‘I will not be silenced’: Rashida Tlaib hits back at congressional censure motion


The progressive Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is the only Palestinian American in the US Congress, on Tuesday defended her criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza and urged US lawmakers to join in calling for a ceasefire.

Her comments on the House floor came minutes after Democrats paved the way for an effort to censure her for her remarks, which her detractors say disparaged Israel, and included an emotional and impassioned plea for free speech and equal treatment for Palestinians. The actual vote on whether or not to censure Tlaib is expected on Wednesday.

Related: Rashida Tlaib claims in video that Biden supports Palestinian genocide

Tlaib has been an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s staunch backing of Israel after Hamas fighters killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took at least 200 hostage. In response, Israel’s attack on Hamas-run Gaza has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians. On both sides, most casualties are civilians.

Tlaib has accused Joe Biden of supporting genocide and threatened that he will lose Arab American and Muslim support in the 2024 election – triggering widespread condemnation by Republicans and many Democrats.

But Tlaib was unrepentant in her speech.

“I will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words,” Tlaib said. “No government is beyond criticism. The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent, and it’s been used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation.”

Tlaib, who was first elected in 2018 and is a prominent member of “the Squad” of progressive lawmakers, grew emotional as she said: “I can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not disposable.”

She added: “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, Mr Chair. I hear the voices of advocates in Israel and Palestine across America and around the world for peace.

“I’m inspired by … the courageous survivors in Israel who have lost loved ones, yet are calling for a ceasefire and the end to violence. I am grateful to the people in the streets for the peace movement, with countless Jewish Americans across the country standing up and lovingly saying ‘not in our name’.”

Tlaib’s attack last week on Biden in a video also provoked a firestorm of criticism by including the controversial slogan “from the river to the sea”. Those words are a fragment from a slogan used since the 1960s by a variety of people with a host of purposes. And it is open to an array of interpretations, from the genocidal to the democratic.

Tlaib has said she means it refer to all people leaving in Israel and Palestinian territories living in peace and equality, regardless of ethnicity or religion.

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