Congressional Comment

Rashida Tlaib: Some members of Congress didn’t really understand anti-BDS resolution

Democratic congresswoman said of her colleagues, ‘when you say one- or two-state solution, they don’t know what you’re talking about.’

Carlos Osorio/AP

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) said on Wednesday that some of her colleagues don’t understand much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tlaib said at least one member of Congress joined the resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel simply because so many other members had signed on. 

“When you say one- or two-state [solution], they don’t know what you’re talking about,” the congresswoman said, addressing a briefing on Capitol Hill organized by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). “I had a colleague ask me what the blockade in [Gaza] means… Another person actually signed onto the anti-BDS bill not understanding, but because they saw so many colleagues on there they said it must be important.”

The bill, a House resolution condemning BDS, passed with a near unanimous vote on Tuesday night, but caused internal conflict among some Democratic members of Congress.

Tlaib, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) are co-sponsors of a resolution that affirms the right to boycott and is viewed as a counter-effort to the anti-BDS bill. 

In her remarks Wednesday, Tlaib stressed that activists for Palestinian rights should engage with members of Congress.

“It gives us a tremendous opportunity for our cause, for human rights, and it’s going to make Israelis safer too,” Tlaib said Wednesday. “It’s not just about us, it’s about the whole country. And I got to tell you, they’re waiting for you to talk to them, they’re waiting for you to teach them.”

The AMP event focused on Israel’s treatment of U.S. citizens, specifically case studies of Americans and Palestinian-Americans either killed or injured by Israeli forces. Tlaib, addressing the event, spoke about restrictions on travel of U.S. citizens. Last week, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. issued a  statement ensuring that no member of Congress would be denied entry into Israel out of respect for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Tlaib and Omar, who plan to travel to the Palestinian Territories in August, potentially faced denial of entry into Israel for their support of the BDS movement. 

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, often speaks about her personal experiences growing up in Detroit and draws parallels between the African-American civil rights movement and the struggle for Palestinian rights. Tlaib described Israeli policies towards Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans as segregation. 

“People don’t like it when I say that, that’s what I feel like is happening,” she said. “But that is my lens. Write about it. You want to — don’t take it out of context of the fact that yes, this is a form of othering. This is a form of dehumanization, especially when you want to say, well, some Americans deserve less rights because they are of Palestinian descent and others don’t. I think that’s wrong and I think we need to push back against those kinds of racist policies in Israel.” 

She called for a closer look at the visa waiver program between Israel and the United States for American citizens who are denied entry through Tel Aviv and rerouted through Jordan. 

“When Americans, like my mother, [are] denied entry through Tel Aviv, and have to be forced through Jordan… it’s segregation,” she said. “People say to me they go through Tel Aviv, through Ben-Gurion Airport, and they hardly see Palestinians there and I think that’s very intentional.”

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