The House of Representatives voted late Tuesday to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only Palestinian American in Congress, over her outspoken criticism of Israel and its war with Hamas in Gaza last month.
The resolution, introduced by Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), accused Tlaib of “promoting false narratives” about the Hamas attack on Israel in October and for “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” It passed by a vote of 234-188, with 22 Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting the censure. Four Republicans voted against the measure, while four lawmakers voted present.
The censure is a formal reprimand that will be read aloud to Tlaib on the House floor. It is a rare and severe punishment for a member of Congress, usually reserved for cases of ethical misconduct or criminal behavior.
Tlaib, who represents a Detroit-area district with a large Arab American population, is one of the most vocal critics of the Israeli government and its policies toward the Palestinians. She is also a member of the progressive “Squad” of lawmakers who have clashed with the Democratic leadership over foreign policy and other issues.
Tlaib angered not only Republicans but also some members of her own party with her comments on the Israel-Hamas war, which killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and displaced tens of thousands more. She accused Israel of committing “war crimes” and “apartheid” against the Palestinians, and called on the Biden administration to stop providing military aid to Israel.
From the River to The Sea
She also posted a video on Twitter of a pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, D.C., where crowds chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The phrase is widely seen as a call for the elimination of Israel and a rejection of its right to exist, as it refers to a desired Palestinian state that would stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The video was later deleted.
Tlaib defended her remarks, saying that she was speaking out for human rights and justice for the Palestinian people, who have suffered under decades of occupation and oppression. She said that she was not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, but rather anti-occupation and anti-violence. She also said that she was proud of her Palestinian heritage and identity, and that she would not be silenced by the censure.
The censure resolution was the latest escalation in a series of attempts by Republicans to punish Tlaib and other Democrats for their views on Israel and the Middle East. Last week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced a similar motion to censure Tlaib, but it was defeated by a vote of 217-209, with 23 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing it. Greene then reintroduced her motion after removing some of the language that compared the pro-Palestinian protest to an “insurrection,” but she withdrew it before a vote.
In response, Democrats introduced a motion to censure Greene for her history of spreading conspiracy theories and inciting violence, but they also withdrew it before a vote. They also introduced a motion to censure Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) for comparing “innocent Palestinian civilians” to “innocent Nazi civilians” during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, but it was not brought to the floor.
The censure of Tlaib was the first time that the House has censured a member of Congress over their comments on Israel or the Middle East. The last time that the House censured a member was in 2010, when it censured Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) for ethics violations.
The censure of Tlaib also highlighted the growing divide within the Democratic Party over the issue of Israel and the Palestinians, which has become more pronounced under the Biden administration. While some Democrats, especially progressives, have been more vocal in criticizing Israel and calling for a more balanced approach to the conflict, others, especially moderates and pro-Israel advocates, have been more supportive of Israel and its right to defend itself.
The censure of Tlaib also drew criticism from some civil rights and advocacy groups, who said that it was an attempt to stifle free speech and dissent, and that it was motivated by Islamophobia and racism. They said that Tlaib was being singled out and targeted for her identity and her views, and that the censure would have a chilling effect on other lawmakers and activists who speak up for the Palestinian cause.