Rashida Tlaib, Lone Palestinian-American in Congress, Rebukes Colleagues for Trying to Erase Gaza Death Toll

On Thursday, the House passed an Orwellian, nonsensical amendment that would block the State Department from using death toll numbers provided by the Gaza Health Ministry.

Rashida Tlaib, Lone Palestinian-American in Congress, Rebukes Colleagues for Trying to Erase Gaza Death Toll

As it currently stands, the Gaza Health Ministry estimates at least 37,700 Palestinians in Gaza (the majority being women and children) have been killed by Israeli forces since October. Tens of thousands are missing, and over a million are projected to face starvation within weeks. Yet, on Thursday, the House voted by a 269-144 margin for a nonsensical amendment to an appropriations bill (H.R. 8771 ) that will block the State Department from using death toll figures provided by the Gaza Health Ministry. Sixty-two Democrats joined 207 Republicans in supporting the amendment, while Democratic leadership, which typically offers a suggestion on which way to vote, gave “no recommendation.” 

The frankly Orwellian amendment to H.R. 8771 will prohibit the State Department from “using any funds from the international affairs budget to cite statistics obtained from the Gaza Health Ministry.” Now, the House needs to pass the full bill before it advances to the Senate.

Before the vote, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the lone Palestinian-American in Congress, gave an impassioned speech calling on her colleagues to recognize that disregarding the Gaza Health Ministry’s numbers is to deny horrific war crimes. “There is so much anti-Palestinian racism in this chamber that my colleagues don’t even want to acknowledge that Palestinians exist at all,” Tlaib said. “Not when they’re alive—and now, not even when they’re dead.” Tlaib called this “genocide denial.”

“There has been a coordinated effort, especially in this chamber, to dehumanize Palestinians and erase Palestinians from existence,” she continued. “The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians did not end in 1948—today, we are witnessing the Israeli apartheid government carry out a genocide in Gaza and in real time, and then this amendment is an attempt to hide it.”

Elsewhere in her short but impactful remarks, Tlaib cited the words of an Israeli defense minister who referred to Palestinians in Gaza last year as “human animals,” and read into the record the latest estimated death toll, as well as the gutting statistic that “six children are killed in Gaza every single hour.” 

“But Palestinians are not just numbers,” Tlaib said. “We should not be trying to hide it [the death toll]. These are innocent children and babies who have been bombed in their tents, burned alive, dismembered and deliberately starved to death. Where is our shared humanity in this chamber?”

As The Intercept notes, Gaza’s Ministry of Health is the only official organization keeping track of the death toll in Gaza, and its numbers have previously been cited by both the U.S. and Israeli governments, as well as organizations and agencies like the U.N., Doctors Without Borders, and other humanitarian groups. Still, even back in October, Biden dismissed the Gaza death toll, saying he had “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.” On top of their violent displacement, Palestinians are rarely given the privilege of credibility to even report their own experiences. 

As if the U.S.’s active, shameful role in the ongoing horrors in Gaza weren’t enough, across party lines, Congress is trying to erase it from public record. 

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