contentious comments

Democratic criticism of Tlaib continues, amid renewed censure effort

Several of Tlaib’s Democratic critics remain skeptical of efforts to censure the Michigan congresswoman, even after her latest inflammatory comments

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Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), one of only three Muslims serving in Congress, arrives for a classified closed-door briefing about Hamas' attack on Israel in the Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium on October 11, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Democratic criticism of Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) latest provocative comments on Israel grew on Monday, as Republicans introduced a pair of new efforts to formally censure the Michigan congresswoman. But among Democrats, there seems to be limited appetite for a formal vote to rebuke the congresswoman.

Tlaib on Friday accused President Joe Biden of supporting “genocide” and defended the slogan “from the river to the sea,” widely seen as a call for the destruction of Israel. The House may be forced to vote twice this week — as soon as Tuesday — on condemning her. Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) and Rich McCormick (R-GA) introduced separate censure resolutions on Monday, and both are demanding votes on their resolutions in the next two days.

Greene’s resolution is a slightly modified version of the censure she introduced last week, which failed amid opposition from 23 Republicans and all House Democrats. Her new resolution references Tlaib’s latest comments — describing them as a call for “the genocide of all Jews” — and replaces accusations of “insurrection” with alternative wording. It’s unclear if those changes will be sufficient to bring a critical mass of Republicans on board.

McCormick, who voted against Greene’s resolution last week, highlighted a variety of statements by Tlaib since the Oct. 7 attack, accusing her of “promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”

It alleges that Tlaib “defended” the Hamas attacks as “justified ‘resistance,’” “continued to knowingly spread the false narrative that Israel intentionally bombed the Al-Arab hospital” and ignored that U.S. missile-defense aid saved civilian lives in Israel. It also describes the “river to the sea” slogan as “widely recognized as a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people.”

McCormick’s legislation is likely to be favored by House leadership and is more likely to pick up Democratic support. Even so, many Democrats appear to be opposed to the idea of censuring Tlaib.

“We’ll see what happens,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), a leading pro-Israel Jewish Democrat, told Jewish Insider. “What I’m more inclined to do is try to get a security package passed that funds aid to Israel, aid to Ukraine, [and] takes care of the challenges we face.”

“People have a right to speak,” he continued, adding that the term “means the destructionthe genocide of the Jewish people. And people just need to understand that’s how it’s used.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) referred reporters to a post on X criticizing Tlaib’s comments when asked about the censure effort.

Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI), a Michigan progressive who has leaned into support for Israel and sparked a bitter feud with Tlaib, said he’s “not so sure she should be” censured, adding that the House needs to focus on finalizing spending bills.

“Many members of Congress say outrageous things,” Thanedar said. “We’ve got to honor their right to free speech, even though not everything they say is something we like or approve of.”

But Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) said on CNN he’d be supportive of a censure focused on Tlaib’s false claims about the hospital bombing and the “river to the sea” comments.

Democratic leaders are urging their members to oppose the censure efforts. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said that he is “of course” concerned about Tlaib’s defense of the “river to the sea” slogan but did not elaborate further.

Following the Republicans’ announcements, Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA), a progressive Jewish Democrat, announced an effort to censure Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) over comments questioning whether any Palestinian civilians are innocent.

Tlaib, in a statement responding to the new censure resolutions, accused lawmakers of seeking to silence her and of having “resorted to distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies.”

Meanwhile, criticisms of Tlaib from Democrats — including those in her state — continued yesterday.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) called Tlaib’s posts “very inflammatory language” and said he “would hope that in the future, she doesn’t use that type of language.” 

Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) rejected Tlaib’s comments in a statement to JI.

“‘From the river to the sea’ cannot be co-opted as anything other than what it is: painful and hateful language for the Jewish community which implies erasure of the State of Israel, home of the Jewish people,” Stevens said. “I condemn the use of this phrase, which is hurtful, offensive, and promotes anti-Jewish violence. The path forward must include self-determination and two states’ for two peoples.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told JI he had only seen Tlaib’s genocide accusation.

“I don’t agree with that,” Casey said. “The president is trying to do a difficult job and help the people of Israel, so I don’t agree.”

White House spokesperson John Kirby called the genocide accusations “irresponsible” yesterday.

Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA), a Jewish Democrat, said that the “river to the sea” slogan “is a call for the elimination of the State of Israel.”

“It is irresponsible and dangerous for a member of Congress to amplify this cry,” Schrier continued. “This is stoking the anti-semitism that is spiking in this country and around the world.”

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