Palestinian-American Congressional Candidate Called Out Over Pledge to Cut Military Aid to ‘Discriminatory’ Israel

Michigan's Rashida Tlaib, poised to become one of America’s first Muslim congresswoman told an interviewer that ‘US aid should be leveraged’ and support to Israel ‘doesn’t fit the values of our country’

Rashida Tlaib interview on Palestine, Trump’s America and becoming the first Muslim congresswoman
Screen grab

Democratic Jewish leaders condemned remarks by the party’s new Michigan Democratic U.S. House candidate Rashida Tlaib, who said she would support cutting U.S. military aid to Israel when entering the U.S. Congress in November.

Asked in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 about whether she would support slashing American aid, Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, said she would “absolutely” back withholding aid to Israel, in keeping with her belief in the values of ending “inequality” and “people having justice.”

“U.S. aid should be leveraged,” she said, “It should be leveraged to promote that value [of justice]. If you are going to be a country that discriminates against someone solely based on their faith, solely based on their skin color [as] there are Israelis [who] because they are darker skinned... are not being treated equally. To me, that doesn’t fit the values of our country.”

“So I will be using my position as a member of Congress to say no country - not one - should be able to get aid from us, the American people, who talk about justice and equality and stopping discrimination when they promote that kind of injustice.”

In their statement responding to Tlaib’s words, the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said that it “disagrees” with Tlaib’s position and expressed a desire to engage with her on issues relating to Israel.

Rashida Tlaib interview on Palestine, Trump’s America and becoming the first Muslim congresswoman

“The U.S.-Israel relationship is mutually beneficial, as underscored by our joint military and missile defense programs,” the group said, adding that “threatening to cut military assistance to Israel is inconsistent with the values of the Democratic Party and the American people,” the statement read.

In the Channel 4  interview, Tlaib repeatedly related her commitment to racial civil rights and social justice in her Detroit-area district to the injustices she said she had seen and experienced in Israel, describing what sounded like a scene in an airport.  

“When I was twelve years old, I can tell you I sat there with my mother when she was shifted into a line with all the other brown people, and then all the other folks, mostly citizens of Israel in another section, and the way she was treated as ‘less than.’ That inequality ... is very evident when you are there.”

In Israel, she said, “justice is solely based on your faith ... solely based on your ethnicity.”  She said was impossible with “walls and checkpoints” and the dynamic of “choosing a side.” She said her goal in addressing the conflict was to “connect people” and work towards “equality for all, for making sure every single person there has every right to thrive” because as she has observed in Detroit  “dehumanization is toxic” and “I know what happens to families when they are attacked.”

Last week, Tlaib’s primary win made her the first Muslim-American woman heading to Congress, given that she is running in the heavily Democratic-leaning district, and is virtually guaranteed to win the seat in November's election. The daughter of Palestinian immigrants and the eldest of 14 children, Tlaib became the first Muslim woman in the state legislature in 2008. On Tuesday, she was joined by Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, another Muslim woman who enjoyed a similar victory win - positioning the two women to share the historic “first.”

In its statement regarding Tlaib, the JDCA, which describes itself as “the voice of socially-progressive, pro-Israel Jewish Democrats” vowed to continue “to speak out against candidates and elected officials — Republicans and Democrats — who do not share our positions on key issues. As we approach the midterm elections, JDCA will continue to focus on defeating Republicans who have politicized U.S. support for Israel, aligned themselves with neo-Nazis, and supported U.S. President Trump’s divisive and inhumane policies that are a betrayal of American values.”

“In the coming days and months, we hope to learn more about Ms. Tlaib’s views, engage with her on these issues, and discuss with her why we believe U.S. military aid to Israel is a national security priority.”