Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) on Tuesday became the 26th member in the history of the US House of Representatives to be censured after 22 Democrats joined nearly all Republicans in voting to punish the only Palestinian American in Congress for criticisms that, the resolution claimed, were tantamount to “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”
On paper, the censure sought to condemn Tlaib after she posted a video last week that contained the chant “from the river to the sea,” a phrase Jewish groups, as well as the Anti-Defamation League, say is antisemitic. Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who leads the Palestine/Israel Program at the Arab Center Washington, DC, has argued that “from the river to the sea” is not antisemitic but a “rejoinder to the fragmentation of Palestinian land and people by Israeli occupation and discrimination.” Similarly, Tlaib, one of Congress’ most impassioned proponents of a ceasefire, has defended the slogan as an “aspirational call for freedom” for Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Tlaib accused her colleagues of deliberately distorting her words. “No government is beyond criticism,” she said from the House floor. “The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent, and it’s been used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation.”
“I can’t believe I have to say this but Palestinian people are not disposable. We are human beings, just like anyone else.”
I am the only Palestinian American serving in Congress, and my perspective is needed here now more than ever. I will not be silenced and I will not let anyone distort my words.
I’m from Detroit, where I learned to speak truth to power, even if my voice shakes. pic.twitter.com/bXhGPCcKat
— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) November 7, 2023
But none of it was enough to convince her colleagues. The House voted to formally reprimand Tlaib by a 234 to 188 tally. The censure, the second effort to punish Tlaib since October 7, came as something of an apotheosis for Republicans who have practically made it a sport to villainize the Michigan Democrat since she was elected to Congress.
“It’s a shame my colleagues are more focused on silencing me than they are on saving lives,” Tlaib said from the House floor. “Many of them have shown me that Palestinian lives simply do not matter to them but I still do not police their rhetoric or actions.”
The death toll in Gaza rose to over 10,000 this week.