Who is Rashida Tlaib, why was the Palestinian-American lawmaker censured?

Who is Rashida Tlaib, why was the Palestinian-American lawmaker censured?

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to censure its sole Palestinian-American lawmaker, Rashida Tlaib, for her comments on the Israel-Hamas war.

The resolution, which was backed by some 22 members of her Democratic party, claimed Tlaib had been “promoting false narratives” regarding the October 7 Hamas attack inside Israel that killed more than 1,400 people. She was also accused of seeking “destruction of Israel” – a charge she rejected.

So, who is Rashida Tlaib, why exactly was she “censured”, what does that mean, and what happened in the tense meeting that culminated in a resolution being passed against her?

Why was Tlaib censured?

The rare vote found a problem with the Democrat congresswoman’s embrace of the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a pro-Palestine chant that has drawn scrutiny from Israel and its supporters in the West.

It claimed the slogan “is widely recognised as a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people”.

Tlaib has defended the slogan saying it was an “aspirational call for freedom… and peaceful existence and not death, destruction and hate”.

During the debate she along with her progressive colleagues in the House reiterated a call for a ceasefire as the Israeli military offensive has killed over 10,000 Palestinians, many of them children, in one month.

“Palestinian people are not disposable,” an emotional Tlaib said.

Tlaib has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government for its treatment of Palestinians and had previously called for an end to Washington’s aid for Israel, including $3.8bn in annual military assistance.

She has lambasted the Israeli bombardment of Gaza that has overwhelmingly killed civilians, but she has also repeatedly condemned the deadly attack by the Hamas armed group.

But her use of the word “resistance” in the wake of the Hamas attack was highlighted by the politicians who introduced the resolution. She had argued that “suffocating, dehumanising conditions” in the Palestinian territories could “lead to resistance”.

Tuesday’s vote against Tlaib comes as US right-wing, including members of the Congress, have used inflammatory language against Palestinians in the wake of the Hamas attack. As Israel launched its war on Gaza on October 7, Representative Max Miller called for the laws of war be swept aside while Senator Lindsey Graham said Gaza should be “flattened”.

Who is Rashida Tlaib?

The 47-year-old Democrat politician and lawyer is a three-term Democrat congresswoman and currently serves as the representative for Michigan’s 12th congressional district.

She is the first woman of Palestinian descent in Congress and, alongside Ilhan Oman, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

Tlaib and Omar are a member of “The Squad”, an informal group of progressive members of Congress that includes Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez among others.

She was born in Detroit to working-class Palestinian immigrants and still has family in the West Bank occupied by Israel.

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