Words Matter: An Open Letter to Rep. Tlaib

Dear Congresswoman Tlaib,

You don’t know me, but I care about living in a world without bigotry and extremism more deeply than anything. That is why I was so happy when you were elected to Congress. You were an inspiration to millions of people, especially minority women like me, who saw that their dreams also mattered. Since you don’t know me, I’ll tell you that I was born to a Jewish family in Argentina, but that my parents moved us to the U.S. in 2002. They knew what terrorism and the lack of governmental response to terrorism looked like, and wanted to give us a better life than theirs back home.

As you know, this weekend, Israelis and Palestinians engaged in a surge of violence. Roughly 700 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel and over 300 targets in Gaza were struck by Israel. This resulted in unnecessary deaths and destruction on both sides.

Congresswoman, you have condemned Israel —and only Israel — as the culprit of the violence. In response to the New York Times headline that “Gaza Militants Fire 250 Rockets, and Israel Responds With Airstrikes,” you tweeted Sunday: “When will the world stop dehumanizing our Palestinian people who just want to be free? Headlines like this & framing it in this way just feeds into the continued lack of responsibility on Israel who unjustly oppress & target Palestinian children and families. #FreePalestine”

I mourn with the families of the roughly dozen civilian Palestinians who were killed. And I can simultaneously and wholeheartedly condemn Hamas terrorism against Israel’s civilian population. Why can’t you? Condemning violence on both sides is not only acceptable, but also necessary. It is arguably the first step to achieving peace. But your words seem to disagree.

I could delve into what “our Palestinian people” means —despite your job being to represent your constituents and Americans generally—but I won’t. I could also delve into Hamas’ actions as the agent causing the “dehumanizing” in Gaza, but you were likely referring to the occupation in the West Bank and misleading your followers once again. I won’t do that either. I’ll just say, Congresswoman, that I not only strongly disagree with your assessment, but that I am appalled and scared to be an American citizen with elected officials who speak the way you do. Your response is irresponsible and problematic at best and dangerous at worst.

You chose to sympathize with terrorism. You denied any wrong on the side of the Palestinian terrorists shooting rockets indiscriminately against Israeli citizens. You could have denounced Hamas and you did not. You co-opted the opportunity to stand with Palestinians and instead called to #FreePalestine, implying that a Jewish state in the land of Israel should not exist.

Congresswoman, the words we use matter. The words that our elected officials use matter even more. You are in a unique place to set an example for millions of people in this country and make policy that matters and that represents your constituents and American values. I venture to say that you aren’t doing that by perpetuating such a hateful and scary ideology.

I continue to see your candidacy and time in office as monumental. But please remember that with your privilege comes so much responsibility which you have unfortunately and dangerously ignored. My family knows what terrorism looks like and came to America with the hope that our officials would condemn and fight it. You have disappointed me, Congresswoman. I hope you will condemn Hamas alongside the unnecessary Israeli violence. If so, I would agree with you and fight alongside you to #FreePalestine.

Humbly,

Daniela Rojzman

About the Author
Daniela Rojzman is a junior in the Joint Program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary's Albert A. List College studying Political Science and Bible.
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