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US: Republicans introduce resolution censuring the 'Squad' for criticising Israel

The move comes after Congresswomen Ilhan Omar asked about US opposition to ICC inquiries into alleged war crimes in Israel and Afghanistan
Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley are some of the few US lawmakers who have been critical of Israel (AFP/File photo)

A group of US House Republicans is seeking to censure Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley for what they called "defending terrorist organizations and inciting antisemitic attacks across the United States". 

The Republicans made the accusation in a resolution on Monday, citing numerous comments made by the four lawmakers during their time in office in which they were critical of Israel.

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The move was triggered by the controversy that was sparked last week during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where Omar stressed the importance of justice and accountability in the face of war crimes - whether they be committed by the "US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, [or] the Taliban".

Omar's comments, which she shared on Twitter, came while questioning Blinken about the International Criminal Court's investigations of alleged crimes by the Taliban and the US in Afghanistan, as well as its probe in Israel and Gaza. The White House has long been opposed to any ICC investigations involving the US or Israel.

'Unhinged comments?'

In Monday's resolution, led by Representatives Mike Waltz, Jim Banks and Claudia Tenney, the Republicans listed a series of other statements made by each of the four congresswomen - known as "the squad" - in which the congresswomen had been critical of Israel's occupation policies. 

"Reps Omar, Talib, Pressley and Cortez have repeatedly denigrated America and our closest ally. Democrat leadership finally responded to their unhinged comments last week - with a press release," said Banks in a statement on Monday. 

"Actions speak louder than squishy words. Speaker Pelosi can let members vote on our resolution, or she can cover for the Hamas Caucus and their anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric. We’ll see," he continued. 

Middle East Eye reached out to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office to enquire on whether the resolution would be brought up for a vote in the House, but did not receive a response by the time of this article's publication. 

Pelosi and her entire leadership team last week issued a rare joint statement that sought to quell the growing controversy while adding that "drawing false equivalencies" between democracies and "groups that engage in terrorism," citing Hamas and the Taliban, "foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all".

Pelosi later welcomed a statement of clarification released by Omar, in which she said that she never sought to compare the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, but only wanted to highlight the importance of equal accountability. 

Omar also shared threats to her life and safety during the controversy, saying that "Every time I speak out on human rights, I am inundated with death threats", while posting an example of a voicemail she had received. 

'The sick sport of attacking Omar'

Meanwhile, on Monday, House Representative Andy Levin came to Omar's defence again, questioning whether the Congresswoman should have ever been pushed to release a statement explaining her initial comments. 

"She clarified that she was not suggesting the US and Israel are like the Taliban & Hamas - but her questions did not equate them. Why seize that idea if not to serve other purposes or continue the sick sport of attacking Congresswoman Omar?" Levin said in a series of posts. 

"Can we really expect to get to a world of peace and justice for all if we are not willing to hold everyone accountable for war crimes and human rights violations?" he asked.

Ocasio-Cortez shared Levin's statements, saying that he "is what we call 'un buen tipo'," meaning "a good guy". 

"Proud to serve with you, friend," she said. 

In Monday's resolution, the Republicans slammed all four congresswomen in question for having "each referred to Israel as an 'apartheid state'" - a concept that is now supported by Human Rights Watch as well as Israel's leading human rights group, B'Tselem. 

It also condemned congresswoman Tlaib for accusing the Israeli government of "ethnic cleansing" against Palestinians.

Meanwhile, "Representative Ocasio-Cortez claimed the Israeli military is 'inhumane' and responsible for 'inflicting violence'", the resolution said, adding that "Representative Pressley accused Israel of 'egregious human rights violations'", among a litany of other perceived offences listed in the resolution.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to members of Congress openly defending terrorist attacks by Hamas against our close ally Israel, nor their dangerous rhetoric which has contributed to anti-Semitic attacks across the country," Waltz said in a press release, referring to an uptick in white supremacist attacks and vandalism against the American Jewish community that has taken place in the United States in recent months.