Rashida Tlaib’s Shifting Positions

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Rashida Tlaib, the Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, supports positions that are becoming familiar for candidates from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party: Medicare for all, the abolishment of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and free college education, among her domestic policies. But Tlaib, an attorney and former state representative who is expected to be elected to fill the seat vacated by civil rights icon Rep. John Conyers, has offered a flurry of conflicting statements on Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians that are worrying.

Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and, with no Republican opposition, will likely become the first female Muslim member of Congress. The 13th District, which includes much of southwest Detroit, is among the bluest in the nation. As a state representative, she built a record of shrewdly representing her constituents against wealthy interests.

In her majority-minority district, voters may be able to identify with Tlaib’s comparison of discrimination faced by civil rights-era African-Americans with the conditions of Palestinian life under Israeli control, no matter how much we may disagree with that characterization. And that’s the comparison Tlaib has been making in pushing for a one-state solution to the conflict.

“I absolutely believe ‘separate but equal’ doesn’t work,” she said on “Democracy Now!” in reference to the Jim Crow-era laws ensuring unjust treatment of blacks. “That’s something that I believe. … But I can tell you, if it was something of possibility for a two-state solution, absolutely. Do I think it may work? … I don’t know, because I’ve seen that, you know, South versus North didn’t work for us.”

While her analogy is fuzzy, what’s clear is her desire to have the United States punish Israel for what she perceives as wrongdoings by the Jewish state. Indeed, she is ready to push for a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel “if it has something to do with inequality and not access to people having justice,” she told Britain’s Channel 4. “For me, U.S. aid should be leverage.”

Interestingly, these weren’t quite her positions before the primary. J Street PAC contributed to her campaign on the basis of her support of a two-state solution and U.S. aid, and opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. (She had endorsed the legality of BDS without saying that she supports it.) Late last week, however, J Street, after “closely consulting” with Tlaib’s campaign, took the unprecedented step of rescinding its endorsement of her.

The J Street post-primary move is essentially meaningless, given that the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization helped her win a primary in a race with no Republican opposition come November. But it does mean that Tlaib is now further to the left than even J Street, which sees itself more as a critic of the current Israeli government than a friend. That Tlaib will likely be sworn in as a U.S. congresswoman should give us all pause.

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1 COMMENT

  1. In your op-ed, you left out some comments by Rashida Tlaib, which provide context and doubtless would win approval from many of your readers and subscribers.

    These statements are taken from a Tlaib interview by Valerie Vande for the publication, IN THESE TIMES, Aug. 14, 2018:

    “One of the things [J Street liked] was my personal story I shared with them. I knew we weren’t going to agree on a number of stances. They didn’t ask me to waver once. . . .

    “Americans should not be aiding any country that doesn’t support human rights. I’ve been very clear. I will not support racist countries that pick and choose who gets access to justice. My grandmother shouldn’t be denied access or considered less human because she is Palestinian. . . .

    “Seeing the unequal treatment in Israel, in the different colored license plates for Palestinians; and even in the ocean. When I was 19 and with my family and some of them had head scarves on, we all jumped in the water and the Israelis jumped out as if my cousins were diseased. That reminded me what I learned about the African-American struggle. That’s the lens I bring to Congress. . . .

    “My social justice and passion for human rights was birthed in Palestine. My grandfather was shot 11 times—and he survived. . . .

    “Palestinians are attacking me now, but I am not going to dehumanize Israelis. I won’t do that. . . .

    “Many [Israelis] are marching, saying no to Netanyahu’s apartheid policies. There’s a movement in Israel I support that wants an Israel that embraces Palestinians. . . .

    “I do not support aid to a Netanyahu Israel and I’m pro-humanity. I think that’s why J street [supported me]. . . .

    “I support right of return absolutely. I have family that left [Palestine] in 1967. They left, took their keys with them. They thought they could come back, and they’ve never been back. My uncle would tear up because he couldn’t believe he couldn’t go back. He had to raise his kids in Jordan. . . .

    “Separate but equal does not work. . . .

    “I‘m an ACLU card member. I stand by the rights of people who support BDS. Allow the students to be a part of the movement. I am so proud of the Center for Constitutional Rights in support of student movements for BDS. If you don’t support freedom of speech, you’re in the wrong country. . . .

    [What about a two-state solution vs. one-state?]

    “One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42 years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work. Even though we continue the struggle in the United States, we have a better chance to integrate. My grandfather said, ‘I don’t understand, we were doing so good. My neighborhood, Arab-Jew. We picked olives together. Why now do they want to be over me?’ ‘You did nothing wrong,’ I told him. . . .

    “The United States is a safe haven for anyone who needs to be protected. I can see Israel moving in that direction. The only way to feel safe is when you look across the table and say they deserve to feel safe in their own country. . . .

    Thanks for publishing this comment.

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