To the Honorable Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
On 25 June, Representative Rashida Tlaib spread untrue information in a Twitter post that had the potential to ignite conflict.
Here, in Israel, words are so powerful that people sometimes die when false statements are spoken and heard.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib claimed on June 25 that Israeli forces perpetrated an attack on the holy al-Aqsa mosque, desecrating it with raw sewage, when in fact this never happened.
Nearly a kilometer away a police truck used a water spray against rioters. This is not an attack on a Muslim holy site.
I am not writing with any suggestion regarding Representative Tlaib’s motivation for spreading such untrue information. I am not politicizing the incident in question.
Whether by intentionally misinforming the world that Israel attacked al-Aqsa, which it did not, or if done by mistake through use of incorrect information she believed, without proof or merit, to be true, the result of her speech was that a lie was spread with the power of the Congress of the United States and Representative Tlaib bears full responsibility for her part in the spread of this misinformation.
The Congresswoman has the weight and abilities of her US Congressional office with which to check facts and ensure that information she distributes is true.
I have no doubt she could have contacted the office of the Foreign Ministry to seek clarification of facts in question before dissemination of lies.
I do not claim the lie of Israeli aggression against al-Aqsa originated with Representative Tlaib. But she spread the untruth.
In this region such untruth can incite violence.
Forgive me, Madam Speaker, and allow me with respect to present an historical example of such misinformation causing death and destruction for both Jews and Arabs of which I am sure you are aware.
In 1929, prior to the creation of the state of Israel and during the rule of the British Mandate, lies about Jews attacking Muslim sites on the Temple Mount spread — without the speed of the Internet- and resulted in riots in Jerusalem and Sefad and the Hebron massacres in which nearly 70 Jews were murdered by Arab mobs believing Jews were attacking Muslim holy sites.
The believed untruth also resulted in later riots causing the deaths of hundreds of Jews and Arabs in British Mandate Palestine as well as the expulsion of Jews from the second most holy city in Judaism, Hebron.
Every aware and educated person from this region or with influence over this region or a voice commanding power, as Representative Tlaib has, and who speaks about the region in any capacity can be expected to know about this chapter in history when misinformation brought riots and destruction and death.
If one is unaware of the ability of incorrect information, specifically regarding Muslim holy sites, to spread and result in violence, one should not be speaking to these issues.
Specifically, one should remain silent when such speech constitutes gross misinformation that potentially endangers the lives of Jews and Arabs alike, as Representative Tlaib has.
Speaker Pelosi, I, as a Jew and an Israeli born in America, whose father Julian Tepper, blinded in one eye at age six when shot with an arrow in a racist antisemitic attack in 1946 Washington, D.C., but who later worked for the US government as an attorney desegregating Texas and Florida, was a negotiator at Attica and DC Jail riots and secured educational rights for the mentally disabled through the Watty Decree, and whose mother, Myrna Statland was a reporter at WUSA CBS affiliate channel 9 in Washington, DC, won the Ted Yates Award for Excellence in journalism and whose death was marked by both the Maryland state senate and the honorable President Bill Clinton, I ask, with a value for truth engrained in me by my parents who fought for the betterment of the USA, for clarity on Representative Tlaib’s statements.
I do not mention justice. I fear in today’s honorable pursuit to create a more just society for all peoples, truth is at times ignored as calls for justice are used to promote a certain agenda, narrative or position or person over some other.
Again, I address what I see as a problem and am making every effort to avoid politicization of that problem.
I gave up internships with then-Representative Connie Morello, an associate you had in common with my parents, and the White House, in 1997, when, rather spend half a year or so learning the ways of DC, I chose to drop out of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and travel to my people’s ancestral and indigenous home of Israel, now possible after 2000 years of forced exile.
I wanted to serve in an IDF combat unit, my obligation, I believed, in the name of all those turned into ash and soap during the War when the world watched us Jews being slaughtered and we had no home. As well, a reason I fight for truth. I eventually returned to school and was awarded a BA in political science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I worked in the Knesset for six months with the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus.
I have no interest in politics with this letter. I speak of truth and speech and the power of the word.
I also served 12 years military combat reserves. I survived terror attacks in Jerusalem during the Second Intifada, waged by the Palestinian Authority after it refused a peace deal with over 90% of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.
But I was injured – with PTSD – which years later allowed schizoaffective disorder to emerge while in my 30s. I know the price of war. I am walking wounded and will be until I die. This is why I take such issue with Representative Tlaib’s remarks. Her words have the power to result in such conflict. She must be held to account.
Here, in Israel, words are so powerful that people die when the wrong ones are spoken and heard.
I am appealing to your leadership and counsel and ask you to please address this dangerous pattern coming from certain elements within Congress, as in this case through the speech of Representative Tlaib.
Thank you. May God bless you and your work and the United States Congress.