CONGRESSWOMAN Ilhan Omar’s comparison of Hamas and the Afghan Taliban with the US and Israel has raised a media storm in her home country. The Muslim lawmaker of Somali origin has been lambasted not only by rightist trolls, but also by her Democratic colleagues, while she has received death threats as well. All it took was a tweet in which Ms Omar said that “unthinkable atrocities” have been “committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban”.
Along with being called anti-Semitic, Democrats have urged her to “clarify her words” while a senior Republican lawmaker has termed the statement “anti-American”. Rep Omar, meanwhile, has shot back by decrying the “offensive ... Islamophobic tropes” deployed against her.
Behind all the noise, the American lawmaker’s comments are quite interesting. The comparison of sovereign actors such as the US and Israel and Hamas, which won an election, and the Afghan Taliban, which once ruled Afghanistan with limited recognition, may not be apt. But there can be little denying the fact that Washington and Tel Aviv have indulged in actions not too dissimilar — and at times even worse — than the Palestinian and Afghan groups. So, instead of feigning horror at the comparison, the American political establishment needs to dig a little deeper.
Read: Israel’s forever war
Hamas is a legitimate entity, ruling over Gaza and resisting Israeli occupation. As for the Afghan Taliban, while their violent tactics and enforcement of obscurantist codes during their rule over Afghanistan can hardly be justified, they are stakeholders in their homeland, which is why the Americans have signed a peace deal with them. Moreover, the targeting of civilians either by states or non-state actors is totally unacceptable.
Now, let us examine briefly the record of the US and Israel in the international arena. Over the last several decades, America has been instrumental in destabilising a number of Muslim states, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Whether in the name of fighting terrorism or bringing ‘democracy’ to these states, America’s uninvited military adventurism has resulted in massive death and destruction for the peoples of these countries. As for Israel’s conduct, on countless occasions Tel Aviv’s brutal onslaughts against the Palestinians have been described by experts as falling within the definition of war crimes. This has included the slaughter of children as well as other defenceless segments of the Palestinian population. Therefore, instead of pillorying Rep Omar, perhaps her colleagues in Congress need to discuss these ugly realities in a democratic manner.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2021