Who is Rashida Tlaib, why was the Palestinian-American lawmaker censured? | Israel-Palestine conflict News

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to censure its only Palestinian-American lawmaker, Rashida Tlaib, over her comments on the war between Israel and Hamas.

The resolution, which was backed by about 22 members of her Democratic party, alleged that Tlaib had “promoted false narratives” about the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel that killed more than 1,400 people. She was also accused of seeking the “destruction of Israel” – a charge she rejected.

So who is Rashida Tlaib, why exactly was she “censored,” what does that mean, and what happened during the tense meeting that culminated in a resolution passed against her?

Why was Tlaib censored?

The rare vote revealed a problem with the Democratic congressman’s embrace of the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a pro-Palestinian chant that has drawn criticism from Israel and its supporters in the West.

It claimed that the slogan is “widely recognized as a genocidal call to violence to destroy the State of Israel and its people.”

Tlaib has defended the slogan, saying it was an “ambitious call for freedom… and peaceful existence and not for death, destruction and hatred.”

During the debate, she and her progressive colleagues in the House of Representatives reiterated the call for a ceasefire, as the Israeli military offensive has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, including many children, in one month.

“The Palestinian people are not disposable,” said an emotional Tlaib.

Tlaib has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government over its treatment of Palestinians and had previously called for an end to Washington’s aid to Israel, including $3.8 billion in annual military aid.

She has criticized Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has overwhelmingly killed civilians, but has also repeatedly condemned the deadly attack by the armed Hamas group.

But her use of the word “resistance” in the aftermath of the Hamas attack was highlighted by the politicians who introduced the resolution. She had argued that “suffocating, dehumanizing conditions” in the Palestinian territories “could lead to resistance.”

Who is Rashida Tlaib?

The 47-year-old Democratic politician and attorney is a three-term Democratic congressman and currently serves as the representative for Michigan’s 12th congressional district.

She is the first woman of Palestinian descent in Congress and, along with Ilhan Oman, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

Tlaib and Omar are members of ‘The Squad’, an informal group of progressive members of Congress that includes Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

She was born in Detroit to working-class Palestinian immigrants and still has family in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

A view of the screen showing the House vote on Rashida Tlaib's censure
The end of voting on Tuesday, when the House of Representatives voted to censure Tlaib over her rhetoric on the war between Israel and Hamas (House Television via AP)

What does it mean to be censored?

Passing a censure resolution against a member of Congress is a serious form of formal public admonishment that is considered a last resort and one step below expulsion. But it has been used more frequently and in partisan ways recently.

Tlaib had avoided censure last week in another resolution filed by Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had accused her of “leading an insurrection” on Capitol Hill for speaking at a pro-Palestinian rally.

The 47-year-old lawmaker became the second member of the body to be censured this year, after the Democratic party’s Adam Schiff, who had a resolution passed against him in June over Republican grievances over his handling of the Trump-Russia investigation.

Historically, a censure is a rare move, with Congress having censured only 25 members before Tlaib throughout its history.

The first censure dates back to 1832, when a congressman was insulted for insulting the speaker during a floor debate.

Ilhan Omar was also formally admonished — but not condemned — in February when Republicans voted in favor of a resolution to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her criticism of Israel.

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The political division

A significant number of Democrats voted against Tlaib, while a handful of Republicans voted for her, showing political division on the sensitive issue.

The final vote was 234 to 188, with 22 House Democrats, including Jim Costa of California and four representatives from Florida, voting to censure Tlaib. Three Democrats and one Republican voted present. Four Republicans voted against the resolution, largely on freedom of speech grounds.

Jewish Democrat Brad Schneider, who voted against Tlaib, said he recognizes her right to free speech and views censorship as imperfect, “but unfortunately this is the only means available to formally punish the dangerous disinformation and smears that Tlaib uses.

Democrat Jamie Raskin, who defended Tlaib, said the resolution degrades the U.S. Constitution and “cheapens the meaning of discipline in this body for people who actually commit unlawful acts, such as bribery, fraud, violent assault, and so on.”

In a speech to the representatives, Tlaib defended herself, saying she “will not be silenced and I will not allow you to twist my words.”

She said her criticism has always been directed at Israel’s government and its leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and not at the Jewish people.

“The idea that criticizing Israel’s government is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent. And it is being used to silence diverse voices standing up for human rights across our country,” she said.

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