Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, has swung back against those accusing her of anti-Semitism after her comment about dual U.S.-Israel loyalties, calling the situation a “farce” and arguing that being Palestinian “causes a lot of fear.”
“All of these kinds of claims are just farce. They will continue to label me,” Ms. Tlaib told Amy Goodman in a Tuesday interview on “Democracy Now!”
“My mere existence as a member of Congress, as a Palestinian, causes a lot of fear because I’m here as a human being, as an American, that is saying to the world that we exist,” she said.
Ms. Tlaib came under fire for a Sunday tweet against a GOP-backed bill targeting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in which she said, “They forget what country they represent” and suggested that “a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order.”
“Everyone knows what my intent was,” said Ms. Tlaib. “I said, ‘Read the United States Constitution.’ That’s exactly what I want them to do because that is the law of the land. So for me, that is why they have forgotten what country that we are representing.”
Her tweet was roundly decried by pro-Israel groups as a reference to a common anti-Semitic smear about Americans Jews having conflicting U.S.-Israel loyalties.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said Wednesday that such comments represent “an anti-Semitic dog whistle.”
“Any argument to the contrary that somehow puts our loyalty to the country in question has been used in the past and continues to be used by anti-Semites,” said Mr. Rubio on Fox News. “That is an anti-Semitic dog whistle and every time someone uses it, I’m going to call it out.”
Ms. Tlaib, who later tweeted that she was referring to U.S. senators, as opposed to Jews, said Tuesday that she has long fought against discrimination.
“[T]o label me as some sort of anti-Semitic — I can tell you, from campaigning against [hate], to pushing back against so much racism and bigotry, against anybody based on their faith, is what I do on a daily basis,” she said.
Mr. Rubio’s bill, which was blocked Tuesday by Senate Democrats, included provisions protecting states that refuse to do business with companies engaged in anti-Israel boycotts. About 26 states have passed such laws.
Ms. Tlaib and other BDS supporters have argued that such measures violate the First Amendment rights of government contractors, while Mr. Rubio has countered that states have the right to reject discrimination.
Anti-Defamation League president Jonathan Greenblatt described the idea of dual loyalties as “a long-standing anti-Semitic trope connected to the idea that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country, or that U.S. legislators —for some conspiratorial reason — are more concerned about issues related to Israel than U.S. national interest.”
This “dual loyalty” canard is a typical anti-Semitic line#BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel And if boycotting #Israel is constitutionally protected, then boycotting companies that boycott #Israel is also constitutionally protected https://t.co/6yBM0bQB5L
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 7, 2019
Added Mr. Rubio: “It’s the notion that you can’t be a friend of Israel and also be loyal to the United States of America, when in fact Israel is America’s strongest ally in the region, it is one of its strongest allies in the world.”
Ms. Tlaib said she would oppose any such legislation, even if the country involved were not Israel.
“I don’t want our right to be able to speak in dissent to be taken away,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s Saudi Arabia or if it’s Israel or any other country.”
Ms. Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, are both the first Muslim women elected to Congress and the first House members to support openly BDS, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described as anti-Semitic in a March speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC].
“When there is such a double standard, when the world treats everybody one way and the Jew or the Jewish state another way, there’s only one word for it: anti-Semitism,” said Mr. Schumer. “Let us call out the BDS movement for what it is.”
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