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    HomeBusinessPoliticsWhat Rashida Tlaib Represents - The New York Times

    What Rashida Tlaib Represents – The New York Times


    When she and the Somalia-born Omar were elected that November, they became the first Muslim women in the House. “I guess I was naïve,” Tlaib told me, “in not understanding how bipartisan Islamophobia is in Congress.” It was the subtle things, she said: colleagues shocked to know that most American Muslims are Black, or stereotypes of Muslim women being submissive. One colleague approached Omar and touched her hijab. Besides ignorance, Tlaib said, “I think there’s a tremendous amount of fear.”

    Her election also made her the third Palestinian American in the House after Justin Amash, a Republican representative from Michigan, and John E. Sununu, a Republican representative from New Hampshire. Amash at times bucked his party, which he left before exiting Congress in 2021, on Israel. In 2014, he voted against funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, which has been significantly financed by the United States since it was established in 2011. Amash, a libertarian, explained his opposition on the grounds of government spending. Tlaib’s views, by contrast, are deeply and openly personal. She grew up hearing stories of family members being forced out of their homes. At age 12, she visited the West Bank and saw for herself the walls and checkpoints.

    Still, foreign policy had hardly come up in her years as state representative. Shortly after her bid for Congress, Steve Tobocman, a former state representative for whom she worked early in her career, sat down with her. The two had discussed the conflict in the past, but now Tobocman, who was working on her campaign, wanted to further understand her views.

    Tlaib, he recalls, offered few specifics for a policy agenda, but told him about playing with children of Israeli settlers when she visited her grandmother, and recognizing the humanity of people on both sides. Ultimately, she told him, her position on the conflict would be driven by values of equality, peace and justice. She reminded Tobocman of Barbara Lee, the California Democratic congresswoman who cast the sole vote against the authorization of force in Afghanistan in 2001, quoting in her floor speech a clergy member’s warning to “not become the evil we deplore.”

    “I said, ‘You aspire to be like Barbara Lee,’” Tobocman told me. “And she said, ‘Absolutely.’”

    In the fall of 1973, shortly before Tlaib’s parents arrived in Michigan, almost 3,000 Arab American U.A.W. members marched to the U.A.W. Dearborn office and demanded that the local union liquidate about $300,000 in bonds it had purchased from the State of Israel with money collected from union dues. At another protest, workers waved signs that read: “Jewish People Yes, Zionism No.” The U.A.W. later liquidated some Israeli bonds.

    Only recently had the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fully entered American politics. In 1967, after a six-day war with its Arab neighbors, Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights; swaths of Palestinian land were now under Israeli control, and so were one million additional Palestinians. To American leaders, Israel proved itself a capable ally against Soviet-backed regimes in Egypt and Syria. By 1976, Israel had become the biggest recipient of U.S. military aid.

    Around the same time, James Zogby, who is now president of the Arab American Institute, helped found the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, part of a nascent Palestinian rights movement that had a few allies in the Capitol. But its efforts were dwarfed by those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), founded over a decade earlier, which helped form pro-Israel political action committees that fund-raised for both parties. Israel also successfully framed the Middle East conflict for American audiences as a battle between the West and Soviet-sponsored terrorism. In 1988, Zogby, who advised Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign that year, was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. He tried to persuade the party’s leadership to include language about the “legitimate rights of Palestinian people” in the party platform, but failed. “Palestinian became the prefix for the word ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism,’” Zogby told me. “You couldn’t say one without the other.”

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