The racist censure of Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit

WW commentary

Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan is the only Palestinian member of Congress. 

She is also one of only 26 House representatives to be censured since the first session of the U.S. Congress in 1789. Congress has three types of punishment for its members: reprimand, censure and expulsion. Reprimands are issued for “serious violations,” while censure is reserved for “more serious violations.” 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib

The House voted to censure Rep. Tlaib on Nov. 7, Election Day — one year after she was elected for a third term to represent her many Black, Arab and other constituents in Metro Detroit. Her censure had the backing of 22 Democrats and all but four Republicans.  

What were these “more serious violations?” Rep. Rich McCormick, who pushed the censure resolution, accused Tlaib of antisemitism, claiming she “levied unbelievable falsehoods about our greatest ally, Israel.” She was accused of supporting Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel, because she attended a demonstration where “from the river to the sea” was part of the chanting.

Rep. Tlaib has argued that: “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.” Speaking on the House floor before the censure vote, she rightly denounced attempts to equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. Choking up, she spoke movingly about her Sity — her grandmother — living in Gaza.

Every oppressed nation has the right to self-determination. As a Palestinian woman, Tlaib has every right to advocate for an end to Israeli apartheid by any means, including the establishment of one unified secular state in Palestine. She has every right to support any grouping in the liberation struggle, including Hamas.

But in fact, Rep. Tlaib has not committed any of the acts she is accused of. Her statement that was issued after the censure condemns Hamas. 

That is deemed irrelevant by a capitalist political establishment hell-bent on quashing any denunciation of the apartheid system and genocide that Palestine has been subjected to for 75 years. Israel is indeed a great ally — not of the U.S. working class, but of Western imperialism, which demands absolute loyalty to the Zionist settler state.

On Nov. 8, Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt of Michigan introduced a resolution in the Senate calling on Rep. Tlaib to resign.

Congress vs. the First Amendment

Most of the House representatives who voted with the minority in opposing censure did so based on “freedom of speech” and have made a point of distancing themselves from Tlaib’s position. The pro-censure majority essentially voted to deny Tlaib her First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, which in their oath of office they swear to defend.

An earlier, more extreme resolution, introduced by far right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, was defeated. Greene accused Tlaib of “leading an insurrection,” i.e., the demonstration inside the U.S. Capitol of Jewish activists calling for a cease-fire, an action the representative did not even attend. Greene has defended the actual insurrection that took place Jan. 6, 2020, where genuine displays of antisemitism — swastika flags — were carried.

Other members of “The Squad” — Reps. Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Presley along with Tlaib, all women of color — have given support to their besieged colleague. They are seen as progressives within the Democratic Party on a range of issues, from supporting striking workers to backing LGBTQIA2S+ rights. But even Ocasio-Cortez has come under fire from antiwar activists for making pro-Israel statements after Oct. 7.

The censure of Rep. Tlaib must be overturned and the attacks on this courageous Palestinian woman must cease immediately! An attack on her is in essence an attack on the Palestinian people’s right to return.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

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