Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib Rebuke State Dept for Waffling Over Palestinian Self Defense

Progressive U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan on Monday rebuked the State Department for dodging questions about Palestinians' right to self defense as Jerusalem moved closer to all-out conflict.

The Israeli army confirmed that it launched airstrikes across the Gaza Strip earlier today after Hamas militants fired rockets at Jerusalem. The incidents came after clashes with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem left hundreds of Palestinians injured.

During a press conference, State Department spokesperson Ned Price appeared to dodge when asked by reporters whether the principle of self defense applied to Palestinians after he accused Hamas of "unacceptable escalation."

"This is a very fluid situation, I would hesitate to comment on operations beyond the rocket fire that is clearly targeting innocent civilians in Israel," he said, "but the broader principle of self defense is something that we stand by."

Price added: "Broadly speaking, we believed in the concept of self defense, we believe it applies to any state."

Tlaib and Omar called out the department in a series of tweets and retweets on Monday night.

"This unsurprising response is devoid of empathy and concern for human suffering. He can't even condemn the killing of children," Omar tweeted, alongside a video of Price's press conference.

This unsurprising response is devoid of empathy and concern for human suffering.

He can’t even condemn the killing of children. https://t.co/eQjysy2VCP

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 10, 2021

"Is @StateDeptSpox really refusing to condemn the killing of Palestinian children?" Tlaib tweeted.

Is @StateDeptSpox really refusing to condemn the killing of Palestinian children? https://t.co/h3tXqaxqXp

— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) May 10, 2021

By Monday evening local time, the Israeli military executed dozens of airstrikes on Gaza. The country claimed to have been targeting Hamas operatives and military equipment. The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed that 20 Palestinians, including nine minors, were killed by the Israeli airstrikes today, with at least 65 others injured.

The U.S. and Europe pleaded for calm in Jerusalem as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the violence could "continue for some time."

Omar and Tlaib criticized those who stood with Israel in the conflict.

"Many will tell you Israel has a right to defend itself, to safety and security, but are silent on whether Palestinians have those rights too," Omar tweeted. "Until we can defend the rights of Palestinians just as we do Israelis, we have no leg to stand on when it comes to justice or peace."

Tlaib added: "I see some who were silent as Palestinians were ripped from their homes and tear gassed in their holiest mosques now finding their voices—to stand with the Israeli gov as airstrikes leave Palestinian children dead. Where are your voices when Palestinians are under threat?"

Both congresswomen also retweeted a statement from journalist Mehdi Hasan, who said that "the fundamental unavoidable reality at the heart of the [Israel-Palestine] conflict is that there is an asymmetry of power here. One side is the occupier. The other side is occupied."

Newsweek reached out to the State Department for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar at presser
Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar on Monday criticized the State Department for waffling over Palestinian self defense. Adam Bettcher/Getty Images