"I'm the only Palestinian voice right now in Congress. If anything, my voice is needed here more than ever."
Facing attacks by fellow Democrats and a censure motion from a Republican congressman from her home state of Michigan, Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Wednesday accused her critics of intentionally misportraying her as a Hamas sympathizer due to her condemnation of Israeli war crimes in Palestine.
Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.)—whose third-biggest campaign contributor during the 2022 election cycle was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—on Wednesday introduced a motion to censure Tlaib, the only Palestinian American member of Congress, for what he called "her antisemitism and disgraceful response to the attacks on our ally, Israel."
On Saturday, Hamas and other militants infiltrated Israel from Gaza in a wave of attacks that have since killed more than 1,300 Israeli soldiers and civilians, including many women and children. Israel responded by bombarding Gaza, targeting civilian infrastructure and killing over 1,400 Palestinians—including at least 447 children—while cutting off power and water and trapping 2.3 million people in the besieged enclave.
"Much of what I'm hearing from Jack and a number of other colleagues is rooted in bigotry, that somehow because of my ethnicity and my faith that I support terrorism."
On Sunday, Tlaib issued a statement mourning the "Palestinian and Israeli lives lost," while asserting that the path to a peaceful future must include lifting Israel's blockade of Gaza, ending its illegal occupation of Palestine, "and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance."
Tlaib's statement also asserted that the "heartbreaking cycle of violence" would continue until the United States stopped giving "billions in unconditional funding" to support Israel's apartheid government.
Citing unverified claims that Hamas "beheaded infants," Bergman's resolution—which was joined by Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-Texas), another beneficiary of AIPAC's largesse—called Tlaib's statement "disturbing and evil."
Responding to Bergman's motion, Tlaib told the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday that "I'm the only Palestinian voice right now in Congress. If anything, my voice is needed here more than ever."
"This is an attempt to silence my voice because I want the violence to stop, no matter whether it's toward Israelis or toward Palestinians," she asserted. "Much of what I'm hearing from Jack and a number of other colleagues is rooted in bigotry, that somehow because of my ethnicity and my faith that I support terrorism."
Tlaib and other "Squad" members including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.)—who condemned the killing of civilians on both sides while urging an end to U.S. support for "Israeli military occupation and apartheid"—also faced harsh rebuke from fellow Democrats in the Biden administration and Congress.
"It sickens me that while Israelis clean the blood of their family members shot in their homes, they believe Congress should strip U.S. funding to our democratic ally and allow innocent civilians to suffer," Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) said of Tlaib and her Squad colleagues in a Tuesday interview with Jewish Insider.
"U.S. aid to Israel is and should be unconditional, and never more so than in this moment of critical need," Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) told Jewish Insider. "Shame on anyone who glorifies as 'resistance' the largest single-day mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust. It is reprehensible and repulsive."
AIPAC was by far Gottheimer's largest contributor in the 2022 electoral cycle, donating more than $216,000 to his campaign. The same goes for Torres, who received over $141,000 from the group during the same period.
The Nation's John Nichols noted Thursday that Tlaib, Bush, and Omar are being condemned "for saying what prominent Israelis are saying."
Nichols cited Israeli human rights lawyer and rules-of-war expert Michael Sfard, who said: "Hamas committed abominable war crimes for which there can be no forgiveness. But the laws of war weren't meant only for situations in which our blood is cool, or when there is no justified anger or understandable desire for revenge."
He also quotes Israeli journalist Amira Hass, daughter of Holocaust survivors, who wrote in Haaretz that "in a few days Israelis went through what Palestinians have experienced as a matter of routine for decades, and are still experiencing."
"Therefore, this must be said once again—we told you so," Hass added. "Ongoing oppression and injustice explode at unexpected times and places. Bloodshed knows no borders."
Critics have noted that Israelis can freely express truths that, when voiced by Americans, result in condemnation, ostracism, and even loss of employment.
This isn't the first time Tlaib and other progressive Democrats have faced possible censure for defending Palestinians' human rights and criticizing U.S. support for Israeli apartheid, occupation, illegal settler colonization, and other crimes. In 2021, a trio of GOP lawmakers tried and failed to censure Tlaib and Omar—the first two Muslim women elected to Congress—and other Squad members for comments criticizing Israel.
In February, Republicans removed Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in what Jewish Voice for Peace called a "racist attack by the far-right to silence progressives in Congress who speak up for a human rights-centered foreign policy, including Palestinian human rights."
Tlaib and Omar have also received death threats for expressing their views, and have been targeted by a vast international fake news operation exploiting far-right social media accounts to spread Islamophobia.
Undaunted, Tlaib told the Free Press Wednesday that she will continue to remind her congressional colleagues that "a Palestinian life is just as important as an Israeli life," and that, like Hamas, the Israeli government "has to be held accountable for some of its atrocities."