House censures U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib over remarks about Palestine

Arizona lawmakers voted along party lines as the U.S. House issued a rebuke of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, voting to censure the lawmaker over her support for Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The lower chamber approved Georgia Republican
Rich McCormick’s resolution to censure Tlaib, a Democrat and the only
Palestinian-American member of Congress, on a 234-188 vote.

More than 20 Democrats broke with their caucus to vote in favor of the censure. Four Republicans voted against the resolution.

McCormick’s
measure comes after an ill-fated attempt last week by fellow Georgian
Marjorie Taylor Greene to censure Tlaib. Greene and other GOP lawmakers
have attacked Tlaib in recent weeks for her support for Palestine.

In
particular, Republicans have taken issue with Tlaib’s use of the phrase
“from the river to the sea,” a historically contentious slogan that
some argue is a euphemism for dismantling Israel and a call to expel the
region’s Jewish population. Tlaib has defended her use of the phrase as
“an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful
coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.”

The Michigan
Democrat is an ardent supporter of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas,
the provisional government of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, which
attacked Israel Oct. 7. Hamas forces killed more than 1,000 Israelis,
largely civilians, and took hundreds of hostages during the initial
incursion. Jerusalem’s ongoing counter-strike has killed thousands of
Palestinian civilians.

Republicans also took aim at Tlaib over
remarks she gave during an Oct. 18 pro-ceasefire demonstration on
Capitol Hill, organized in part by Jewish peace activists. Greene has
compared the peaceful protest to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots, which
killed five people.

During floor debate Tuesday afternoon, Tlaib
defended her support for Palestine, urging her colleagues — and
President Biden — to recognize their suffering at the hands of the
Israeli government.

“The refusal of Congress to acknowledge
Palestinian lives is chipping away at my soul,” Tlaib said. “I will not
be silenced, and I will not let you distort my words.”

Tlaib implored lawmakers to acknowledge Palestinians as “human beings, just like everyone else.”

“I
can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not
disposable,” she said, choking back tears as Minnesota Representative
Ilhan Omar rose to console her.

Tlaib argued that her remarks
should in no way be construed as an attack on Israelis or the Jewish
people globally. “It is important to separate people and governments,”
she said. “No government is beyond criticism.”

Maryland Democrat
Jamie Raskin defended his colleague, pointing out that Republicans’
attempt to punish Tlaib for her comments “cheapens the meaning of
discipline,” and saying that lawmakers censured for political speech
“will wear it as a badge of honor.”

“Now is the moment where we
will get to see who in the House of Representatives believes in free
speech, including the speech they disagree with,” Raskin said.

It
wasn’t just Democrats that stood against Tlaib’s censure, however.
Colorado Republican Ken Buck warned against the move, saying that “we
lower ourselves when we try to take action against someone else for our
words.”

McCormick, meanwhile, argued that his effort to censure Tlaib was not a First Amendment issue.

“Rashida
Tlaib has the right to spew antisemitic vitriol and call for the
destruction of the Jewish state,” he said, “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.”

McCormick suggested
that there was a precedent for censuring Tlaib, pointing to Democrats’
2021 censure of Arizona Representative Paul Gosar. Gosar was disciplined
and stripped of his committee assignments for sharing a video that
depicted him killing New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Tlaib
is the second Democratic lawmaker to be censured in the
Republican-controlled House this Congress. California Representative
Adam Schiff received a similar rebuke over the summer, as the GOP
accused him of misleading the public during his investigation into
former President Trump’s alleged ties with Russia.

The House votes
to censure members who lawmakers agree have committed some misconduct
that does not warrant expulsion from the chamber. If approved, members
are forced to stand in the House well while the censure resolution is
read aloud.