House Votes To Censure Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib Over Israel remarks

Updated: 11/08/2023

Jacob Fischler, Michigan Advance

The U.S. House voted late Tuesday to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib for remarks the Michigan Democrat has made about Israel and Palestine amid the ongoing war in the Middle East.

The chamber voted, 234-188, to adopt a resolution written by Georgia Republican Rich McCormick that would censure Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of Congress, for a handful of statements in the month since the militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack into southern Israel. Twenty-two Democrats voted for the resolution.

Michigan’s delegation was split on party lines, with all seven Democrats voting against the measure and all six Republicans voting for it.

Surrounded by a small circle of progressive lawmakers, Tlaib stood in the well of the House as Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, read the results.

The censure vote came after a procedural vote to quash the resolution failed 208-213 earlier Tuesday.

The resolution was a formal statement that a majority of the chamber disapproves of Tlaib’s statements. It does not include any additional punishment such as removal from committees.

Tlaib stands by her defense of Palestinian slogan, ‘From the river to the sea’  

Michigan’s congressional delegation was split on party lines, with all seven Democrats voting no and all Republicans voting yes.

Six Republicans — Ken Buck of Colorado, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ryan Zinke of Montana and John Duarte, Mike Garcia and Tom McClintock of California — voted with most Democrats to table the resolution.

One Democrat, Brad Schneider of Illinois, voted against tabling it and Susan Wild, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, voted present. Eleven members did not vote.

Tlaib’s statements amounted to “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel and dangerously promoting false narratives regarding a brutal, large-scale terrorist attack against civilian targets inside the sovereign territory of a major non-NATO ally while hundreds of Israeli and American hostages remain in terrorist captivity,” the McCormick resolution said.

The resolution cited Tlaib’s criticism of Israel the day after Hamas’ initial attack, her dissemination of a later-debunked report that Israeli rockets destroyed a hospital in the Gaza Strip and a video last week that included the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which is widely seen as advocating for the dissolution of the state of Israel.

Tlaib has called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Hamas’ attack has killed more than 1,400, mostly civilians. Israel’s counteroffensive has killed more than 10,000, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. Most of the dead Palestinians were children, Tlaib said Tuesday.

In an emotional floor speech Tuesday, Tlaib said she was not antisemitic, but has long criticized the Israeli government. Her House colleagues were targeting her for her support of Palestinian causes and advocacy for a ceasefire, she said.

“I can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not disposable,” she said, her voice cracking. “We are human beings, just like anyone else.”

As Tlaib paused to regain her composure, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat who with Tlaib comprised the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, rose in a sign of support and put a hand on Tlaib’s back. Rep. André Carson of Indiana, who is also Muslim, placed a hand on Tlaib’s shoulder.

“Speaking up to save lives, Mr. Chair — no matter faith, no matter ethnicity — should not be controversial in this chamber,” Tlaib continued. “The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all. We cannot lose our shared humanity.”

Resolution criticizes Tlaib

The day after Hamas’ surprise attack, Tlaib released a statement mourning “Palestinian and Israeli lives lost” but called Israeli policy “apartheid” that would lead to “resistance.”

The resolution said the language in that statement “justified” the attack.

The resolution also criticized Tlaib for echoing reports that Israeli rockets killed hundreds at a hospital in Gaza. U.S. intelligence later debunked that report, which was initially based on information from Palestinian officials.

The most recent event cited in the resolution was Tlaib’s tweet on Friday showing a video with pro-Palestinian protestors chanting “from the river to the sea.” The slogan, which refers to the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, is seen as a call to disband the state of Israel and grant the land to the Palestinian people.

In a follow-up tweet Friday, Tlaib called the slogan “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who is Jewish, led the floor debate against the resolution.

Raskin and Tlaib disagree about aspects of Israel-Palestine relations, but Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, said Tlaib was entitled by the First Amendment to speak her mind.

“The phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ is abhorrent to me, even with her public explanation of what she means by it, which is very different from what Hamas says,” Raskin said. “But I would never think of punishing her or disciplining her because we disagree about that.”

McCormick responded that the resolution had nothing to do with Tlaib’s right to free speech, but was about the House taking a position.

“This is not about a First Amendment issue,” he said. “Rep. Tlaib has the right to spew antisemitic vitriol, even calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. But the House of Representatives also has the right to make it clear that her hate speech does not reflect the opinion of the chamber. And that’s what this resolution is about.

Another resolution

The vote was the second time in as many weeks the House considered a resolution censuring Tlaib. The chamber voted Nov. 1 to quash a similar resolution sponsored by Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The chamber is scheduled to vote again late Tuesday on another motion to table Greene’s resolution.

The vote last week occurred before Tlaib’s tweets that included “from the river to the sea.”

If the House votes Tuesday to proceed to the Greene resolution, a vote on both that measure and the McCormick resolution are expected Wednesday.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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