President Donald Trump on Friday night launched what critics condemned as a mocking and dehumanizing attack on Rep. Rashida Tlaib and her 90-year-old grandmother after the Michigan congresswoman refused to visit Israel under restrictive conditions set by the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Israel was very respectful and nice to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, allowing her permission to visit her 'grandmother,'" Trump tweeted. "As soon as she was granted permission, she grandstanded and loudly proclaimed she would not visit Israel. Could this possibly have been a setup? Israel acted appropriately!"
Observers were quick to note the president's use of scare quotes around grandmother, which journalist Mairav Zonszein said is "fully in line with the total dehumanization of Palestinians, to the point that you have literally erased their existence from your vile mind."
Putting "grandmother" in quotes is fully in line with the total dehumanization of Palestinians, to the point that you have literally erased their existence from your vile mind. https://t.co/UTS6yamvYi
— Mairav Zonszein מרב זונשיין (@MairavZ) August 16, 2019
"He really put 'grandmother' in quotes like Palestinians are incapable of having family members," added writer Rebecca Pierce.
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Trump went on to claim that Tlaib's refusal to accept Israel's conditions for the trip—which included agreeing to not promote boycott activities—was a "complete setup" and suggest Tlaib's grandmother, who lives under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, might be happy not to see her granddaughter.
Rep. Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother. Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup. The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2019
In an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, Tlaib's grandmother, Muftiyah Tlaib, said she is proud of her granddaughter for acting on principle.
"Who wouldn't be proud of a granddaughter like that?" said Muftiyah Tlaib. "I love her and am so proud of her."
Asked about Trump's attacks on her granddaughter, Tlaib's grandmother said, "I don't know him. I don't care."