Palestinians on Monday denounced President Donald Trump’s attack on U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, accusing him of racism and saying it once again proves his bias against the Palestinian people.
Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and daughter of Palestinian immigrants, was one of four congresswomen of color who were targeted in a Trump Twitter barrage over the weekend.
Trump said the women should go back to the “broken and crime infested” places they came from, ignoring the fact that all are American citizens and three, including Tlaib, were born in the U.S. Trump also accused them of saying “terrible things” about the U.S. and said they “hate Israel.”
Although Tlaib has never lived in the West Bank, she still has relatives in the area and is widely seen as a local hero for making her way to the highest levels of American government.
Bassam Tlaib, an uncle of the congresswoman who lives in the West Bank, called the president’s comments “a racist statement meant to target Rashida because she has Palestinian roots.”
“This statement proves that Trump is anti-Palestinian, anti-Islam and completely biased toward Israel,” he added.
He said “the main source of crime” in the West Bank is Israel’s half-century-long occupation. The Palestinians seek the West Bank as the heartland of a future state, with east Jerusalem as their capital. “Instead of helping our people get back their rights, President Trump has chosen to stand beside the oppressors, not the oppressed,” he said.
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Ibrahim Milhim, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said Trump’s statement is an “insult” to the office of the presidency and the laws of the U.S.
“It’s an insult to the Statue of Liberty, America’s most famous symbol, an insult to the American values where migrants from all over the world are united as one nation under one law,” he said.
The Palestinians had cut ties with the White House after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and subsequently moved the American embassy to the contested city. The White House responded by shuttering the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and cutting hundreds of millions of dollars of aid.
The Palestinians have pre-emptively rejected Trump’s Mideast peace plan, accusing him of being unfairly biased toward Israel, and boycotted last month’s conference in Bahrain where the White House launched the economic portion of its plan.
It was not clear why Trump mentioned Israel in his latest tweets. One of Trump’s other targets, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington early this year when she suggested that members of Congress support Israel for money. For her part, Tlaib has endorsed the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel.
Israel, on the other hand, has forged strong ties with Trump, who in addition to moving the embassy has recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly praised Trump, drawing criticism from opponents in Israel and some Jewish American groups that he is politicizing and weakening what has traditionally been bipartisan support for his country in the U.S.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Trump’s tweets. But Netanyahu’s son Yair, who serves as an unofficial adviser to his father, welcomed them, especially his call for the four lawmakers to apologize to the people of Israel.
“Thank you so much! You are the best friend the Jewish people ever had in the White House!” Yair Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
Yossi Shain, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations at Tel Aviv University, said he was not surprised that Israel had been dragged into the debate.
“Their hostility toward Trump, and the fact that Trump is in intimate relations with Netanyahu, make progressive voices in the U.S. into Israel haters,” he said.
Ahmed Mohamed, a political scientist at Somalia’s National University in Mogadishu, said he was not surprised by Trump’s comments, calling them part of an agenda that opposes immigration and “rejects diversity.”
“Having succeeded in pushing his anti-immigration plan forward, this is the beginning of building momentum to push those with immigrant backgrounds like Omar out of U.S. politics and to build an immigrant-free United States,” he said.