Tlaib tears up as she defends against censure over Israel criticism

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(WASHINGTON) — Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is facing a second censure resolution over her criticism of Israel, became emotional on the House floor Tuesday as she defended her views on the deadly conflict.

Tlaib rose to speak during debate on a resolution introduced by Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., that would censure her for “promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”

Tlaib’s critics point to her use of the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which is considered by some as a call for ending Israel’s existence. Tlaib, however, has said it’s “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”

Surrounded by some of her progressive Democratic colleagues, Tlaib said she would not be “silenced” and accused members of distorting her words.

“I can’t believe we have to say this but Palestinian people are not disposable,” she said before she broke down in tears for several seconds. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., stood to comfort Tlaib before she continued.

“We are human beings just like anyone else. My sity, my grandmother — like all Palestinians — just wants to live her life with freedom and human dignity we all deserve,” she said. “Speaking up to save lives no matter faith, no matter ethnicity should not be controversial in this chamber. The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinian children sound different to you all. We cannot lose our shared humanity.”

An attempt by House Democrats to table, or effectively kill, the McCormick resolution failed on Tuesday afternoon. The House debates the censure resolution Tuesday and is expected to hold a final passage vote Wednesday, according to an updated schedule from House Majority Whip Tom Emmer.

A vote to censure a member of Congress does not hold power beyond a public condemnation of the member’s behavior. It does not deny privileges in Congress or expel the member. A simple majority is all that is needed for a censure resolution to pass.

Censures are rare — more than more than two dozen House lawmakers have been censured.

It will be the second attempt in as many weeks looking to condemn Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American member of Congress, for her controversial comments about Israel amid its response to the deadly Hamas terror attack. The U.S. has designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

In Israel, at least 1,400 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured since the surprise attack on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials. In the neighboring Gaza Strip, where Israel Defense Forces are deepening its operational activities, more than 10,000 people have been killed and nearly 26,000 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

The first resolution, brought by Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene last week, was killed by House Democrats with the help of some Republicans. The House rejected the Georgia congresswoman’s effort by a vote of 222-186.

Tlaib first drew ire of some colleagues for refusing to apologize for blaming Israel for a deadly hospital blast in Gaza that U.S. officials believed to have been caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket.

More recently, she’s faced pushback for calling for a cease-fire as the Israel-Gaza war rages on. She’s gone as far as to accuse President Joe Biden of supporting a Palestinian “genocide” over his administration’s resistance to a general cease-fire, though Biden has called for temporary pauses in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to enter and for civilians to leave.

Tlaib defended her views during her five-minute speech on the House floor.

“Let me be clear: my criticism has always been of the Israeli government and Netanyahu’s actions. It’s important to separate people and governments, Mr. Chair, no government is beyond criticism,” Tlaib said. “The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent and it’s being used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation.”

She also again took aim at President Joe Biden, specifically over his past comment questioning the death toll statistics provided by Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry as well as his resistance to an overall cease-fire.

“Seventy-one percent of Michigan Democrats support a ceasefire. So, you can try to censure me, but you can’t silence their voices… President Biden must listen to and represent all of us, not just some of us,” she said.

Later Tuesday, the House is also planning to take up Greene’s revamped resolution to censure Tlaib.

Greene altered her resolution from last week, removing language that accused Tlaib of leading an “insurrection” during an Oct. 18 pro-Palestinian protest. In the new resolution, Greene wrote Tlaib “incited an illegal occupation at the United States Capitol Complex” through the protest.

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