Late Tuesday night, as Democrats across the country were celebrating election day victories, a small group of House Democrats joined House Republicans on a 234-188 vote to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the only Palestinian-American in Congress.
Tlaib has been extremely critical of President Biden’s handling of the war. She has repeatedly called for a ceasefire and has accused Biden of supporting a genocide in Gaza. When looking at the numbers, it’s hard to argue against that.
Since the terror attacks committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, Israeli military bombing campaigns have killed over 10,569 Palestinians in Gaza. Airstrikes have displaced nearly 70% of the population in what the United Nations has described as a “crisis of humanity.”
Proponents of her censure argued that Tlaib’s rhetoric was antisemitic. Tlaib, someone who has family in the West Bank, has had to sit back and watch her people be bombed day in and day out. She has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government, military and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I am not sure what people expected her to say in response to such brutality.
I want to be clear: Antisemitism has risen sharply in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. It is evil, disgusting and I am against it. That being true should not prevent us from being able to talk about the violence that is being committed by the Israeli government in Gaza, which is what Tlaib has repeatedly been doing.
In a statement, Tlaib said that “It’s a shame my colleagues are more focused on silencing me than they are on saving lives, as the death toll in Gaza surpasses 10,000. Many of them have shown me that Palestinian lives simply do not matter to them, but I still do not police their rhetoric or actions.”
Now, the most blatant charge of Jewish hatred stemmed from Tlaib posting of a video with the phrase “From the River to the Sea.” Some critics like Yehudah Mirsky, a Jerusalem-based rabbi and professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, have argued that the slogan “sounds much more like a threat than a promise of liberation. It doesn’t mean a future in which Jews can have full lives and be themselves.”
However, Palestinian-American writer Yousef Munayyer disagrees with this definition. Instead, Munayyer argues the slogan envisions a future in which “Palestinians can live in their homeland as free and equal citizens, neither dominated by others nor dominating them.”
With that being said, two things can be true. We can acknowledge that the phrase is anti-zionist but that does not mean the phrase is antisemitic. Zionism is a nationalist political ideology that calls for the creation of a Jewish state. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a direct rebuke of that political belief; that does not mean it represents a greater call for violence against an entire religious group. According to the Anne Frank House, “Although many Jews identify with Zionism, there are still many different points of view. That is reason enough not to mix up the words ‘Jew’, ‘Israelis’ and ‘Zionists.’”
The glaring irony of the entire situation is that some of the loudest voices advocating for the censure of Tlaib have spread plenty of antisemitism on their own. One of the first members of the House to push a censure vote against Tlaib was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
Since entering the American political landscape, Greene has done nothing short of engaging with the worst kinds of bigotry. Greene had the nerve to accuse another colleague of antisemitism while she has alleged that wildfires in California were caused by “Jewish Space Lasers,” compared COVID-19 vaccination policies to the Holocaust and spoke at a rally organized by the same people who organized the 2017 “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia. where participants chanted the phrase “Jews will not replace us.”
Just six days prior, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) survived an expulsion vote. Of the countless things he lied about, one of the most offensive lies stemmed from his ethnicity. He not only lied about being Jewish, but he also pushed a lie that his grandparents were Ukrainian Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
New Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson (R-LA), has a long history of fanning the flames of hate by pushing “great replacement” and “great invasion” conspiracies. As Johnson sends the Israeli government more American tax dollars to contribute to their destruction of Gaza, remember that these are the same people telling us a ceasefire is unattainable.
We have reached a point where condemning bombing campaigns that have killed over 4,000 children will get you censured by the same people rubber-stamping the bombs that kill those same children. What a sick joke.