Rashida Tlaib attacked by fellow Democrats for saying progressives shouldn’t back Israeli apartheid

Michael Arria

Mondoweiss  /  September 21, 2022

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) finds herself under fire from members of her own party yet again. This time it’s over virtual remarks she made during an annual seminar organized by the group Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action).

“It has become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel’s apartheid government and we will continue to push back and not accept this idea that you are ‘Progressive except for Palestine’,” Tlaib told attendees.

Fellow Democrats immediately attacked Tlaib on social media, with multiple lawmakers implying that the House’s only Palestinian member is antisemitic.

“I fundamentally reject the notion that one cannot support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and be a progressive,” tweeted Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). “I proudly embrace both of these political positions and identities, even as I have criticized some of the policies and actions of democratically-elected Israeli governments over time. I would happily put my progressive record and credentials up against anyone’s. It is both wrong and self-defeating for progressive leaders to abide such an offensive litmus tests.”

Nadler’s comments were celebrated by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who is soon taking over as the head of the pro-Israel American Jewish Committee. “That’s right, Chairman Nadler,” wrote Deutch. “And remember, there are progressive activists, progressive students, and progressive Members of Congress whose support of democratic Israel is fundamentally a part of their progressive values. They all belong at the table. We will not be silenced.”

Last fall Deutch smeared Tlaib as an antisemite on the House floor for having the temerity to refer to Israel as an apartheid state, a designation that even the most mainstream of human rights groups now acknowledge.

“The outrageous progressive litmus test on Israel by Rashida Tlaib is nothing short of antisemitic,” wrote Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who spent Monday presiding over a task force hearing where speakers readily equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism. “Proud progressives do support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. Suggesting otherwise is shameful and dangerous. Divisive rhetoric does not lead to peace.”

“There’s nothing progressive about advocating for the end of Israel as a Jewish State,” offered Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY). “Nothing progressive about opposing the Abraham Accords, which promotes peace. Nothing progressive about opposing Iron Dome, which protects civilians from indiscriminate rocket fire.”

“It’s not progressive to advocate for the end of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State. It’s not progressive to oppose the life-saving Iron Dome,” declared Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA). “Supporting the only democratic state in the Middle East IS progressive.”

Tlaib’s comments were also attacked by the lobbying group Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), an organization founded to stomp out growing sympathy for Palestine among Democratic Party voters. In addition to thanking lawmakers for their anti-Tlaib tweets, the group suggested that 95% of U.S. Jews are Zionists. A 2021 poll from the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 25% of U.S. Jews believe Israel is an apartheid state, 34% think Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States, and 22% think Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.

DMFI’s founder and CEO is a pollster for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and in 2018 a member of its board called for all of Gaza to be burned.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also rushed to attack Tlaib, openly attacking her as antisemitic for her comments. “In one sentence [Tlaib] simultaneously tells American Jews that they need to pass an anti-Zionist litmus test to participate in progressive spaces even as she doubles down on her #antisemitism by slandering Israel as an apartheid state,” he wrote. “It’s absolutely reprehensible and does nothing to advance the cause of peace. We call on people of good will and leaders across the political spectrum to make clear that such #antisemitism will not be tolerated.”

At the ADL’s National Leadership Summit earlier this year, the so-called civil rights group’s leader equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism, dismissed Palestine advocacy groups as “extremists”, and equated left critics of Israel with white supremacists. “Anti-Zionism as an ideology is rooted in rage,” he declared. “It is predicated on one concept: the negation of another people, a concept as alien to the modern discourse as white supremacy. It requires a willful denial of even a superficial history of Judaism and the vast history of the Jewish people. And, when an idea is born out of such shocking intolerance, it leads to, well, shocking acts.”

AJP Action has put out a statement defending Tlaib’s comments. “During her appearance at our plenary, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib made an accurate moral statement that one cannot simultaneously claim to hold progressive values and support Israel’s apartheid government,” it reads. “This is because Israel’s apartheid government is actively committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people, as thoroughly documented by all major human rights organizations.”

The group goes onto specifically address Greenblatt’s attacks, referring to them as a smear campaign.

“We stand by the comments that Congresswoman Tlaib stated at our event, and reject the ugly and dishonest attacks she’s been subjected to,” the group concludes. “We also commend her political courage in speaking up for Palestinian rights, knowing full well that these smears and disingenuous attacks are an inevitable consequence of standing up for the human rights of Palestinians in our public discourse. These smears will not deter us from continuing to fight until Israeli apartheid is dismantled, and until Palestine is free.”

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss