely and unfairly. It should stop from all sides.

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Ali, you quote heavily from Yahya Sinwar to make your argument that Hamas’ rocket fire is justified but neither you nor Sinwar answer Howard. Well, being just an ordinary person, I read what he had to say and I agree with it in spite of having read very carefully what both you and Sinwar had to say.
So what’s wrong with using unguided missiles, even if one would prefer they could be guided?
Firstly and most importantly, it’s wrong to use them either way. Now I’m relatively uneducated but my understanding is that’s according to common codes of both secular and theological morality, whatever differences manifest in the real world.
But I understand, this is the real world and I also get that we little people rely on you great thinkers to say where and when those niceties apply, for purposes of national interest for instance. So help me now.
How, when the only thing Hamas’ rockets guarantee is death and destruction for the Palestinian people, is the launching of rockets in “the national interest” and how does it impose a “cost” on Israel when they can so easily be cited as evidence of terrorism with indiscriminate weaponry, to the world and especially to their own people who are certainly willing to sacrifice lives at a 10 or 20 to 1ratio to keep what they have?
I’ll leave it at that. A full expose of the cognitive dissonance, or “demented” thinking necessary to conclude that Hamas is a good product of the degradation, oppression and cheating of the Palestinian people would drive me to be even more longwinded. But I look forward to a reply and an opportunity to debate the value of non-violent struggle vs armed struggle in this struggle.

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One good thing came of the holy rockets; it focused world media on Palestine for 11 days and a few more. The value of that was augmented by Israel's destruction of the media building, which checked pro-Israel media bias a bit. That's it. 260 lives for that. The overwhelming majority were Palestinians of course and the many who view that as a victory are endorsing the view that Palestinian lives are of little value, or at least the lives of ordinary Palestinians. Not great Hamas leaders and their "public intellectual" diasporic friends in the media naturally.

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First, let me say that I respect and admire your work over the years and have learned so much from you. Nonetheless, I don’t understand nor do I support what is a rationalization for selected use of violence that is in clear contravention of basic human rights principles. I have never accepted the ends justifies the means argument and hope I never do. Again, I do not equate Hamas’ violence with that of Israel’s. I recognize the incomparable imbalance of power and recognize the horrific crimes of Israel as a colonial power and apartheid state. But, I still believe—and you can call this naive or “liberal” or whatever you want to attach to the view that violent response rarely leads to positive social change. Regardless of whether Israel learned its violent ways from the Nazis (as Ruchama Marton once said, “we had very good teachers”) and regardless of the US’s criminal support both in dollars, arms and policies, whether Israel’s early Irgun and Hagannah fighters used the same tactics—once you adopt the principles of international human rights, you can’t pick and choose. Hamas, in it internal governance of Gaza, is no model for anyone involved in or supporting a future based upon these principles. Neither is the anti-democratic PA or Fatah as currently operating. Just because we support the struggle for Palestinian freedom does not mean we close our eyes to our principles. I am sorry, sir, but I am not with you in this particular analysis about Hamas and more importantly, neither are so many in Gaza and the West Bank and the Palestinian diaspora with whom I am in contact over the years. Even as a tactic—this type of violence has failed miserably and has most directly failed the Palestinian people in my view.

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I think it’s both, and the only thing standing in the way of variations on themes of human degradation and brutal violence is whatever law we can devise and stand behind.
Everything else, especially the rockets, is a distraction and more lives lost for nothing.

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"My conclusion" is the conclusion of "a bitter remembrance".
Please one and all, this is important, I get that pointing out what's wrong with the rockets might be perceived as anti- solidarity but my whole point is that the nexus of solidarity must be productive. Right now, I see Palestine as a place so beleaguered by what we all comprehend, that it's become maddened and misdirected.
It's my very very humble view that the most important thing Palestinian leaders can do is to stop the political maneuvering and truly coalesce into an undeniably united entity again. Like the PLO but with lessons learned. Right now everything they're doing, PA and Hamas, is working against the interests of the people, because they're dividing themselves and contributing stereotypical images of "Islamo-fascism" to Israel's propaganda machine, just when that machine should be desperate to find ways to portray their short and long-term strategies for the attainment of a greater Israel as something more than national conquest and hegemonic assurances for US. There are still vestiges of effective international law which can be made to serve their purpose but they need our support.
Launching rockets only places relevant powers in a position to choose, to their own liking, whatever administrator of violence is acting in their interests and that too will be determined by those with the power to sell themselves as such. A devil's bargain all around and one Palestine must distinguish itself from.

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It's important to remember that the body in which Rep. Omar serves is a branch of the most corrupt and violent organization on earth, the United States government. To even enter such a system is to implicitly accept its main premises, which are compounded of lies and boundless greed (yes, it IS the Benjamins, baby). You cannot function in Congress, you can't get committee assignments, you can't get staff or offices or bodyguards- you can't breathe- without demonstrating your loyalty to that system at a fundamental level. After all, you devoted a good portion of your life striving to gain entry to the most exclusive club this side of the College of Cardinals. In such hallowed precincts there are no rebels, only constituents and donors and interests. In that light, for any member of Congress to actually, straightforwardly, unconditionally support the right of Palestinians to resist Israeli/U.S. war crimes isn't merely illogical, it's evidence of insanity.

Rep. Omar isn't as reprehensible as most of her colleagues. In fact, she retains a patina of idealism, whereas they arrived in Congress as fully formed tools of the war machine. What distinguishes her and a few others is that we are to be granted an edifying view of her lamentable trajectory. Just look at the career of Bernard Sanders, who came to Washington as the consummate outsider, only to evolve into a Democratic Party contender and backer of the Clinton-Biden wing. The longer you stay, the more you belong.

In sum, we must never repose our trust and our faith in individual leaders, whether they sit in government or other positions in public life. The fight for justice is antithetical to the system they serve. Our work for Palestine must never be predicated on hopes for their support. The pressure has to come from below, and it has to be sustained outside the absolutely rotten structures of power in Washington.

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Tom, you must certainly be the world's most perfectly refined ivory tower so-called progressive.

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I have no disagreement with Tom's characterization of the US government and both of the parties that share the responsibilities for its crimes. I have also never believed that electoral politics provides the mechanism for repairing what is not broken and has been doing exactly what it was intended to by those who founded it from its inception. At the same time when there is no movement, particularly when it comes to supporting justice for Palestine and breaking the yoke the pro-Israel lobby has over our political processes at EVERY level of goverment (and we shouldn't delude ourselves in to belirving that there is), it is important to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way and Israel's brutal crimes in Gaza, displayed before the US public in every form of media, is one such a time when the polls show a majority of American citizens are raising questions about continuing US support for Israel and less concern with Hamas's response about which we should let their brother and sister Palestinians be the judges.

When one considers that in Israel's three previous assaults on Gaza in this millenium, which one of its generals described, with a smile as "mowing the grass," and polls showed that up to 94% of Isuraeli Jews supported the killing and destruction on each occasion, the sight of Israelis running and huddling in fear in bomb shelters (not available to Gazans) is something I would argue, is long overdue.

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I can’t speak for Howard but honestly, I don’t feel like I have any right to preach to Ali et al. about giving in to violence. Violence begets violence, period. That’s part of the nature of the crime the US/ Israel alliance is perpetrating on the Palestinian people. I am suffering a low grade mental anguish from the comfort of my sheltered life in the belly of the beast. I am not a Palestinian and as much as I admire their incredible grit, I wouldn’t want to be, precisely because I believe I would have given in to violence and lost my innocence long ago. If you haven’t read R. Wright’s Native Son, do, if it's not too late to learn its lesson.
But Jeffery, what is the “opportunity” - which “we” should exploit - to which you refer? I don’t blame the Palestinians for giving in to violence, the blame goes to the colonial alliance, I just don’t think they should and I have to run that by them. You on the other hand are suggesting they do. You my friend, have a lot of nerve.
Also, this bit about electoral politics being a waste of time by trying to fix what’s not broken, because it’s (the system I presume) doing exactly what it was intended to do, by those who founded it from its inception. What an a-historical, paranoid loony left pile of horse-hockey.

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John Costello wonders what opportunity has presented itself by Americans having been given the opportunity to see what their tax dollars to Israel have been paying for an to initiate a campaign that is so long overdue to stop all military aid to Israel because it is not only immoral but violates two of of our own laws, not to sell weapons that will be used against civilians, something that Israel has routinely done but also the 1971 Glenn-Symington Amendment which forbids the US providing weapons to any country that has not signed the nuclear prohinbition agreement and has engaged in the building of atomic weapons. The time appeared to be ripe for that but it apparently isn't happening as Joe Biden has agreed to replenish at no cost the missiles and bombs Israel expended to kill and maim more Palestinians.

As for objecting to my description of US electoral politics having accomplished by its founders what it was intended to do, maintain their God given natural supremacy over the Indigenous peoples who they slaughtered and whose land they stole and the descendants of the African slaves whose labor and lives they exploited, for anyone to argue that the US hasn't turned out as they by and large intended has had his eyes closed and ears shut too tightly to have any opinion on any political subject worth "running by" anyone, least of all the Palestinians under Israel's tyranny.

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Please forgive me Mr. Blankfort, for this tardy intrusion. It’s just that this issue of violent struggle, in the form of Hamas’ rockets, is so central to their leadership role and their role is so important in the Palestinian struggle for either the return of their homeland or another option I don’t fully comprehend, that I think it’s an important debate, especially as Hamas is gaining such popularity.
I’m wearing out the website administrator submitting my opinion but so far you’re the only one to even nibble, so how about you set me straight again.
Leaving aside the fact that this “opportunity” for Americans to - for the umpteenth time - see what their tax dollars are doing in Israel, was at a cost of 260 mostly innocent lives; what is it particularly about this opportunity that is so exceptional? I’m having trouble understanding exactly what it is Hamas, you and some others here see as progress being made due to the employment of missiles. Hopefully that explanation will clear up what exactly is the optimal nature of their deployment i.e; is it better that they kill Israelis or just scare them? Or should they just fall into empty spaces? Because if that’s the case, maybe they could aim short and deprive Israel of the propaganda value in the deaths of civilians. Of course there is a danger then that Hamas will be seen as entirely inept. Now that’s a tough one for me to get; unless they can kill enough people to begin to compare to IDF, how can they be seen as anything but either inept or just out to terrorize or both? Couldn’t they just wait to see if Israel attacks without the rockets as bait?
Sorry, I’m just trying to have my eyes opened. I know you’re right and they must be shut tight, because I really don’t see any return on Hamas’ investment of human life.

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Ali say’s, “The main purpose of these rockets is to deter Israel and to impose a cost on it for its ethnic cleansing and attacks on Palestinians – whether in Gaza or Jerusalem”.
Interesting, from my perspective the main purpose of the rockets is to light up the battlefield for the Israeli Air Force. Ask the sole remaining child of the family just blended into the rubble. Will he say imposing a cost was worth it?
Of course not; if that is, he could speak before his hatred drove him to the battlefield to launch more pathetic “costs”.
The idea that the missiles impose a cost on Israel is actually demented. They certainly do impose a cost on Gaza however, with the only cost to Israel being levied against their immortal souls with every Palestinian death. I think Israelis concerned with the human soul, Diaspora Jews and the world are waking up to that view but not because of Hamas but in spite of it. Far more effective in that regard was ‘The great March of Return’, during which great general outpouring of resistance, by young Palestinians, we saw Israeli propagandists trying to paint the grassroots with Hamas colors, or even as compelled by Hamas to walk into the bullets.
For the just cause, whatever course we’ve assumed is presumed just but that doesn’t make it wise. It’s because of the occupation and siege of Gaza, that every rocket fired by Gaza may just as well have been fired by Zion.
There is understandable mistrust and cynicism about so-called international (Western, admittedly) law and even more understandable frustration with it but the REALITY is that the weak have only that law between themselves and the will of the strong.
Is it ironic or apropos that nearly three quarters of a century after the tormenters of a weak people were brought to justice, the weak have grown strong and look to be assuming roles they should loathe?

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Israel IS a democracy, but it’s a Proportional Representation [PR] system where parties appoint the Members of Knesset and small Tail parties Wag the Dog by wangling Cabinet seats. Instead of moderation, fanatic minorities actually rule the majority.

With First Past The Post [FPTP] parliaments, voters get to choose who represents their constituency. We (Canada) often have Minority Governments where each bill succeeds or is amended on a different mix of party support.

Journalists should tell us whether elections in a country are FPTP, PR or Congressional so that people better understand what’s happening outside their own experience.
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It will be fascinating to see whether this very mixed, new Israeli government coalition moderates its approach to Palestinians and finally seeks a peaceful 2-state solution
OR
continues its illegal occupation with accompanying near slavery ’Separate Development’ and slow theft of land by Zionist settlers.

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Ms. Omar should stand her ground when speaking about Occupied Palestine (Israel) and Zionism, a fascist, racist, apartheid, white supremacist ideology. Equating Hamas as a "terrorist" group alongside Occupied Palestine (Israel) is ludicrous. Trying to be even handed in dealing with Zionists and their supporters will never do. Zionists can never, ever be appeased. Once you back off on what you've originally stated, they know they've weakened you and won. In international law, Hamas/Palestinians, et al have a right, even an armed right, to defend themselves against occupation. The atrocities, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli Zionists should and must be denounced. Comparing Hamas with Israeli Zionists is, quite frankly, inexcusable--there is no comparison.
Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, is a vile, repugnant, and repulsive human being, someone who has made millions of dollars for herself since she became a member of Congress. Moreover, she is a consummate sycophant for a fascist, illegitimate, state. In her monied eyes, Occupied Palestine (Israel) can do no wrong.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.