Rashida Tlaib, censured by the House, is praised and condemned at home | ET REALITY


For more than a month, suburban Detroit has hosted vigils commemorating victims of the war between Israel and Hamas with prayers, candles and tearful speeches.

But those vigils have told starkly different stories about the war, and also about Rashida Tlaib, who represents the area and is the only Palestinian American in Congress.

At a solidarity meeting with Israeli hostages last week at the Adat Shalom synagogue, Jeremy Moss, a Democratic state senator from Southfield, a suburb with a large Jewish population in Tlaib’s district, spoke to concerned constituents. “Many people came up to me and told me they didn’t feel seen, heard or represented,” he said.

The next night, in the majority-Arab-American enclave of Dearborn, at an event commemorating the Palestinian victims of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, speakers denounced Ms. Tlaib’s censure in Congress for her statements on the conflict.

Khalid Turaani, a Palestinian-American activist, compared Tlaib’s censure to that of Joshua Reed Giddings, a congressman and abolitionist who was censured by his House colleagues in 1842 for introducing resolutions opposing the slave trade.

“I guess history is repeating itself,” Turaani, who heads the Michigan Task Force for Palestine, told the crowd.

Since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on October 7, no American politician other than President Biden has been more central to arguments over the war between Israel and Hamas than Ms. Tlaib. Since her election in 2018, the congresswoman, who has family living in the West Bank, has been the leading voice for Palestinian rights in Congress.

This year, thanks to a redistricting, it began representing one of the largest Arab-American communities in the country, as well as parts of the Detroit area’s largest Jewish community. The war has put it in the increasingly difficult position of representing both sides, whose views on the conflict are deeply personal and often extraordinarily difficult to reconcile.

The interviews in Tlaib’s district revealed a divided view of the war in Gaza and laid bare the grievances that have shaped it. It is a particularly acute version of the national debate about the conflict, rooted in family stories of the Holocaust and personal experiences of lives and lands lost since the advent of Israeli statehood.

The split would pose a formidable challenge for any politician. But for Tlaib, who has adopted a position that alienates many of those voters, it could be insurmountable.

After the October 7 attack, in which Hamas attackers killed about 1,200 people and took about 240 hostages, Ms. Tlaib was one of 10 House members who nay to resolution condemn Hamas and reaffirm $3.3 billion a year in US military assistance to Israel.

On November 3, he posted a video on social media accusing President Biden of supporting the “genocide of the Palestinian people” and including images of protesters chanting “from the river to the sea,” a pro-Palestinian slogan that many believe calls no not only for the restoration of Palestinian territorial claims but also for the eradication of Israel.

Tlaib has said she saw it as “a call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.” In a statement issued after the no-confidence vote, he vowed to “continue working for a just and lasting peace that upholds the human rights and dignity of all people, centers peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, and ensures that no person, no child, whether it is suffering or living in fear of violence.”

Ms. Tlaib’s defense of the slogan drew condemnation from the Biden administration, as well as criticism from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and disavowal from Governor Gretchen Whitmer, both Democrats.

On Tuesday, 22 of Tlaib’s Democratic colleagues joined House Republicans to pass a resolution to censure her and accuse her of “calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.” Democratic Majority for Israel, a group led by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, is running television ads in the Detroit area criticizing Ms. Tlaib.

“I think Congresswoman Tlaib is radically at odds with her colleagues in Congress, radically at odds with the Democratic Party, and radically at odds with Michigan Democrats,” Mellman said. “We hope she changes her mind and if not, maybe someone will be interested in running against her.”

Leave a Comment