- House censures Rashida Tlaib for Israel-Hamas comments.
- Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, criticized for “false narratives” and advocating Israel’s “destruction.”
- Censure is formal reprimand, increasingly used in recent times.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American lawmaker, over her comments on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The resolution, supported by 22 members of her own Democratic party, accused Tlaib of spreading “false narratives” about the October 7 Hamas attack in Israel that resulted in over 1,400 casualties. She was also alleged to be advocating for the “destruction of Israel,” a charge she denied. This action essentially serves as a formal reprimand for her controversial remarks. The censure resolution was passed following a tense meeting in the House of Representatives.
Why was Tlaib censured?
The uncommon vote highlighted concerns about the Democratic congresswoman’s adoption of the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a pro-Palestine chant that has raised scrutiny from Israel and its Western supporters.
It claimed the slogan “is widely recognised as a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people”.
Tlaib has defended the slogan saying it was an “aspirational call for freedom… and peaceful existence and not death, destruction and hate”.
During the debate she along with her progressive colleagues in the House reiterated a call for a ceasefire as the Israeli military offensive has killed over 10,000 Palestinians, many of them children, in one month.
“Palestinian people are not disposable,” an emotional Tlaib said.
Tlaib, known for her vocal criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, previously advocated for ending Washington’s aid to Israel, which amounts to $3.8 billion in annual military assistance. She has condemned both the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which disproportionately affects civilians, and the deadly attack by the Hamas armed group.
However, the use of the term “resistance” in the context of the Hamas attack was a focal point for the politicians who introduced the censure resolution. Tlaib had argued that the “suffocating, dehumanizing conditions” in Palestinian territories could lead to resistance.
It’s important to note that this vote against Tlaib occurred amid increased inflammatory language from some right-wing figures, including members of Congress, regarding Palestinians in the aftermath of the Hamas attack. Representative Max Miller called for disregarding the laws of war, while Senator Lindsey Graham suggested that Gaza should be “flattened
Who is Rashida Tlaib?
Rashida Tlaib, a 47-year-old Democrat with a legal background, holds the position of a three-term congresswoman. She represents Michigan’s 12th congressional district. Notably, Tlaib is the first woman of Palestinian descent to serve in Congress and, along with Ilhan Omar, one of the initial two Muslim women to be elected to the U.S. Congress. She is part of “The Squad,” an informal collective of progressive Congress members that includes figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Born in Detroit to working-class Palestinian immigrants, Tlaib maintains connections with her family in the West Bank, a region occupied by Israel.
What does it mean to be censured?
Issuing a censure resolution against a member of Congress is a significant and formal public reprimand, considered a last-resort form of punishment, just one step short of expulsion. However, recent trends have seen an increase in its use, often along partisan lines.
In a previous instance, Tlaib escaped censure in a resolution filed by Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who accused her of “leading an insurrection” on Capitol Hill for her participation in a pro-Palestinian rally. This marked Tlaib as the second member to face censure in the year, following Democrat Adam Schiff, who had a resolution passed against him in June due to Republican concerns regarding his handling of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Historically, censures are rare, with only 25 instances in the entire history of Congress before Tlaib’s case. The first censure dates back to 1832 when a congressman was censured for insulting the speaker during a floor debate.
Additionally, in February, Ilhan Omar faced formal admonishment, though not censure, when Republicans voted for a resolution to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee due to her criticism of Israel.
The political divisions
A notable number of Democrats cast votes against Tlaib, while a few Republicans supported her, underscoring the deep political divisions surrounding this sensitive issue.
In the final tally of 234 to 188, 22 House Democrats, including Jim Costa of California and four representatives from Florida, voted in favor of censuring Tlaib. Three Democrats and one Republican voted “present.” Four Republicans opposed the resolution, primarily citing concerns about freedom of speech.
Jewish Democrat Brad Schneider, who voted against Tlaib, acknowledged her right to freely express herself and viewed censure as an imperfect but necessary means to formally address the “dangerous disinformation and aspersions” propagated by Tlaib.
Democrat Jamie Raskin, who defended Tlaib, said the resolution degrades the US Constitution and “cheapens the meaning of discipline in this body for people who actually commit wrongful actions like bribery, fraud, violent assault and so on”.
In a speech for the representatives, Tlaib defended herself by saying she “will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words”.
Tlaib clarified that her criticism has consistently been aimed at the Israeli government and its leadership led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasizing that it was not directed at Jewish individuals.
“The idea that criticising 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,” she said.
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