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Rashida Tlaib Defends Pro-Palestinian Video As Issue Among Michigan Democrats Broadens Over War


U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has been under fire for a video she posted over the weekend that some thought offended the Jewish community. However, she stated that her detractors ought to be more concerned with preserving civilian lives in the Middle East than with the language she used.

“My colleagues are much more focused on silencing me — the only Palestinian American voice in Congress — than they are on ending the horrific attacks on civilians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank right now,” Tlaib said in a statement sent Monday to The Associated Press. “Instead of attacking me and distorting my words, they should listen to their constituents and call for a cease-fire to save innocent lives.”

She was reacting to requests to remove a video that was uploaded on Friday that featured a clip of protesters chanting “from the river to the sea” from Democrats across the country and in Michigan. In the video, Tlaib added, “We will remember in 2024,” just before the words, “Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people,” appeared.

In Michigan, which is home to one of the largest Arab American communities in the country, this is just the most recent instance of a public rift dividing Democrats.

The “from the river to the sea” chant has drawn criticism from Jewish organizations and the Anti-Defamation League for appearing to call for the destruction of the state of Israel. Many Palestinian activists claim that what they really want is freedom of movement, equal rights, and protections for Palestinians everywhere in the country, not the destruction of Israel.

The lone Jewish member of Michigan’s congressional delegation, Democrat Elissa Slotkin, claimed on social media that the phrase is “counterproductive to promoting peace” and encourages “division and violence.”

“If I knew that a phrase I’d used had hurt any of my constituents, I would apologize and retract it, no matter its origin,” Slotkin said. “I’d ask the same from you.”

Tlaib was criticized and called for an apology by other Michigan Democrats, including Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Senate President Pro Tempore Jeremy Moss. Despite having previously supported Tlaib, Nessel said that her use of the term “is so hurtful to so many.”

While he regards Tlaib as a friend, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stated during a Sunday CNN appearance that “slogans like ‘the river to the sea,’ if that means the destruction of Israel, that’s not going to work.”

“From the river to the sea” is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate, Tlaib stated on social media late on Friday.

The latest illustration of the growing rift between Democrats over the Israel-Hamas conflict is the back-and-forth between them in Michigan. Tlaib partially represents one of the largest Arab American communities in the country in Michigan, but her Detroit-area district also has a strong Jewish community.

Since the start of the conflict, Tlaib’s grandmother, who resides in the West Bank, has come under fire from some who feel that she didn’t go far enough in denouncing the Hamas attack. Last week, a move to censure Tlaib was rejected with strong bipartisan support after both parties voiced concerns about First Amendment rights being violated.

On Monday, two Republicans in the U.S. House introduced a second motion to censure Tlaib, among them Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

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