Rashida Tlaib, the Only Palestinian Member of Congress, Says Critics Distorted Her Israel Statement

“If anything my voice is needed here more than ever," she told the Detroit Free Press, as some of her colleagues seek to censure her.

Rashida Tlaib, the Only Palestinian Member of Congress, Says Critics Distorted Her Israel Statement

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the lone Palestinian American member of Congress, on Wednesday spoke to the Detroit Free Press about her colleagues’ motion to censure her, following a statement she made over the weekend mourning lives lost in the conflict between Israel and Palestine and calling for an end to “apartheid” in the region. A fellow member from Michigan, Rep. Jack Bergman (R), filed the motion against her on Wednesday.

After the Hamas attacks on Saturday—which left more than 1,200 dead and included the kidnapping of roughly 150 people—Tlaib said that Israel’s “apartheid system” is what “creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance” in Palestine. She continued: “The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer. … As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”

Tlaib told the Free Press that her original comments had been distorted by critics, and said the violence committed by Hamas amounts to “war crimes.” But the “collective punishment of Palestinians” is also a war crime, she said.

“The violence needs to stop,” Tlaib said. “We need to follow international laws that protect the innocent. We can’t allow one group to [claim] the justification of more war crimes. Palestinian and Israeli lives are directly impacted if we don’t push to stop the violence.”

Republicans and Democrats alike have joined Bergman in attacking Tlaib for her stated support for Palestinian freedom and safety. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.)—who allegedly said all Muslims either should “feel guilty” or “are guilty” for Hamas’s violence during a closed-door congressional meeting this week—told Jewish Insider over the weekend, “It sickens me that while Israelis clean the blood of their family members shot in their homes, [she believes] Congress should strip U.S. funding to our democratic ally and allow innocent civilians to suffer.”

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) said on CNN that “it shouldn’t be hard to condemn terrorists and terrorism.”

But Tlaib’s comments “should not have been remotely controversial,” Beth Miller, political director of the Jewish Voice for Peace Action, told The Intercept. She continued, “There have been almost no members of Congress who have so much as acknowledged… there have been Palestinian civilians who have been killed by the Israeli military and by Israeli settlers.”

As of Thursday morning, the death toll of Palestinians in Gaza has climbed above 1,400, including almost 500 children, per the Palestinian Health Ministry, and these numbers are rapidly rising. Journalists in Gaza, seven of whom have been killed in Israeli attacks over the last few days, report mass casualties; lack of shelter; and dead bodies of women and children in the streets.

In her interview with the Free Press, Tlaib cautioned that it’s “dangerous” to call criticism of the Israeli government antisemitic, and said she’ll continue to call for it “to be held accountable for some of its atrocities,” even as she recognizes that’s “going to be incredibly difficult.”

“I’m going to remind them that a Palestinian life is just as important as an Israeli life,” Tlaib said.

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