Censures are rare – only 25 US House lawmakers have been censured so far, with Rashida Tlaib becoming the 26th. She has also openly called out President Joe Biden for calling for a ceasefire, including in the form of a video where she criticised him for his open support of the Israeli violence.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rashida Tlaib, the sole Palestinian American in the US Congress, now finds herself completely isolated and the target of a concerted campaign revolving around her identity and her affirmation of the iconic Palestinian slogan – from the river to the sea.
Tlaib, Representative for Michigan’s 12th Congressional district, however, has not backed down and has committed to her position of advocating for Palestinian freedom.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, a mainstay of Palestinian protests, represents the occupied map of Palestine in its original form, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It is perhaps the most well-known Palestinian slogan in English, heard across the world in solidarity rallies, along with other iconic symbols such as Handhala, the watermelon, the flag, the kuffiyeh (chequered black and white headgear) and so on.
Now, right-wing and pro-Israel analysts around the world claim that it is a slogan that symbolises anti-Semitism, a desire to eliminate Jews from the region, and pro-Hamas in nature. Tlaib says that she believes that the phrase is “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”
What is more disturbing is that it was not only the Republicans who were after Ms. Tlaib, but even those who shared a party with her. While Rep. Jamie Raskin (Democrat from MD), a Jewish man stood in support of Rashida Tlaib, it was shocking that 22 other Democrats of the House of Representatives supported the censure motion against her.
Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also spoke out against Tlaib’s censure.
“The House should pass desperately needed aid for Gaza, work to stop the conflict in the Middle East, and address the pressing needs of the American people,” Sanders wrote. “Instead they voted to censure my friend @RashidaTlaib, the only Palestinian-American in Congress. Pathetic and shameful!”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democratic representative, said: “It is not lost on anyone how many offensive, violent, and racist things people regularly hear members of Congress say, yet virtually the only one that gets censured for her political speech also happens to be the only Palestinian American.
“It does not reflect well. At all,” said.
The move to censure Tlaib in a resolution introduced by Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., was approved in the House by a vote of 234-188. Most House Republicans voted in favour of the measure along with a handful of House Democrats. The resolution claimed she was “promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”
An earlier resolution by right-wing Trump supporter and controversial conservative Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene attempted to do the same but was rejected due to the framing of the resolution.
This comes at a time when Arab and Muslim members of the Democratic Party are increasingly joining calls to refuse to support President Joe Biden in the coming national elections unless he commits to a ceasefire. Biden is widely seen to have lost a great deal of trust among some of the core constituents of the Democratic Party, even in an election which sees the primary opponent being Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, Tlaib spoke passionately in response to the censure, holding up a picture of her grandmother: “We are human beings just like anyone else. My sity, my grandmother – like all Palestinians – just wants to live her life with freedom and human dignity we all deserve,” she said.
“Speaking up to save lives no matter faith, no matter ethnicity should not be controversial in this chamber. The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinian children sound different to you all. We cannot lose our shared humanity.”
Censures are rare – only 25 House lawmakers have been censured so far, with Tlaib becoming the 26th. Tlaib has also openly called out President Joe Biden for calling for a ceasefire, including in the form of a video where she criticised him for his open support of the Israeli violence.