Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) late Wednesday night responded to the condescension and criticism by one of her Democratic colleagues regarding her planned trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories by politely suggesting Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)—as well as any other House members— consider joining her or taking similar trips to broaden their understanding of Palestinians' lived experiences instead of aligning, year after year, with the right-wing perspective of AIPAC lobbyists.
Tlaib is planning to lead a delegation to Palestine after declining to join the other freshman members of Congress on a trip to Israel this summer. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) organized the visit for the freshmen lawmakers as it has in past years, but Tlaib rejected the offer, citing the one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that AIPAC has provided to Congress for decades.
"I don't think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue. It's one-sided...[They] have these lavish trips to Israel, but they don't show the side that I know is real, which is what's happening to my grandmother and what's happening to my family there," Tlaib told The Intercept in December.
In response to Tlaib's decision, Engel, who chairs the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee,expressed his disapproval to Al-Monitor on Tuesday, suggesting that Tlaib is unfamiliar with the realities of the conflict despite her deep personal connection to the region.
"Instead of her talking about things, she’s new here, she ought to listen and learn and open her mind and then come to some conclusions," Engel said.
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While Tlaib is new to the largely pro-Israel U.S. Congress, given that her family is from Palestine and she still has family members living there, she is hardly unfamiliar with the undrinkable water, food shortages, and decimated healthcare system Palestinians endure in the world's largest open-air prison of Gaza or the everyday repression suffered by those in the occupied West Bank.
It's "awfully patronizing to tell a Palestinian-American woman she needs to 'listen and learn' about the conflict before speaking up," Jack Crosbie wrote at Splinter.
Let's be perfectly clear, these comments by @RepEliotEngel regarding @RashidaTlaib are completely inappropriate and unacceptable. This is a white man, in a position of immense power, trying to silence a women of color by saying she needs to "learn and listen." That is not ok. pic.twitter.com/JTIQW1EZVr
— Stephen Miles (@SPMiles42) January 31, 2019
Tlaib responded to Engel's remarks on Thursday, inviting him to "listen and learn" about Palestinians' experiences of the conflict by joining her on the trip to the West Bank.
Yo @RepEliotEngel, how are we ever going to obtain peace? I hope you’ll come with me on the trip to listen and learn. My sity (grandmother) will welcome you with an embrace & love. Please feel free to call me if you have anything to say. I am your colleague now.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) January 31, 2019