Thanedar denounces Tlaib and renounces DSA membership

‘Calling this resistance is dehumanizing. Calling this resistance is denying the suffering of ordinary people, innocent people,’ Thanedar told Jewish Insider, referring to Hamas terror attacks

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI) arrives to the U.S. Capitol for the last votes of the week on Thursday, July 20, 2023.

Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI) lambasted his Michigan Democratic colleague, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, for characterizing Hamas’ attack on Israel as “resistance,” in an interview with Jewish Insider on Wednesday — minutes after publicly renouncing his lifetime membership in the Democratic Socialists of America over the group’s stance on the Hamas attack.

“Everyone needs to unite, denouncing terrorism, as opposed to trying to glorify it,” Thanedar told JI. “Calling this resistance is dehumanizing. Calling this resistance is denying the suffering of ordinary people, innocent people that had nothing to do with any of this.”

“At a time like this, for a member of Congress to call them militants, and resistance, as a result of whatever Israel may have done in the past is totally insensitive,” he continued — without specifically mentioning Tlaib by name, “and we don’t need such hate and bigotry and antisemitism in the halls of Congress.”

The first-term lawmaker — who at one point in his Michigan Statehouse career aligned with critics of Israel — has evolved into a committed pro-Israel progressive since coming to Congress.

“There are no two sides to it when babies have been beheaded and people have been murdered — civilians been murdered, kidnapped,” Thanedar said.

He said he had not spoken to Tlaib yet about her comments, but that if he did, he would convey a similar message in person. Thanedar did not respond to an initial inquiry from JI about Tlaib’s statement the day after the attack.

Tlaib told the Michigan Advance on Wednesday that she does not support the targeted killing of Israeli or Palestinian civilians, adding “the fact that some have suggested otherwise is offensive and rooted in bigoted assumptions about my faith and ethnicity.” The day before, she had ignored questions from a Fox News reporter about whether she supported the Hamas atrocities.

Thanedar told JI that he still considers himself a progressive — emphasizing that his policies on other issues from health care to racial justice haven’t changed — but said he “can no longer associate” with the DSA after it promoted a rally in Times Square at which speakers expressed support for Hamas.

“This organization has lost it now,” he said. “I considered staying in DSA and helping them understand this, but this is beyond something that I can help them understand. I think this is a deep-rooted hatred, is a deep-rooted antisemitism. And I do not want to associate with them.”

Thanedar emphasized that he believes that the current conflict is “not business as usual” or akin to any of the other Middle East crises that have arisen in recent years, pointing to the massive loss of life in Israel — the largest mass killing of Jews in one day since the Holocaust. “We have had conversations about a two-state solution, we’ve talked about what needs to happen, but this is not the time to talk about that,” he said. 

As the conflict moves forward, in order to maintain the strong bipartisan support for Israel that has emerged in the immediate aftermath of the attack, Thanedar said it will be important to continue to emphasize that “there is nothing progressive about defending terrorism, there is nothing socialistic about defending terrorism.”

“We need to continue to remind our colleagues that we have Hamas as a U.S. State Department-recognized terrorist organization,” he said. “Progressives who understand that… we need to provide that leadership, we need to provide that education into the progressive fold.”

Thanedar also said that he doesn’t believe the U.S. or the world should be “telling Israel how they should respond” to the attack, emphasizing that it’s Israel’s right to protect itself and respond on its own terms.

“I think we should let Israel decide how this will be dealt with so that we don’t see these kind of atrocities again,” he said.

The Detroit congressman emphasized that he wants the Jewish community to know that he stands with it and with Israel, and “understand[s] the hurt and trauma that they are dealing with right now.”

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