The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to censure Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of Congress, for her criticisms of Israel's repeated human rights abuses on Palestinian civilians.
The resolution holds no consequences beyond public shaming for the Michigan Democrat, who was accused of "anti-Semitism" for using a Pro-Palestinian slogan. Rep. Rich McCormick (R-GA) introduced the measure, accusing Tlaib of “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel" through her rhetoric.
The saying Tlaib used in a recent video — "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" — invokes the historic borders of Palestine, but activists maintain that it is not a call for the ethnic cleansing or removal of Israeli civilians. Tlaib herself described the chant an "aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate."
“It’s a shame my colleagues are more focused on silencing me than they are on saving lives, as the death toll in Gaza surpasses 10,000," she said in response to the censure. "Many of them have shown me that Palestinian lives simply do not matter to them, but I still do not police their rhetoric or actions. Rather than acknowledge the voice and perspective of the only Palestinian American in Congress, my colleagues have resorted to distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies."
Rep Tlaib accuses Biden of supporting genocide
In her video, Tlaib accused President Joe Biden of facilitating genocide through his unconditional support of Israel. She also received criticism for referring to the conflict as a "genocide," despite the United Nations using the word when issuing a warning of genocide against the Palestinian people several weeks ago.
After 22 Democrats joined Republicans in censuring the representative, returning a vote of 234 to 188, Tlaib held firm as she addressed her colleagues.
"I will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words," she said on the House floor. "No government is beyond criticism. The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent, and it's been used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation."
Over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's retaliation against Hamas so far, over 4,000 of whom were children. An additional 3,000 of the total were women and the elderly.
According to a recent poll from Data for Progress, 66 percent of Americans support a ceasefire across party lines in order to prevent civilian deaths in Gaza. Despite this, the White House has not yet used the term, instead calling for "humanitarian pauses."
A tracking poll from Gallup found an 11 percentage point drop in President Joe Biden’s approval rating among Democrats in the past month. A separate poll from by the American Arab Institutelast week shows his approval rating has particularly plummeted among Arab Americans – from 74 percent in 2020 to 29 percent now.
Arab Americans were a force behind Biden's victories in several swing states in 2020. Tlaib is widely beloved in her Michigan district, which is home to a large Arab American population, suggesting that while her seat may be safe, voters could be dissuaded from backing the Democratic Party, as she warned in her video.
Following the vote, progressive Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota also rebuked her colleagues in a speech that has since gone viral online, gaining over 1 million views on X, formerly known as Twitter. She accused Republicans of a "glaring hypocrisy" following Rep. Max Miller's Fox News interview in October where he said "we're going to turn [Gaza] into a parking lot."
"Nobody condemned him on that side of the aisle. What is true here is that every single one of [Republicans] has not acknowledged the fact that Palestinians are dying in their tens of thousands, but will continue to say it is us who are not acknowledging humanity," Omar said. "Rashida will stand strong and the Palestinian movement will continue for liberation until every single Palestinian has the right to live in liberty."
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