Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian American Democrat who represents the state of Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives, clearly marches to her own drummer.
Although she is not the only Arab American in Congress, she is still its only representative who rejects Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and calls for a binational state in its place.
Tlaib was once an advocate of a two-state solution to settle Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, but in recent years she has drifted away from this pragmatic position and adopted the binational cause, leaving her as an outlier completely out of touch with congressional sentiment.
And now Tlaib, a member of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, is promoting a new, and outrageous, argument to defame Israel and its supporters in the United States. She claims, unjustifiably, that there is no room in the progressive camp for supporters of what she unfairly described as Israel’s “apartheid” government.
As she put it recently during an online forum organized by American Muslims for Palestine, “I want you all to know that among progressives, it’s become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel’s apartheid government, and we will continue to push back and not accept that you are progressive except for Palestine.”
To Tlaib, progressives who endorse her political, social and economic agenda but who nevertheless support Israel are dismissively and condescendingly defined as PEPs — “Progressives Except for Palestine.”
Having established a dubious anti-Zionist litmus test for Americans who disagree with her one-sided and unhelpful position on Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, Tlaib has offended some of her Democratic colleagues in Congress.
“I fundamentally reject the notion that one cannot support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and be a progressive,” tweeted Jerry Nadler of New York.
“There is nothing progressive about advocating the end of Israel,” Ritchie Torres of New York wrote on Twitter.
“Proud progressives do support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state,” said Debbie Wasserman of Florida. “Suggestions otherwise are shameful and dangerous.”
They are stating the obvious.
Much to her discredit, Tlaib has erected an artificial barrier between Americans in the progressive movement who support Israel and those who work for its disappearance.
By Tlaib’s skewed standard, progressive-minded politicians and citizens cannot support the cause of Jewish statehood while endorsing Palestinian statehood.
Tlaib’s all-or-nothing philosophy is ethnically self-centered, nasty and destructive. It serves no constructive objective and falls perfectly into line with the policy of Iran — a theocratic and totalitarian state that suppresses free speech and assembly and squelches women’s inalienable rights — and the policies of movements like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda and Islamic State, all of which decry progressive positions.
Contrary to Tlaib’s outlook, a progressive person can support human rights and fundamental freedoms without renouncing Israel’s right to exist. This is elementary.
Progressives can, and should, criticize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its failure to fully integrate Muslim and Christian Arabs into Israeli society. But they are on shaky ground when they suggest that a person cannot be simultaneously pro-Israel and progressive, as Tlaib erroneously claims.
Tlaib’s view should be regarded as an opinion among a multitude of opinions in the Democratic Party. It is not carved in stone. Nor is it representative of mainstream thinking in the party or in the country.
Tlaib is entitled to her views, but she should not be under the false impression that they represent the Democratic Party or American public opinion.