Rep. Rashida Tlaib censured by House of Representatives
Singled out for standing up unapologetically for the human rights of Palestinians and for advocating a ceasefire from retaliatory strikes by Israel that at presstime had killed more than 11,000 civilians, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 234-188, on November 7, to condemn Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), an Arab American Congresswoman and the first woman of Palestinian descent to serve on Capitol Hill.
Against the backdrop of large national and international demonstrations, demanding both a ceasefire and an end to the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure by the extremist right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, 22 House Democrats joined 212 House Republicans to submit a formal rebuke of Rep. Tlaib’s outspoken calls for peace in her ancestral homeland. Tlaib is the eldest of 14 children, born in Detroit to working-class immigrant parents, and still has family living in Palestine’s Occupied Territories.
“I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day.” Rep. Tlaib said in an October 8 press release from Washington regarding the Hamas attack and Israel’s retribution on the people of Gaza. “I am determined as ever to fight for a just future where everyone can live in peace, without fear, and with true freedom, equal rights, and human dignity. The path to that future must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffering, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance,” she said.
Nearly every aspect of Palestinian survival in Gaza is controlled by Israel through a decades-long land and sea blockade, restricting their access to food, clean water, electricity, medicine, and fuel. According to CIA.gov, nearly 40 percent of Gazans are under 14 years of age.
“I am calling for immediate de-escalation and ceasefire to save countless civilian lives, no matter their faith or ethnicity,” Rep. Tlaib said in a press release from her Washington, D.C., office on October 8, one day after Hamas carried out its attack on Israel. “The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer,” she said. “No person, no child anywhere should have to suffer or live in fear of violence.”
In a string of press releases issued by her office over the last month, Rep. Tlaib said non-violence is the only way to address grievances and to solve problems between oppressors and the oppressed. She also called for the U.S. government to listen to the majority of Americans that she believes want an end to the violence and killing. Massive demonstrations calling for a ceasefire and the delivery of vitally necessary humanitarian aid continue across the country and from overseas.
“Our government must lead with compassion for all civilians,” she said on October 13. “I believe in my heart that the majority of Americans want the killing and violence to stop. War crimes cannot be answered with war crimes,” the Michigan Representative said. “Millions of people in Gaza—half of them children—have been given an impossible 24-hour evacuation order, but they have nowhere to go,” Rep. Tlaib added.
“They have been cut off from electricity, food, and water for days. Hospitals are running out of electricity to keep babies and the injured alive. The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians is a war crime, the confirmed use of white phosphorus bombs in Gaza is a war crime, yet there are no statements demanding these violations stop from the American political establishment,” she said. “President Biden has not expressed one bit of empathy for the millions of Palestinian civilians facing brutal airstrikes and the threat of a ground invasion of Gaza that would intensify this humanitarian crisis.”
Describing how the House of Representatives’ decision to condemn Ms. Tlaib’s efforts to advocate for her constituents and to voice their desire to stop violence in both Israel and the Occupied Territories, political scientist, Dr. Wilmer Leon, host of the weekly talk show, “Inside the Issues,” on Sirius XM satellite radio, channel 126, told The Final Call that the construction of false narratives, to silence dissent, specifically toward those speaking against harmful government policies, violates the spirit and intent of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Some specific elements of the narratives that relate to this issue (are); one, speaking out against the genocide by the settler colonial government is anti-Semitic; two, that this is a fight of Hamas against Judaism because it is not,” Dr. Leon explained. “This is a fight against Zionism, that to be anti-Zionist is to be anti-Semitic, (and) that is not true because Zionism is a political ideology that is based in White supremacy, and Judaism is an age-old religion,” he added.
“Another lie is that all of the Jews in the world are standing behind Israel, (and) that is not true,” Dr. Leon continued. “You’ve got organizations such as ‘Not in Our Name,’ and I think, ‘Jews for Peace,’ are just two that come to mind, that are staunchly against this conflict. Another lie is that this whole thing jumped off on the 7th of October, over a 75-year history of oppression,” he said.
“The censure vote, and the passing of the censure vote, is a direct attack on Americans’ First Amendment right of free speech,” Dr. Leon insisted. “The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and here’s the hook; and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” he said. “Where better to petition the government for a redress of grievances than on the floor of the Congress of the United States?”
Marcus Muhammad, mayor of Benton Harbor, Michigan, who won a third term to office November 7, told The Final Call that servant leadership, and being true to one’s ethics and morals, makes those elected to political office more effective than those who are not. He said hard work and commitment to serving the people, rather than looking to be served, is what separates effective from ineffective leaders.
“If we look historically, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was censured by the United States Senate in 1984 with a vote of 95-0, and it only empowered his standing and his position as it relates to people seeing him as the champion of freedom, justice, and equality, not for just Black people, but for all people,” Mayor Muhammad explained, while describing how some have attempted to employ false narratives as cudgels for the maintenance of power and control over others.
“(But) the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said the censure was not even worth the paper that it was printed on, and (that) truth crushed to the ground will rise again. As a Muslim in government, with all of the hatred and negative press in today’s climate, it is very important that we stand for truth and be an example of the beauty of the message of Islam, which is peace, however, not on any term that would compromise the truth,” Mayor Muhammad said, describing how Representative Tlaib courageously serves as the latest example of speaking truth to power regardless of whom or what. Rep. Tlaib is also Muslim.
“Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is a fierce fighter and advocate for the poor, she partnered with other legislators, she came to the City of Benton Harbor on the effort to get all lead lines out of the ground in the State of Michigan, she voted and supported the American Rescue Plan Act, she voted and supported the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill that has helped not only her constituents, but many other urban cities in the State of Michigan,” Mayor Muhammad said. “So, I can only speak of the good work that she has done for her community and for her people, and I think that it’s very sad, in a very sad time in American politics, for her to be censured for speaking her mind.”
—William P. Muhammad, Contributing Writer