What Rashida Tlaib Stands For - The New York Times

When she and Somalia-born Omar were elected in November, they became the first Muslim women in the House. “I guess I was naïve,” Tlaib t...


When she and Somalia-born Omar were elected in November, they became the first Muslim women in the House. “I guess I was naïve,” Tlaib told me, “in not understanding how big of a bipartisan Islamophobia it is in Congress.” It’s the subtle stuff, she said: colleagues shocked that most American Muslims are black, or stereotypes that Muslim women are submissive. A colleague approached Omar and touched her hijab. Besides the ignorance, Tlaib said, “I think there’s an awful lot of fear.”

Her election also made her the third Palestinian American in the House after Justin Amash, a Republican Representative from Michigan, and John E. Sununu, a Republican Representative from New Hampshire. Amash has at times stood up to his party, which he left before leaving Congress in 2021, against Israel. In 2014, he voted against funding Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been largely funded by the United States since its inception in 2011. Amash, a libertarian, explained his opposition because of government spending. Tlaib’s views, on the other hand, are deeply and openly personal. She grew up hearing stories of family members driven from their homes. At 12, she visited the West Bank and saw the walls and checkpoints firsthand.

However, foreign policy had hardly been mentioned during her years as a representative of the State. Shortly after her run for Congress, Steve Tobocman, a former state representative she worked for early in her career, sat down with her. The two had discussed the conflict in the past, but now Tobocman, who was working on his campaign, wanted to better understand his perspective.

Tlaib, he recalls, offered few details for a political platform, but told him about playing with children of Israeli settlers when she visited her grandmother and acknowledging the humanity of people from both sides. Ultimately, she told him, her stance on the conflict would be guided by the values ​​of equality, peace and justice. She reminded Tobocman of Barbara Lee, the Democratic congresswoman from California who voted alone against authorizing the force in Afghanistan in 2001, citing in her speech a clergyman’s warning to “not become the evil that we deplore”.

“I said, ‘You aspire to be like Barbara Lee,'” Tobocman told me. “And she said, ‘Absolutely’.”

In autumn In 1973, shortly before Tlaib’s parents arrived in Michigan, nearly 3,000 Arab-American UAW members marched to the UAW office in Dearborn and demanded that the local union liquidate approximately $300,000 of bonds he had bought from the State of Israel with the money raised from union dues. In another demonstration, workers held up signs that read: “Jewish people yes, Zionism no”. The UAW then liquidated some Israeli bonds.

It is only recently that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entered fully into American politics. In 1967, after a six-day war along with its Arab neighbors, Israel took over the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights; Whole swaths of Palestinian land were now under Israeli control, along with a million more Palestinians. For US leaders, Israel has proven a capable ally against Soviet-backed regimes in Egypt and Syria. By 1976, Israel had become the largest recipient of US military aid.

Around the same time, James Zogby, now president of the Arab American Institute, helped found the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, part of a nascent Palestinian rights movement that had some allies in Capitol. But his efforts were overshadowed by those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), founded more than a decade earlier, which helped form pro-Israel political action committees that raised funds for the two parties. Israel also successfully presented the conflict in the Middle East to the American public as a battle between the West and Soviet-sponsored terrorism. In 1988, Zogby, who advised Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign that year, was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He tried to persuade the party leadership to include language on the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” in the party platform, but failed. “Palestinian has become the prefix to the word ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism,'” Zogby told me. “You couldn’t say one without the other.”

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