Last week’s bipartisan vote in Congress to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) over numerous comments critical of Israel and in support of Hamas was significant. The vote was 234-188, with four Republicans voting against and 22 Democrats voting in support. The resolution focused on statements made by Tlaib since the barbaric Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel which promoted “false narratives” and called “for the destruction of the state of Israel.”
Congressional censure is a serious disciplinary measure. While there are no formal consequences other than a public rebuke of an offending member, the censure is permanently entered into Congressional records.
Opposition to the Tlaib censure focused on the fact that, historically, members have been censured for actions, not speech. Those advocates focused upon First Amendment and free speech concerns as reasons not to support the censure, with some warning that if members of Congress are going to be punished for their political ideas and speech – no matter how wrongheaded or offensive they may be – it could lead to members being censured just for being in the minority, rather than the majority.
But that’s not what happened here. Tlaib was censured in a bipartisan vote for her hate speech and for her advocacy for the obliteration of the Jewish state.
The censure resolution cited Tlaib’s repeated accusation of Israel as an “apartheid system that creates suffocating dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance” – arguments made by Hamas supporters as a justification for murder, mutilation and kidnapping; falsely blaming a Gaza hospital bombing last month on Israel, despite Pentagon confirmation that it was caused by a faulty rocket from Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and her endorsement of the Hamas chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” an antisemitic slogan that calls for violence against Israel and a rejection of Israel’s right to exist.
Tlaib, whose Detroit-area district includes a large Arab American population, is the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress. Speaking on the House floor on Nov. 7, Tlaib claimed that the censure motion distorted her positions. And yet, she did nothing to retract any of her offensive comments and made no apology for them.
Instead, she disingenuously argued on social media that her use of the phrase “from the river to the sea” was a “call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.” Tlaib’s obfuscation is offensive. And it makes us wonder what nonsensical explanation she has for the part of the Hamas charter that calls for the killing of Jews.
Tlaib’s voice broke with emotion several times as she sought to justify her critical comments about Israel and her discredited accusations about Israel’s conduct in the Hamas war by pointing out that “Palestinian people are not disposable.”
But what Tlaib and friends conveniently ignore is that no one is promoting the murder of Palestinians; no one is intentionally targeting innocent civilians for death, mutilation and kidnapping; and no one is pursuing efforts to wipe out entire Palestinian or Muslim populations based simply upon their religious affiliation or where they live. Is Tlaib’s moral compass so seriously Hamas-infected that she can’t understand these differences?
Maybe the embarrassing stain of Congressional censure will serve as a wake-up call to Tlaib and help curb her antisemitic vitriol. We doubt it.