The Danger of Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib’s primary victory in Detroit’s 13th Congressional district is daunting for Israel supporters in the US and abroad. In a matter of months, Tlaib will have sizable influence to effect change on an issue central to her heritage (she is a “Palestinian-American”), with a voice infallibly slated against Israel.
Following her primary victory, Tlaib has lambasted Israel on a slew of topics. In the past few days alone, she’s called for US aid to Israel to be cut, expressed support for the BDS movement, and endorsed a one-state solution.
I spoke with Tlaib’s campaign manager, Steve Tobocman, ahead of the primaries, and he stated that Tlaib supports a two-state solution — which she has now contradicted. He also stated that Tlaib supported a foreign aid budget to Israel, another position that she changed after the primary election. Tobocman did not immediately respond to my request for clarification on Tlaib’s policies.
Yet Tlaib’s recent rhetoric and past actions are indicative of her genuine beliefs on the conflict.
Tlaib was a keynote speaker at one of Detroit’s largest BDS rallies in 2014, long before her Congressional bid. The rally drew tens of thousands chanting “Free Palestine” while waving Palestinian flags. Also speaking at the event was Dawud Walid, who heads up the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and once said, “Who are those that incur the wrath of Allah? They are the Jews, they are the Jews.”
Tlaib is also well acquainted with Linda Sarsour, notoriously recognized for her anti-Israel activities and as a supporter of Louis Farrakhan. During the campaign, Sarsour endorsed Tlaib, and their relationship dates back years — to the point where Sarsour described Tlaib as a mentor and role model, a disconcerting sign given Sarsour’s track record on Israel. Tlaib has also expressed sympathy for terrorist and murderer Rasmea Odeh on Twitter.
This is the quality of character expressed by the woman chosen by Michiganders to represent them.
So why has Tlaib garnered so much support, despite her evident character flaws and poor choice in associates? The answer largely has to do with seeking diversity for the sake of diversity — to the point where politicians are elected largely on the basis of their racial and ethnic group. Whether intentionally or not, Tlaib banked on being the first Muslim women to potentially reach Congress in order to grasp voter attention.
And Tlaib had significant help from media outlets covering the primaries. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a fact, that the vast majority of stories on Tlaib ignored her policies, her questionable friends, and her as a person, beyond being a member of a religion and female. But people love a pioneer — and that’s precisely what Rashida Tlaib represents.
But this isn’t true diversity, and this isn’t the diversity needed in today’s world. Instead, it’s putting the faith of a candidate before the quality of their ideas, a phenomenon which is discriminatory in and of itself. Diversity is an incredible thing, and initiatives for diversity in institutions have the potential to bring inclusivity and tolerance that has been lacking so heavily in recent years. But when diversity is misconstrued in such a way that Rashida Tlaib is acclaimed in spite of her demagoguery towards Israel, it’s purpose is entirely defeated.
In this regard, Tlaib resembles another starlet of the 2018 primary campaign: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another harsh critic of Israel, who spoke at a campaign event promoting Tlaib. Cortez fired up the crowd when she exclaimed that “2018 is the year that we get our first Muslim woman to Congress.”
And as per usual, Israel is caught directly in the crosshairs of the pseudo-diversity phenomenon. The blatant distaste for Israel presented by Tlaib, as well as Cortez and others, is reprehensible to say the least. Yet we see weak secular media coverage of this, and no voter outcry on the subject.
This is not a denigration of Islam, but a critique of how politicians are nowadays evaluated first and foremost as a race, an ethnicity, a gender, and a religion — all before being assessed as future lawmakers and leaders of society.
Noah Phillips is a young writer with a particular interest in Jewish/Israeli affairs. He writes a column for Elder of Ziyon and is the founder of The Jewish Post, an online Jewish political magazine. Follow Noah on Twitter @noahaphilli.