Rashida Tlaib, elected to 13th Congressional District of Michigan, stands in front of US Capitol Building
Every year, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC sponsors an all-expense paid trip for Congressional members, seeking to bolster support for Israel. In most recent years, the Democratic trip has been led by Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD-5). Incoming Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-32) is expected to lead the Republican delegation.
These junkets gloss over the daily, decades-long pervasive violation of Palestinian’s rights by the Israeli government. They serve as a platform for the Israeli government to present its views unchallenged. AIPAC and the Israeli government prioritize new legislators, hoping to influence their formative views.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), who is the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress announced last month that she will not participate in this one-sided propaganda trip. Instead, she plans to lead a competing delegation on a tour of the West Bank.
Well, it seems this is not sitting well with several of her colleagues, who consider it dangerously presumptuous of a Palestinian-American woman to lead a delegation to her family’s home.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., told Al-Monitor this week that he’s against a West Bank delegation.
“Instead of her talking about things, she’s new here, she ought to listen and learn and open her mind and then come to some conclusions,” Engel told Al-Monitor. “If you’re going to be close-minded and have your views, no one’s going to change her views. But I would hope that once you’re elected to Congress, you would at least care to see the other side of the coin.” — www.al-monitor.com/…
Official Congressional delegations must be approved by the House speaker or the chair of a committee the Representative sits on. Though Rep. Tlaib isn’t on Rep. Engel’s committee, since he sits on Foreign Affairs, his views carry weight with others. Rep. Tlaib knows this.
Yo @RepEliotEngel, how are we ever going to obtain peace? I hope youÃ¢ÂÂll come with me on the trip to listen and learn. My sity (grandmother) will welcome you with an embrace & love. Please feel free to call me if you have anything to say. I am your colleague now.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) January 31, 2019
Rep. Tlaib is showing an enormous amount of maturity here.
There is no value in powerful US lawmakers receiving one-sided views. Yet, that is exactly what many others in Congress want.
Tlaib’s opponents are already appealing to Democratic leadership. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, has sent letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and all committee leaders asking them not to approve Tlaib’s request, Politico reported earlier this month.
“This is not partisan,” Babin told Al-Monitor. “My concern is the relationship between the United States and Israel. And when you have a [congressional delegation] specifically to one of the bigger threats to Israel, then I think that could pose some threat and risk as far as the American-Israeli relationship.” — www.al-monitor.com/…
Not unsurprisingly, the rights of millions of Palestinians do not figure in Babin’s statement. They simply don’t exist, except as a bogey-man “threat”. The fact that the Israeli state visits violence on Palestinians in vast amounts is ignored as well. That ignorance is exactly what Rep. Tlaib’s planned delegation seeks to remedy.
Babin went on to say that because Rep. Tlaib referred to President Trump with an expletive a few weeks ago, that makes her unsuitable to lead a diplomatic delegation. If that’s a disqualification, then I’m pretty comfortable saying 98% of American politicians are unsuitable to lead a diplomatic delegation.
Even more outrageously, Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY-1) has proposed a resolution to condemn Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar, accusing them of anti-semitism. The resolution (H. Res. 72) has 22 co-sponsors, all Republican. They claim this is similar to the resolution condemning Steve King’s white supremacy comments.
In reality, these Congressmen are fighting a losing battle. Ordinary Americans’ views on Israel/Palestine are changing. A solid majority of Democrats now believe sanctions should be imposed on Israel if settlements in the West Bank continue to expand.
while most Americans have probably never heard of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that Hill backs, our poll shows that a large number of Americans support imposing sanctions or more serious measures if Israeli settlements in the West Bank continue to expand: 40 percent of Americans support such measures, including a majority of Democrats (56 percent). This comes as senators, including Democrats, are proposing, despite continued ACLU opposition, to delegitimize and criminalize voluntary boycotts of Israel or settlements through the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, while not differentiating between Israeli settlements in the West Bank from those in Israel proper. — foreignpolicy.com/…
The NYT has an article up about the attacks on Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Omar that is worth a read: From Celebrated to Vilified, House’s Muslim Women Absorb Blows Over Israel
And while Democratic leaders publicly defend them, some Democratic colleagues are clearly uneasy. Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida and a founder of a bipartisan task force to combat anti-Semitism, said some of the lawmakers’ comments “fall into longstanding anti-Semitic tropes.” When Ms. Omar was named to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, its chairman, Representative Eliot Engel of New York, told her privately that he would not allow some of her “particularly hurtful” remarks to be “swept under the rug,” Mr. Engel said.