The House voted late Tuesday to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the only Palestinian American in Congress, for comments she made regarding Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.
The 234-188 tally came after enough Democrats joined with Republicans to censure Tlaib, a punishment one step below expulsion from the House. The three-term congresswoman has long been a target of criticism for her views on the decades-long conflict in the Middle East.
The debate on the censure resolution on Tuesday afternoon was emotional and intense. Republican Rep. Rich McCormick of Georgia pushed the measure in response to what he called Tlaib’s promotion of antisemitic rhetoric. He said she has “levied unbelievable falsehoods about our greatest ally, Israel, and the attack on October 7.”
With other Democrats standing by her side, Tlaib defended her stance, saying she “will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words.”
She added that her criticism of the Jewish state has always been directed toward its government and its leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It is important to separate people and government,” she said. “The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent. And it’s been used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation.”
That criticism reached new heights after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank, came under heavy reproval after she failed to immediately condemn Hamas after the attack.
Later Tlaib repeatedly condemned Hamas’ assault, which killed some 1,400 people, while also criticizing US support for Israel as the country’s military retaliates with bombardment that has killed thousands of Palestinians in Gaza.
All Democrats initially stood by Tlaib and helped defeat the first censure resolution against her last week. But since then, many of her colleagues, including prominent Jewish members, have become more conflicted about her rhetoric about the war, especially because of a slogan she has used frequently that is widely seen as calling for the eradication of Israel.
Ultimately, more than 20 of them joined Republicans on Tuesday night to censure her after an effort to shelve the measure failed earlier in the day.
With the vote, Tlaib will become the second Muslim-American woman in Congress to be formally admonished this year for her criticism of the Jewish state. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., was removed in February from the House Foreign Affairs Committee for similar comments she made about Israel.
Some on the left have criticized President Joe Biden’s stance and urged him to put conditions on US support for Israel as its aggressive military campaign drives the Palestinian death toll higher.