Rashida Tlaib’s primary victory in Detroit’s 13th Congressional district is unnerving. In a matter of months, Tlaib – the child of “Palestinian-Americans” – will almost certainly have a prominent platform from which to effect change on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since her primary victory, and piquing national and international attention, Tlaib has regularly lambasted Israel. Last week alone, she called for U.S. aid to Israel to be cut, expressed support for the BDS movement, and endorsed a one-state solution.
Ahead of the primaries, I spoke with Tlaib’s campaign manager, Steve Tobocman, and he claimed Tlaib supports a two-state solution; she now has made it clear she doesn’t. Tobocman also stated that Tlaib supports giving foreign aid to Israel; she now has publicly abandoned that position too.
Tobocman did not immediately respond to my request for clarification on Tlaib’s positions. But it seems clear that Tlaib’s recent rhetoric reflects her genuine beliefs considering her past activity. Tlaib, for example, 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!” and touting Palestinian flags.
Also speaking at the event was Dawud Walid, who heads the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and publicly discusses his woes with Jews and Zionists. “Who are those that incur the wrath of Allah? They are the Jews, they are the Jews,” Walid said in a 2012 sermon, one of many anti-Semitic comments he’s made in the past.
Tlaib is also well acquainted with Linda Sarsour, notorious for her contempt of Israel and supporting the anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan. During the campaign, Sarsour spoke at a Tlaib campaign event, giving her endorsement. The relationship between Tlaib and Sarsour dates back years; Sarsour has described Tlaib as a mentor and role model, a disconcerting sign given Sarsour’s track record on Israel.
When I asked Tobocman about Tlaib’s relationship with Sarsour, he shifted the subject of the conversation, which he ended soon after.
Tlaib has also expressed sympathy for terrorist and murderer Rasmea Odeh on Twitter.
In short, Michiganders voted for someone who hates Israel, stands by people like Odeh, and reversed her positions on numerous critical matters following her primary victory.
Why has Tlaib garnered so much support despite her evident character flaws and poor choice in associates? The answer largely has to do with “diversity for the sake of diversity.” Today, unfortunately, some politicians are elected largely on the basis of their racial and/or ethnic group.
Whether intentionally or not, Tlaib banked on being the first Muslim women to potentially reach Congress to get voters’ attention. And Tlaib had significant help from media outlets covering the primaries. It’s unfortunate, but a fact, that the vast majority of headlines about Tlaib read along the lines of “First Muslim-American Women Makes Run for Congress” – entirely ignoring her policies, her questionable friends, and her character.
Voting for someone simply based on her faith or skin color isn’t a vote for true diversity. It’s a vote for putting a candidate’s faith or race ahead of the quality of his or her ideas. It’s also an act of discrimination against the person’s opponent who may have better ideas but who receives fewer votes because he or she doesn’t belong to the right group or have the right skin color.
Diversity is incredible, and initiatives for diversity in institutions have the potential to strengthen inclusivity and tolerance. But when diversity is misconstrued in such a way that Rashida Tlaib is acclaimed in spite of her demagoguery towards Israel, its purpose is entirely defeated.
In certain regards, 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 isn’t the year that we get our first Muslim woman to Congress. It’s that we get our first class of Muslim women to Congress.”
Cortez would better serve the country if instead of placing Islam on a pedestal, she spoke to the policies of Tlaib and other Muslim candidates, which should be the focus of voters. But she hasn’t. And Israel suffers, caught in the crosshairs of pseudo-diversity.
The blatant distaste for Israel that Tlaib and Cortez display is reprehensible to say the least. But where is the media? Where is the voter outcry?