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U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib earns ire of Democrats after saying Americans can be progressives or support Israel – not both

Democrat lawmakers criticized the ‘Squad’ member’s remarks as ‘outrageous,’ ‘anti-Semitic’ 

U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) speaking at a press conference about expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)

Americans can either be progressives or support Israel, not both, said U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-MI, on Tuesday in an online seminar for “Americans for Justice in Palestine Action.” 

The Palestinian-American congresswoman is no stranger to controversy, but her latest faux pas has the former Democratic National Committee chair and others in her party calling her out for comments deemed anti-Semitic. 

“Among progressives,” Tlaib said Tuesday, “it has become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel’s apartheid government.” 

“We will continue to push back and not accept that you are progressive except for Palestine,” she said.

Tlaib’s comments against Israel arose amid a discussion of the killing in May of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, whose family filed a formal complaint with the International Criminal Court this week, claiming that Israeli soldiers “deliberately targeted” the Al Jazeera journalist; the Israel Defense Forces has maintained strongly that the allegation is false.

According to Israeli news site Haaretz, Tlaib said Americans are increasingly “questioning how we can stand for liberty and justice while bankrolling the Israeli military’s war crimes and human rights abuses to the tune of several billion dollars each year. As a member of the United States Congress, I see the tide is turning in our favor every single day.”

The Jerusalem Post quoted the congresswoman as stressing that “the need to oppose Israel’s government’s apartheid rule is obvious.” 

“The path to freedom for Palestine is long and daunting, we must see through to its end,” Tlaib reportedly said. “We owe it to not only Palestinians, [but] oppressed people all over the world who understand that our struggles are linked to one another.”

Tlaib’s remarks were met with criticism from several Democratic lawmakers, including former DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who called Tlaib’s comments “nothing short of anti-Semitic” and her pitting progressivism against support of Israel as an “outrageous progressive litmus test.”

Other members of the Democratic Party also rejected Tlaib’s statement. 

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said, “I fundamentally reject the notion that one cannot support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and be a progressive.”

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-FL, retweeted Nadler’s comment, adding, “There are progressive activists, progressive students and progressive Members of Congress, whose support of democratic Israel is fundamentally a part of their progressive values. They all belong at the table. We will not be silenced.”

“There’s nothing progressive about advocating for the end of Israel as a Jewish state,” posted Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-NY. “Nothing progressive about opposing the Abraham Accords, which promotes peace. Nothing progressive about opposing Iron Dome, which protects civilians from indiscriminate rocket fire.”

The former DNC chair also stated, in contrast to Tlaib’s argument, that “proud progressives do support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. Suggesting otherwise is shameful and dangerous. Divisive rhetoric does not lead to peace.”  

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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