First-term Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has already shoved her stake into Capitol Hill’s virtual ground declaring her intention to lead her own congressional delegation to Israel’s disputed territories in biblical Judea and Samaria, otherwise called the West Bank. Like actress Bette Davis famously said in her 1950 movie ALL ABOUT EVE, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” My line; Fasten your seatbelts, Congress. It’s going to be a bumpy two years.
Rep. Tlaib and I diverge on our Israel perspective; although I am impressed with her drive as the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. She learned English, earned a law degree, and served for six years in Michigan’s legislature where she advocated for low income citizens. On her Tweet profile, Ms. Tlaib describes herself saying, “Unbossed Congresswoman for Michigan’s #13districtstrong, Mama working for justice, social worker at heart, Detroiter, Palestinian American, proud Muslima.” I guess the word “Unbossed” is a signal to members of congress-and beyond-including her House boss Nancy Pelosi. Time will tell.
In her successful 2018 campaign, the Congresswoman welcomed support from Jane Fonda and Michael Moore. She has accepted awards from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) despite their questionable ties to terrorists. She has made her pro-Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) opinion clear in opposing anti-BDS legislation. The United States Senate is currently working to pass the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.” (S. 1) It contains four bipartisan initiatives which include legislation to prevent the BDS economic warfare against Israel. I just contacted my Senators asking them to vote in favor of this bill. Rep. Tlaib would not agree!
In an early January dust-up in Congress, Rep. Tlaib spoke out against supporters of the anti-BDS legislation by saying that members of Congress “…forgot what country they represent.” Her comment was a throw-back to classic antisemitism that accuses American Jews of dual loyalties. Will Ms.Tlaib maintain a single loyalty as an American and member of the US Congress?
Jonathan S.Tobin, editor in chief, Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) comments in his recent article… “Nothing in federal law would prevent state and local governments from passing legislation barring contracts to businesses that are part of the effort to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. Of course, it’s legal to boycott anything you don’t like. Just as no one can or should be prevented from speaking out against Israel. Even the most vicious anti-Semitic libels are legally protected when it comes to free speech, provided they aren’t linked to violence. But organized commercial boycotts rooted in bias are illegal. BDS is a campaign of discrimination against the one Jewish state on the planet and therefore anti-Semitic.”
Walking into Congresswoman Tlaib’s office in Washington DC at 1628 Longworth Building, you might notice the map on her wall which reads “Palestine” instead of “Israel.”
Maybe she does not yet know-or accept-that the US, Canada, Japan, Israel, most of the European Union and others do not recognize “Palestine” as a country. (And a side note to Texas Republican Rep. Brian Babin: He sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her not to approve Tlaib’s trip saying it could “undo years of goodwill built by the foreign policy and Israeli-American communities.” His letter to Pelosi wrongly and repeatedly calls it a trip to “Palestine.”
When talking about the goals of her trip, Rep. Tlaib wants to focus on education, access to clean water, and poverty. She also wants to take the delegation to her family village where her grandmother lives. Tlaib specifically denounces the American Israel Education Foundation’s (AIEF) trips saying they are one-sided. The trip for freshmen members of Congress traditionally takes place in August in non-election years. AIEF is a foundation associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It’s a bipartisan 501-c-4 membership organization, not a PAC. Although numerous Democrats and Republicans participate in the intensive educational trip, she seems unaware that the lawmakers are always scheduled to meet and talk with Palestinian Authority leaders, educators, and journalists and travel to Ramallah in armored SUVs. Currently, she is not including meetings with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
In a December 2018 interview with The Intercept, an online news outlet describing itself as “adversarial journalism,” she comments about her proposed trip.“I want us to see that segregation and how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region.”
If I interviewed Rep. Tlaib about programming for her trip I’d include a few of these questions which could hopefully dispel her uninformed, slanderous accusation of apartheid and segregation.
• Are you meeting with an Arab member of Knesset like Haneen Zoabi, the first Arab woman elected on an Arab party list?
• Will your group tour Hadassah Hospital and talk with Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians who work side by side to save lives?
• Jews and Palestinians work together at Barkan Industrial Zone. Wouldn’t you like to observe their cooperation?
• How about a visit to ONO College near Tel Aviv. It’s 14,000 students are Druze, Bedouin, Palestinians, Ethiopian-Israelis, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and students with special needs. Do you know that Ono’s academic excellence is matched with its goal of inclusivity?
• Might your group want to meet with Avraham Yitzhak, Israel Defense Forces first Ethiopian Colonel? Do you realize that Israel is the only nation in the world that has brought Africans to freedom rather than slavery?
• Will you take a quick trip to Israel Museum to view the recently discovered 2500 year-old column with the word “Jerusalem” engraved in the Aramaic language?
And lastly, will your delegation travel south to the Gaza Envelope to view the burned fields? How about crowding inside one of the 3oo portable bomb shelters? Might you go to Ashkelon to a low-income kindergarten equipped with two bomb shelters on their playground? Maybe their teachers would allow you to talk with some of their traumatized children.
Here’s a frequent Tlaib quote: “As I like to say, time to clear out the room and send some Moms to fix this crisis.” Is it too much to ask this dedicated Mom to “clear out” the propaganda and look at both sides of the issue?