Less than a week into her term as a congresswoman, freshman Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib sparked her second controversy since her inauguration, after tweeting Sunday that people supporting a bill protecting states that penalize Israel boycotters have “forgot what country they represent.”
The Michigan Democrat's comment was quickly denounced, with Jewish writer Howard Lovy quickly denouncing it as an example of the “old anti-Semitic 'dual loyalty’ garbage ... when the first thing she raises is the ancient specter of Jewish disloyalty, you know this is going to be a rough ride.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced the bill, also denounced Tlaib's tweet, "This “dual loyalty” canard is a typical anti-Semitic line. #BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel..."
Tlaib replied to Rubio, "Sen. Rubio, it's clear my earlier tweet was critical of U.S. Senators like yourself, who are seeking to strip Americans of their Constitutional right to free speech."
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Tlaib initial tweet was supporting a tweet by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who said Sunday it was an “absurd” bill for Republicans to introduce as the Senate’s first bill of the new Congress.
“It’s absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity,” Sanders tweeted, linking to an article in The Intercept about the bill.
“Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government,” Sanders added. “Let’s get our priorities right.”
U.S. President Donald Trump will not sign any funding legislation that does not include over $5 billion for a wall with Mexico, triggering a government shutdown entering its third week. Tlaib had caused a media storm last week after telling a cheering crowd that "we're gonna go in and impeach the motherfucker," referring to the president.
In her tweet, Tlaib wrote that those who support the bill “forgot what country they represent. This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right [and] part of our historical fight for freedom [and] equality,” she said. “Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”
Republican Senators Rubio and James Risch last week introduced the first bill to be considered in the Republican-led Senate, consolidating four bills that languished in the last Congress: One codifies into law $38 billion in defense assistance for Israel over 10 years; another protects states that pass laws targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, including states that ban contracts with Israel boycotters. Civil libertarians have decried the laws as infringing on free speech.
The bill’s other two provisions strengthen the U.S.-Jordan relationship and enhance sanctions against Syria’s Assad regime.
Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats, mounted a surprisingly strong challenge in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries against Hillary Clinton, becoming the first Jewish candidate to win major-party nominating contests. He has hinted he may run again in 2020. He has emerged as the leader of progressives in the Senate.
The first bill to be considered in the U.S. House of Representatives, newly led by Democrats, tackles political corruption and voting rights.