The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to censure Rashida Tlaib, its sole Palestinian-American lawmaker, over her remarks regarding the Israel’s war on Gaza.
The resolution, supported by 22 members of her own Democratic party, alleged that Tlaib had been spreading what they deemed to be ‘false narratives’ concerning the October 7 Hamas attack in Israel. She was also accused of advocating for the ‘destruction of Israel,’ a charge she vehemently denied.
Tlaib’s colleagues accused her of adopting the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a pro-Palestine chant that has raised criticism from Israel and its Western supporters.
The resolution contended that this slogan is commonly seen as a call for violence and the destruction of Israel and its people. Tlaib, on the other hand, defended the slogan, stating that it represents an “aspirational call for freedom… and peaceful existence and not death, destruction and hate.”
Tlaib who had previously called for an end to Washington’s aid for Israel, including $3.8bn in annual military assistance, has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government for its treatment of Palestinians.
Though she condemned the Hamas attack against Israel, her use of the word “resistance” in the wake of it was highlighted by the politicians who introduced the resolution.
Tlaib had argued that “suffocating, dehumanising conditions” in the Palestinian territories could “lead to resistance.”
Rashida Tlaib, 47, is a three-term Democrat congresswoman and currently serves as the representative for Michigan’s 12th congressional district.
She is the first woman of Palestinian descent in Congress and, alongside Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
She was born in Detroit to working-class Palestinian immigrants and still has family in the West Bank occupied by Israel, according to Al Jazeera.
Censuring a member of Congress is a significant formal public reprimand, often considered a last-resort punishment just one step below expulsion. However, there has been a recent increase in its use, often in a more partisan manner.
A censure is a rare move, with Congress only having censured 25 members before Tlaib during its entire history.
According to Al Jazeera, a considerable number of Democrats voted against Tlaib, while a handful of Republicans voted in her favour, displaying political divisions over the sensitive issue.
The final vote was 234 to 188, and 22 House Democrats, including Jim Costa of California and four representatives from Florida, voted to censure Tlaib. Three Democrats and one Republican voted present. Four Republicans voted against the resolution, largely on grounds of freedom of speech.
In her recent statement, she said: “It’s a shame my colleagues are more focused on silencing me than they are on saving lives, as the death toll in Gaza surpasses 10,000. Many of them have shown me that Palestinian lives simply do not matter to them, but I still do not police their rhetoric or actions. Rather than acknowledge the voice and perspective of the only Palestinian American in Congress, my colleagues have resorted to distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies. I have repeatedly denounced the horrific targeting and killing of civilians by Hamas and the Israeli government, and have mourned the Israeli and Palestinian lives lost.”
She went on to say: “Meanwhile, each day that passes without a ceasefire brings more death and destruction upon innocent civilians, who have nowhere safe to go, drawing outrage and condemnation from the American people and the international community. A majority of Americans support a ceasefire, but this Congress isn’t listening to their voices. I will continue to call for a mutual ceasefire, for the release of hostages and those arbitrarily detained, for the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid, and for every American to be brought home. I will continue to work for a just and lasting peace that upholds the human rights and dignity of all people, centers peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, and ensures that no person, no child has to suffer or live in fear of violence.”