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Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is the first Palestinian American and one of the first two Muslim women elected to the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is the first Palestinian American and one of the first two Muslim women elected to the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty Images) 

Rashida Tlaib Hails Shift in House Dems' Views on Palestinian Human Rights

"Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have 12 members of Congress refer to Israeli occupation as colonialism, so I have no doubt that the needle on Palestinian human rights is moving."

Brett Wilkins

Referring to a recent letter in which a dozen House Democrats called on the Biden administration to oppose Israeli "settler colonialism" in Palestine, Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Friday said that support is growing like never before in Congress for Palestinian human rights.

"The systems that oppress us and our struggles for freedom are so interconnected. You don't wait until it's your community that's targeted."
—Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Haaretz reports the Michigan Democrat's remarks came during a webinar hosted by American Muslims for Palestine and the Jewish anti-occupation IfNotNow Movement, during which she condemned Israel's "apartheid system"—including "medical apartheid" during the coronavirus pandemic—while sounding hopeful about the erosion of the reflexively pro-Israel stance that has long characterized Congress. 

"Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have 12 members of Congress refer to Israeli occupation as colonialism, so I have no doubt that the needle on Palestinian human rights is moving," said Tlaib, the first Palestinian American ever elected to Congress. 

"Settler colonialism describes the reality of what the Netanyahu government is doing," she continued, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right government. "They're building illegal settlements for settlers to colonize Palestinian land. When you have separate roads and license plates and existing set of laws for different populations in your country, that is an apartheid system."

Tlaib was referring to a March 12 letter that she—along with progressive House lawmakers including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and others—sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Biden administration to pursue a foreign policy "that supports the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people." 

The letter cites "Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank" using U.S. equipment, its failure to fulfill its "obligation under international law" to vaccinate Palestinians against the coronavirus, and its "ongoing colonization" of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"The message from this administration must be clear," the letter asserts, "settler colonialism in any form—including Israel's settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank—is illegal under international law and will not be tolerated." 

During the webinar, Tlaib said the coronavirus pandemic underscores how Israel's "occupation threatens the lives and wellbeing of Palestinians, not only through military violence but by denying access to adequate healthcare." 

She then drew parallels between the situation in Palestine and racism in U.S. healthcare.

"We all need to raise awareness of how the systems that oppress Palestinians in Israel and occupied Palestine are mirrored in the United States, where racism in our healthcare system means that Indigenous and Black Americans die at more than twice the rate of our white counterparts," Tlaib said.

"When I see the United States sending nearly $4 billion in military aid to Israel, I not only see money to support occupation, but tax dollars that could be used to fund health care in my home district —one of the poorest in the nation," she added. "This is just one example of the need to stop investing in war and start investing in healthcare."

Rejecting what critics call the "progressive except Palestine" mentality of many Americans and some members of Congress, Tlaib praised Jewish allies who have "spoken truth to power" and called on more people to take a stand for Palestinian rights. 

"The systems that oppress us and our struggles for freedom are so interconnected," she said. "You don't wait until it's your community that's targeted."


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