Israel lobby intimidates Rashida Tlaib

Woman smiles

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib backed down after retweeting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Rebecca Cook Reuters

When Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobby group, is upset by a slogan supporting freedom and equal rights for Palestinians and Jews, they now have reason to hope US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib will cave to their pressure.

Tlaib had retweeted Democratic Party activist Rasha Mubarak’s 29 November call that “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Mubarak’s tweet, accompanied by emojis of a Palestinian flag and a dove with an olive branch, marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Tlaib, however, removed the retweet, apparently after it had come under attack from Democratic Majority for Israel. The lobby group claimed that by sharing Mubarak’s tweet, Tlaib was indicating that “she sees the entire State of Israel as illegitimate and wants it eliminated.”

“That’s an immoral and reprehensible position,” the group added.

Tlaib did not explain her reversal. Nor did she respond to The Electronic Intifada’s request for an explanation of why she backed down.

Tlaib left standing her own tweet from the same day, stating that she was thinking of her grandmother and family in Palestine.

“From Detroit to Gaza, we will always fight against oppression and inequality,” Tlaib’s tweet states.

That’s a fine sentiment that Democratic Majority for Israel didn’t challenge – perhaps because its lack of specificity doesn’t challenge Israel as culpable for the situation in Gaza or even mention the West Bank.

Tlaib’s removal of Mubarak’s tweet, however, is a cause for concern in a climate where groups measure their success by their ability to stifle speech supportive of Palestinian rights.

It sends a signal to the Israel lobby that Tlaib can be bullied.

The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah expressed dismay at Tlaib’s action, asserting that “appeasement never works and only invites more pressure.”

Former UK Labour MP Chris Williamson agreed with that statement, adding that “trying to appease the Israel lobby is doomed to disaster.”

Instead of backing down, Tlaib could have kept Mubarak’s tweet on her timeline and responded to Democratic Majority for Israel along these lines: “I support equal rights for Palestinians and Jews. The Israel lobby supports an apartheid state. Join me or at least stop standing in the way of freedom and equal rights for Palestinians.”

Tlaib, the sole Palestinian American Democrat in Congress, is likely to be the first censured if matters proceed in the US as they have in the UK. There, a relentless political witch hunt instigated by the Israel lobby has driven supporters of Palestinian rights like Williamson out of the Labour Party using false accusations of anti-Semitism.

There have previously been calls for Tlaib’s censure from politicians who are only too happy to back Israel’s systematic abuses of Palestinian rights.

Writer Peter Beinart, a recent adherent to support for one state with equal rights for all, vigorously defended Tlaib against Democratic Majority for Israel’s criticisms.

He pointed out that Tlaib supports a one-state solution with equal rights.

And Beinart wondered how Democratic Majority for Israel could consider that less moral than the present reality where “millions of Palestinians lack citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote for the government that controls their lives.”

Israel and its supporters routinely smear anybody – Palestinian, Jewish or any other equal rights advocate – who supports a single democratic state as wanting the “destruction” or “elimination” of Israel.

This inflammatory language is akin to claiming that Black Americans or Black South Africans who called for the end of Jim Crow or apartheid were demanding the “destruction of the United States,” or the “destruction of South Africa.”

Indeed, many racists made and still make such accusations.

This is not the first time that the expression has led to a political fight. Prominent Black scholar and CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill was fired by the news organization for using a similar phrase. Meanwhile, former US Senator Rick Santorum is employed by CNN despite having once said “All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.”

Equal rights seen as a threat

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a catchy way of saying that the apartheid reality that exists there today will be replaced with equal rights for all.

That is precisely why Democratic Majority for Israel finds the slogan so threatening: They do not want the kind of change that happened in South Africa, where an apartheid regime was toppled and replaced with a state with equal rights for all.

A tweet may be a small thing, but Tlaib should not have been intimidated into removing it.

Doing so allows the enemies of Palestinian rights to define the terms of discussion and is a tacit admission that what she retweeted was somehow wrong.

She’s in a lonely position in Washington and even within the slow-moving Democratic Party, but the grassroots and American public are increasingly on the side of Palestinian liberation.

Tlaib is going to be viciously attacked in the months and years ahead as a Palestinian American Democrat with a strong point of view supporting Palestinian rights and one state. When allies rally to her defense, however, that is not the time to stand down but to reassert the moral power and vision of equal rights over Israeli apartheid.




If the tweet had said 'Palestinians' instead of "Palestine", it would have been a whole different ballgame. We want to see all Palestinians and all Jews FREE within a single, democratic state, though nothing like that is likely to happen for along time until Israel descends much further into the pure ugliness of a no-holds-barred apartheid state. The connotation used against Rep. Tlaib is that the country between the river and the sea, called Palestine, leaves no room for Jews. THAT can so easily be construed by Zionists as a clear desire of a one-state reality excluding Jews. Fodder for Zionism. I'm more worried about Ilhan Omar who STILL has not come out and explained her signing of an AIPAC letter condemning Iran. Until she does, I won't make another donation to her. I've written her many answer.


This is the second time Rashida Tlaib has flubbed it. The first was last year when she wrote a grovelling letter to Israeli authorities. She needs a communications advisor.


Look at what happened to Corbyn. Starmer was a right-wing, and almost certainly a Zionist plant, in his shadow cabinet, Starmer never supported Corbyn's policies. You can imagine the conversations: "Keep your place. Give Corbyn no reason to sack you. Keep your powder dry. Hide your right-wing views. But undermine Corbyn. Make sure he doesn't win. Then take over and drive the Party to the right." Starmer found his chance in the EU debacle. He crafted a confusing, hopeless, fudged policy the voters were bound to find fussy and confusing. Rashida is in a similar position. She will be bullied, conspired against, traduced, the plots will thicken. Like Corbyn she will be defeated if she tries to placate. Palestine free from the river to the sea is the right slogan. She should not withdraw or apologise. A Palestine of equal rights is the only democratic option. Like the man said, history is a devourer of character. It takes great courage not to bend, especially before the vicious bullying of the Israeli lobby. Rashida needs to be bombarded with messages of support. She needs to feel she can speak out and not be alone. A single, democratic State in Palestine is the ideal but how do we get there? Chomsky has a point. World support for a single State barely exists. Almost every government supports a two-States option. The latter shouldn't be dismissed. Once the Palestinians have a State, there can begin the next phase, but it would be a tragedy to refuse the adequate for the sake of an ideal which doesn't come to fruition. Keep a mind open enough to accept a two-State possibility and hold the world to its word. All those who claim to support it must be forced to prove it.


Do you have an email address for Tlaib? You cannot contact her through the usual Rep. Tlaib channel unless you are in her constituency. I agree letters of support would be a great idea. If I could get my hands on a reliable email address, I would post it widely and often on my FB sites. As far as one state goes, it sounds like you're waiting for the world and the Israelis to come around and agree to it. I don't think that will ever happen with the Israelis. Nor will they agree to two states. They had their chance in the 90s but in fact Zionism has NEVER been about sharing the land of Palestine. However, the world might eventually come around but only when the level of apartheid and denial of Palestinian human and political rights in what is, ALREADY, a de facto one-state, becomes so atrocious that the countries that now sit on the sidelines supporting Israel because of pressure or guilt or whatever is driving them to do so, have a change of perspective due to the intolerable situation. When that happens, as it did vis-a-vis South Africa, there may rise a global voice which will demand equal rights for everyone in the country. There's you path to one-state. No other way. And I'm sorry to say that the books written about one-state that I've read (Tilley, Abunimah, Kovel, Qumsiyeh) do NOTHING to present a working blueprint that might even entice very leftist Israelis to consider the option. All they do is explain that it is the most just solution, which Israelis don't care about anyway, or explain why the two-state solution is dead.


Ms. Tlaib should stand her ground with whatever she says! Just as Chris Williamson said, there is no appeasing the Israel Lobby. She should do just what courageous Britains such as Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson do, whatever statement you make regarding Occupied Palestine (Israel) or the Israel Lobby don't apologize or retreat, ever!


No, Larry. Zionism aims to create a racist Jewish state from the river (Euphrates) to the river (Nile). Unscramble this.

Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.