U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said Wednesday night that critics were deliberately misrepresenting her position to make her appear sympathetic to Hamas and its attacks on Israel, which she called “war crimes.”
In an interview with Free Press, Tlaib said that the atrocities committed by the organization are indefensible and the US government has designated it as a terrorist organization. . But she added that Israel had not carried out any extreme retaliation against Gaza civilians who launched the attack, nor had it committed human rights violations against Palestinians under Israeli control.
“This is a war crime,” she said of Saturday’s Hamas attack that killed some 1,200 people, many of them civilians, including women and children, and threatened that the group could kill Hostages taken during the attack. “This is a war crime, just as collective punishment of Palestinians is a war crime now.”
Israel has promised harsh retaliation, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Hamas, which controls Gaza, will “pay an unprecedented price”.
“The violence needs to stop,” Tlaib said. “We need to abide by international law that protects innocent people. We cannot allow one group to (claim) to justify more war crimes. If we do not work to stop the violence, Palestinian and Israeli life will be directly affected.”
Tlaib, who was first elected in 2018 as the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been a staunch critic of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, where her grandmother lived, and the inhabited Gaza Strip. Human rights groups say the Israeli blockade has turned the narrow swath of land into an “open-air prison”.
Tlaib said her office has received numerous death threats and said anti-Semitic criticism as she continues to speak out against conditions in the Palestinian territories is an effort to silence her and other critics. She also said it was “dangerous” to label any criticism of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic.
“I am the only Palestinian voice in Congress right now,” she said in response to a censure resolution introduced Wednesday against her by U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet). “If anything, my voice is needed here more than ever. This is an attempt to silence my voice because I want to stop the violence, whether it’s against Israelis or Palestinians. I learned from Jack and a guy Much of what was heard there from many other colleagues was rooted in prejudice that somehow, because of my race and my beliefs, I supported terrorism.”
On Wednesday night, Bergman announced his decision to condemn Tlaib on social media platform
Last weekend, Israel suddenly violated its blockade on the Gaza Strip and carried out an attack that killed more than 1,200 people, including at least 22 Americans, and took about 150 people hostage. Tlaib later issued an ambiguous statement condemning the violence but saying she blamed what she called Israel’s “apartheid” government.
“I am saddened by the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today and every day,” Tlaib said in a statement. “Equality rights and human dignity.” The path to the future must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling apartheid, which created suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that could lead to resistance. “
Tlaib said she hoped Bergman would call her instead of submitting a resolution so they could clear up the misunderstanding.
Bergman said he did not submit the resolution lightly but felt he had to. “We must be able to expose this unbridled evil in the world,” he said, citing reports of Hamas attackers raping women and killing innocent concertgoers and children.
Some Democrats joined Republicans in criticizing Tlaib’s initial remarks. When asked by about Tlaib’s response, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Lansing, said, “It shouldn’t be hard to condemn terrorists and terrorism.”
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday harshly condemned Hamas’ actions, saying there was no justification for the deadly sudden massacre and killing of civilians, calling it “pure, unadulterated evil.” He pledged that Israel would unequivocally support self-defense. Israel has promised harsh retaliation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip as conflict threatens to engulf the Gaza Strip.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Sanidal, D-Detroit, left the party after criticizing the Democratic Socialists of America for making pro-Palestinian comments without specifically condemning Hamas’ actions.
A censure involves a formal vote in the U.S. House of Representatives expressing the House’s displeasure with a member and his or her actions. It carries no specific penalties but can result in members being ostracized by other members of the party or losing leadership or committee positions.
Tlaib told Hurriyet she would not stop criticizing Netanyahu’s policies, although she admitted, “It’s going to be very difficult.”
“I want to remind them that Palestinian lives matter as much as Israeli lives,” she said, adding that the Israeli government “also must be held accountable for some of its atrocities.”
Contact Todd Spangler: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @tsspanler.