In a stunning rebuke, the House excoriates Rep. Rashida Tlaib for her Israel-Hamas rhetoric

This image from House Television video shows the vote totals on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, as the House votes to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., over her rhetoric on the war between Israel and Hamas.  (Home television via AP)

(Uncredited / Associated Press)

In a stunning rebuke, the House excoriates Rep. Rashida Tlaib for her Israel-Hamas rhetoric

Israel-Hamas

FARNOUSH AMIRI

November 8, 2023

The House of Representatives voted late Tuesday to elect Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the only Palestinian American in Congress, in an extraordinary rebuke of her rhetoric on the war between Israel and Hamas.

The 234-188 outcome came after enough Democrats joined Republicans in censuring Tlaib, a punishment one step below expulsion from the House of Representatives. The three-term congresswoman has long been the target of criticism for her views on the decades-long conflict in the Middle East.

The debate on the censorship resolution on Tuesday afternoon was emotional and intense. Republican Rep. Rich McCormick of Georgia pushed for the measure in response to what he called Tlaib’s promotion of anti-Semitic rhetoric. He said she has made incredible falsehoods about our greatest ally, Israel, and the October 7 attack.

With other Democrats standing by her side, Tlaib defended her position, saying she will not be silenced and that I will not allow you to twist my words. She added that her criticism of Israel has always been aimed at the government and leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It is important to separate people and government, she said. The idea that criticizing Israel’s government is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent. And it is being used to silence diverse voices speaking out for human rights across our country.

That criticism reached new heights after the October elections. The attack by the militant group Hamas killed hundreds of Israelis and injured dozens. Tlaib, who has family in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, came under heavy criticism after failing to immediately condemn Hamas following the attack.

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All Democrats initially backed Tlaib and helped defeat the first censure resolution against her last week. But since then, many of her colleagues, including prominent Jewish members, have become more conflicted about her rhetoric on the war, especially over a slogan she has often used that is widely seen as a call for the eradication of Israel.

Ultimately, more than 20 of them joined Republicans on Tuesday evening to denounce her after an attempt to suspend the measure failed earlier in the day.

The latest censorship resulted in a dramatic vote in the House of Representatives, amid political tensions over the ongoing, deadly war between Israel and Hamas. Although majorities in both parties have historically been firmly on Israel’s side, divisions have emerged within the Democratic Party over the American response.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who is Jewish and was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans to advance the censure resolution on Tuesday, said he thought it was important to debate the river-to-sea slogan.

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It is nothing other than the call for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews, he said. I will always defend the right to freedom of expression. Tlaib has the right to say whatever she wants.

He added: But it cannot go unanswered.

Although the censure of a legislator has no practical effect, it amounts to serious recriminations from colleagues, as legislators who are censured are usually asked to stand in the support of the House of Representatives while the censure resolution is read against them. But the resolution against Tlaib did not call for a public admonishment.

The vote makes Tlaib the second Muslim American woman in Congress to be formally admonished this year for her criticism of Israel. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in February over similar comments she made about Israel.

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Some on the left have criticized President Biden’s position and urged him to impose conditions on US support for Israel as his aggressive military campaign currently brings the Palestinian death toll to more than 10,000.

Although the vote against Tlaib will take place against the extraordinary backdrop of the war, the push to censure her is part of a growing pattern in the House of Representatives.

Censorship has long been seen as a last resort, just one step below expulsion and to be used only for the most egregious misdeeds. But censorship resolutions are quickly becoming routine in the House, and are often applied in a strikingly partisan manner.

Many Democrats and some Republicans who opposed censoring Tlaib cited freedom of speech and warned of the precedent it would set.

This resolution not only degrades our Constitution, but also cheapens the meaning of discipline in this body for people who actually commit unlawful acts, such as bribery, fraud, violent assaults and so on, said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who defended Tlaib against the resolution before the floor late on Tuesday.

A second resolution from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to censure Tlaib was also scheduled for a procedural vote Tuesday. But that measure was put on hold after McCormick’s censure resolution reached a final vote.

Tlaib is now the 26th person ever to be censured by the House, and the second only this year. In June, Republicans voted to censure Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) over comments he made several years ago about investigations into then-President Trump’s ties to Russia.

When the House was under Democratic control, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was convicted in 2021 for tweeting an animated video of him striking Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York with a sword. And Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York was convicted in 2010 of serious financial and campaign misconduct.

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