Rep. Rashida Tlaib

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speaks at a March 9, 2023 press conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'We Will Not Be Silenced': Tlaib Headlines DC Nakba Event Despite McCarthy Meddling

The Michigan Democrat joined rights groups in a Senate committee room to mark the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians during the founding of modern Israel.

An event featuring U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib commemorating the Nakba—the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland during Israel's War of Independence 75 years ago—went ahead as scheduled Wednesday evening in Washington, D.C, despite an attempt by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to derail it.

Tlaib (D-Mich.)—the only Palestinian-American in the House of Representatives—spoke after Nakba survivors and activists at the event, "Nakba 75 & the Palestinian People," which took place in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) chairs the HELP panel.

"We have a right to tell our stories of the Nakba of 1948," Tlaib told the packed room, according to the advocacy group Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN), a co-host of the event. "And today, because the Nakba never ended."

On Tuesday, McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that "the event in the U.S. Capitol has been canceled" and replaced with "a bipartisan discussion to honor the 75th anniversary of the U.S.-Israel relationship."

"It's wrong for members of Congress to traffic in antisemitic tropes about Israel," the congressman toldTheWashingtonFree Beacon. "As long as I'm speaker, we are going to support Israel's right to self-determination and self-defense, unequivocally and in a bipartisan fashion."

However, Tlaib issued a statement Wednesday clarifying that the event was still on.

"We fully plan on moving forward with this event and we will continue to ensure that Palestinian voices are heard," she asserted. "We will not be silenced."

"Our hope is to create opportunities for Palestinians, both here at home and abroad, who continue to experience the impacts of the Nakba, to tell their stories," the congresswoman explained. "The trauma and painful loss of their connections to family, villages they grew up in, and so much more needs to be acknowledged, not only for healing, but also to create an honest pathway for peace."

"Speaker McCarthy wants to rewrite history and erase the existence and truth of the Palestinian people, but he has failed to do so," she added. "This event is planned to bring awareness about the Nakba and create space for Palestinian-Americans who experienced the Nakba firsthand to tell their stories of trauma and survival."

Tlaib said that "McCarthy is desperate to distract from the mounting crises happening on his watch: a scandal-plagued member he has defended was just arrested on 13 federal charges, his twice-impeached MAGA leader was just found liable for sexual abuse, and he's hurtling our country towards a disastrous default on our debt in order to cut vital programs like veterans' health care, food assistance, and Medicaid."

"The Nakba is a well-documented historical event that is recognized by the United Nations," she noted. "We cannot allow the same people who want to ban books and erase history simply because they're uncomfortable with the truth to silence Palestinian voices."

More than 750,000 Arabs from hundreds of cities, towns, and villages fled or were expelled from Palestine—sometimes by massacre, "death march," and other violence—during the formation of the modern state of Israel in 1947-49. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed to make way for newcomers whose only prerequisite for Israeli citizenship is being Jewish.

The militarized segregation of Israelis and Palestinians in the illegally occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and elsewhere is considered a crime of apartheid by numerous Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights groups, as well as by prominent international figures including United Nations officials, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and other Nobel laureates, and South African leaders who lived under apartheid during the 20th century.

Meanwhile, more than 7 million Palestinian refugees have been denied the right of return guaranteed under United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.

Co-hosts of Wednesday's event include: the Institute for Middle East Understanding, Americans for Justice in Palestine Action, Project48, DAWN, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, American Friends Service Committee, Virginia Coalition for Human Rights, Emgage Action, and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Action.

"This month, Palestinians will mark 75 years since the Nakba. Understanding the truth of the Nakba is not only about acknowledging historical facts, but also vital to understanding the ongoing violence of Israeli apartheid," JVP Action executive director Stefanie Fox said in a statement Wednesday. "We are proud to be part of the massive and growing number of Jews facing painful truths as part of working toward a shared future of justice, equality, and freedom."

For the second straight year, Tlaib on Wednesday introduced a resolution recognizing the Nakba and calling on Congress to "condemn all manifestations of Israel's ongoing Nakba against the Palestinian people," particularly the "illegal theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; Israel's displacement of Palestinians by destroying their homes and forcing them from their land; and the daily brutality and violence inflicted by the Israeli military and Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians."

"True peace can only be built on truth and justice," Tlaib said in a statement. "As we mark 75 years since the horror of the Nakba, we honor the thousands of lives lost, and the nearly 800,000 Palestinians who were forced from their homes and violently displaced from their communities during this period of intense ethnic cleansing."

Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), and Cori Bush (D-Mo.)—all of whom endorsed Tlaib's 2022 resolution—co-sponsored this year's version.

Tlaib's resolution was published as Israeli military forces continued to bombard Gaza in retaliation for earlier rocket fire by Palestinian resistance fighters responding to the death of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian activist imprisoned in Israel without charge or trial, during an 87-day hunger strike.

At least 21 Palestinians, no less than a dozen of whom were civilians—including at least six women and six children—have been killed in the latest Israeli airstrikes.

On Wednesday, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor urged the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for the "leaders of apartheid Israel" who are "supporting the massacre of the people of Palestine."

"South Africa is a longstanding partner in solidarity with the people of Palestine given that they supported our own struggle for freedom," Pandor said. "We call on the world to be as concerned about the deaths of Palestinians as they are concerned about deaths of [people in] any other nation of the world."

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