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May 11, 2023 2:26 pm

Rep. Rashida Tlaib Holds ‘Nakba’ Event in Senate with Help From Sen. Bernie Sanders


avatar by Andrew Bernard

Wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addresses a Congressional debate on Palestinian violence against Israel, 2021 Photo: Screenshot.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) on Wednesday evening held an event commemorating the ‘Nakba,’ an Arabic word meaning ‘catastrophe’ that refers to the founding of the state of Israel, with the help of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) after Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy blocked the event’s original venue.

Tlaib and the event’s organizers – a group of pro-Palestinian NGOs including the Institute for Middle East Understanding and Americans for Justice in Palestine Action – originally tried to host the event in the auditorium of the Capitol Hill Visitors Center. 

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday said that the event was “canceled” and that he would instead host a bipartisan discussion honoring 75 years of the US-Israel relationship, a move that was welcomed by American Jewish groups. 

“’Nakba Day’ events across the country are platforms that propagate revisionist histories, tolerating – and at times – even encouraging hateful, anti-Israel, and antisemitic rhetoric,” the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement. “Particularly given the ongoing rocket barrage launched by terrorists in Gaza targeting innocent civilians in Israel, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to call out the kind of divisive rhetoric that will inevitably lead to further violence.”

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But the event went ahead on Wednesday after relocating to the hearing room of Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the ranking member of the HELP committee, said in a statement that he was unaware of the event and was not consulted by Sen. Sanders about holding it in the HELP hearing room.

“I wholeheartedly disapprove of the Majority permitting the use of the HELP Committee room for this divisive event,” Cassidy said. “The Capitol Grounds should not be used as a pedestal to legitimize anti-Semitic bigotry.”

While Sanders did not attend the Nakba event, his decision to allow it to proceed in his committee was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and others.

“It is disgraceful that [Sen. Sanders] allowed this event by [Rep. Tlaib] to be held in our nation’s Capitol,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “Real conversations are needed around a path to peace, but not with groups & individuals who espouse antisemitism. We call on the Senate to condemn this event.”

Tlaib did not reply to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-FL) on Thursday blasted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for allowing the event to proceed in the Senate.

“Chuck Schumer’s decision to allow Bernie Sanders to host Rashida Tlaib’s hateful, antisemitic event in the HELP Committee room is disgusting,” Scott said. “The Left is showing Americans very clearly that they do not care about Israel. It is a truly sad day for our country when Democrats so blatantly turn their backs on Jewish Americans by uniting around an antisemite who not only spreads hate but actively uses her position as a member of Congress to advance an ugly agenda with the purpose of degrading our special relationship and strong alliance with Israel. Every Democrat must condemn Chuck Schumer’s decision to be complicit in spreading antisemitic hate. We will not forget or forgive this disgraceful bigotry.”

Schumer did not immediately reply to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.

Tlaib on Wednesday evening gloated about the failed efforts to thwart the event.

“Let the headlines read ‘McCarthy tries to erase Palestine but fails,’” she wrote on Twitter.

While Tlaib was the only member of Congress to speak at the event, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a fellow member of the so-called ‘Squad’ of progressive Democrats, was also in attendance.

At the event, Tlaib also presented a copy of the Nakba resolution she introduced in the House on Wednesday morning.

The resolution, which is an updated version of a resolution she presented in 2022, calls for the US to officially recognize the Nakba, condemns statements by members of Israel’s current government, and calls on the President to apply the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018 to the treatment of Palestinians by Israel. 

In addition to Tlaib and Bush, the resolution is co-sponsored by Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

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