Mondoweiss / May 10, 2023
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has blocked an educational event about the Nakba featuring Rashida Tlaib at the Capitol, saying he will honor Israel instead.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced that he will block an educational event on the Nakba from occurring in auditorium of the Capitol Visitor Center.
“Nakba 75 & the Palestinian People” was organized by a number of advocacy groups, including the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), and Jewish Voice for Peace Action (JVP Action). Its featured special guest was set to be Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
“To uplift the experiences of Palestinians who underwent the Nakba, and educate Members of Congress and their staff about this history and the ongoing Nakba to which Israel continues to subject Palestinians, we’ve partnered together to host this congressional and community educational event to be followed immediately afterward by dinner,” reads the description.
“Congress approves billions of dollars in military funding and weapons equipment to the Israeli military every year that is used to continue the killing and displacement of Palestinians,” said Political Director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action Beth Miller. “Just one day ago, U.S.-sourced Israeli warplanes were used to bomb residential apartment buildings in Gaza, killing 13 Palestinians including 4 children,” said This event is a critically important opportunity to educate members of Congress about what our money has supported both historically and to this day.”
“This event in the US Capitol is canceled,” McCarthy tweeted. “Instead, I will host a bipartisan discussion to honor the 75th anniversary of the US-Israel relationship.”
In a statement Rep. Tlaib condemned McCarthy’s move and noted that the event would still take place.
“Speaker McCarthy wants to rewrite history and erase the existence and truth of the Palestinian people, but he has failed to do so,” it reads. “This event is planned to bring awareness about the Nakba and create space for Palestinian Americans who experienced the Nakba firsthand to tell their stories of trauma and survival.”
“The Nakba is a well-documented historical event that is recognized by the United Nations,” she continued. “We cannot allow the same people who want to ban books and erase history simply because they’re uncomfortable with the truth to silence Palestinian voices…We fully plan on moving forward with this event and we will continue to ensure that Palestinian voices are heard. We will not be silenced.”
The news was celebrated by Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “Grateful Speaker McCarthy took rapid action,” Greenblatt tweeted. “There’s room to talk about the issues — but not at an event co-sponsored by people who traffic in #antisemitism and #hate.”
Greenblatt also linked to a letter that the ADL had sent to McCarthy alerting him to the situation. “This event is happening tomorrow,” it reads. “I ask that greater scrutiny be given to such events, including this one, in the Capitol Complex to ensure that that Congressional controlled areas are not being used to espouse discriminatory and hateful rhetoric. I appreciate your attention to this matter.”
Greenblatt also sent the letter to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-CA).
Despite framing itself as a civil rights organization, the ADL has made anti-Zionism one of its primary focuses. At its National Leadership Summit earlier this month Greenblatt delivered a speech that ignored right-wing antisemitism but repeatedly referenced critics of Israel.
The Nakba refers to the 1948 displacement of 750,000 Palestinians that occurred as a result of massacres carried out by Zionist militias. On May 15 each year, Palestinians mark the tragedy and the United Nations will commemorate Nakba Day for the first time this year. Last year Tlaib introduced a resolution to recognize the Nakba and the rights of Palestinian refugees. “The Nakba is well-documented and continues to play out today,” she tweeted at the time. “We must acknowledge that the humanity of Palestinians is being denied when folks refuse to acknowledge the war crimes and human rights violations in apartheid Israel.”
Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of Congress, has consistently been attacked by Republican lawmakers and members of her own party. In a joint statement on McCarthy’s actions to Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) said that “bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship has always been unbreakable and will remain strong for decades to come. Efforts to rewrite history and question the Jewish State’s right to exist will never succeed in Congress.” They added, “malicious narratives perpetuated by some of our colleagues do nothing but sow divisiveness and hate.”
Note: Despite McCarthy’s attempt to cancel the event, it took place on the night of May 10 in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing room. “Let the headlines read ‘McCarthy tries to erase Palestine but fails’”, Tlaib tweeted shortly after it concluded.
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss