Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the "sugar-coated" junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an "exceedingly dangerous" plan that must be stopped.
In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out (pdf) his "extreme concern" with Tlaib's proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December.
Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the "Jewish Disneyland trip"—sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF)—the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on "Israel's detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty," the news outlet reported at the time.
Her delegation could spotlight Israel's "segregation" and show "how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region," Tlaib told The Intercept.
"I don't think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue," she addded, as it glosses over "the side that I know is real, which is what's happening to my grandmother and what's happening to my family there."
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Babin's letters note that Tlaib is a supporter of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement and accuses her of having "personal vitriol" towards the president. He dismisses her as a "yet unexperienced and overly caustic member of Congress." He also argues that the "mere prospect" of such a delegation would upend the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel and urges the Democratic leaders to reject any approval for the trip.
According to one Jewish American who walked off his so-called "Birthright" trip, Tlaib's move should be applauded, as the AIPAC-funded trips normalize "endless Israeli occupation."
"Tlaib's trip constitutes a marked shift, and we should welcome it. Congresspeople who join her delegation will see the daily nightmare of the Occupation. They'll learn that Palestinian voices are not inherently dangerous, and that opposing the Occupation shouldn't be controversial — it should be a moral imperative," Elon Glickman, an organizer with IfNotNow, recently argued.
Babin, for his part, has welcomed the internally-condemned decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and supported legislation including the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which the ACLU rebuked as "an unconstitutional infringement of core political speech rights."