Top Israel supporter launches bigoted attacks on Rashida Tlaib

US Representative Rashida Tlaib looks up into the gallery during the first session of the new Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, 3 January.

Jonathan Ernst Reuters

Top Israel lobby figure Adam Milstein is one of the leading purveyors of racial hatred and Islamophobia targeting Rashida Tlaib, the Michigan Democrat who has just been sworn in as a member of Congress.

Milstein is chair of the Israeli-American Council and has been named as a principal funder of the anti-Palestinian intimidation site Canary Mission.

He has lately been joined by President Donald Trump who claimed Tlaib “dishonored her family” when she used an expletive calling for his impeachment. Since then the abuse directed at her has spiked.

Tlaib is the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress and, along with Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the body.

During her campaign, Tlaib accepted support from J Street, a liberal Israel lobby group that opposes the Palestinian right of return and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

But following pushback, she has been outspoken in support of the rights of activists to engage in BDS and has expressed support for one state with equal rights for all and opposition to US aid to Israel.

J Street later dropped its endorsement of Tlaib.

Milstein is using his Facebook page and Twitter account to target Tlaib.

Characterizing Tlaib’s support of equal rights for Palestinians and Jews living between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea as a one-state solution “without Israel,” Milstein noted Tlaib’s decision “to wear traditional Palestinian dress to [her] swearing-in ceremony.”

She did exactly that.

And she received an outpouring of support from other women who posted photos of themselves on social media also wearing thobes.

This lack of fear in asserting the growing Palestinian cultural and political presence in the US prompted outrage from right-wing xenophobes.

“Target just because I exist”

Milstein’s statements provoked numerous vitriolic reactions to Tlaib who is on record saying that regardless of her positions she would still be the target of hatred “just because I exist.”

Indeed, complaints flowed in the comments on Milstein’s Facebook page about Islam “coming our way,” how there is supposedly nothing unique about Palestinian dress, and even the suggestion that there is no such place as Palestine and no Palestinians.

“We should embrace who we are and not be shamed for it,” Tlaib wrote in Elle last week. “Too often in this country, recently and throughout history, groups of people have been marginalized, harmed and even killed for being different.”

But Milstein and his friends are not ready to go there, with one expressing outrage at Tlaib’s choice to be sworn in on a Quran.

Only a bigot who fails to comprehend the Constitution would voice such opposition. Many are out there.

This is the crowd Milstein runs with online and whose bigotry he inflames.

Yet so far Milstein, a convicted tax cheat, and Canary Mission have received a pass from mainstream media largely uninterested in his anti-Palestinian sentiment.

NPR even presented Canary Mission in October as a non-controversial organization and linked to the website as a source without comment on its intimidation tactics.

Milstein’s fanning of hatred against Tlaib comes from an established playbook. He has a history of derogatory remarks about Muslims, and once railed against President Barack Obama for “cuddling up to Islam.”

Trump lashes out

A new round of attacks on Tlaib followed her comments about Trump, that the new Democratic-led House of Representatives would “impeach the motherfucker.”

Trump claimed that Tlaib had been “disrespectful” and “dishonored” herself and her family – a rich charge from a man who is on record bragging about grabbing women by the “pussy” and has repeatedly been challenged about both covered-up consensual dalliances and outright sexual assaults.

Milstein criticized both Tlaib’s impeachment comment and another one Sunday evening agreeing with Senator Bernie Sanders about the Senate’s “absurd” decision to prioritize an unconstitutional anti-BDS bill rather than the urgency created by the federal government shutdown.

Milstein falsely claimed Tlaib had revealed herself as “an extreme #antisemite” for “accusing #Jewish-Americans of Dual Loyalty.”

But Tlaib did no such thing when she charged that senators supporting the bill “forgot what country they represent.”

The legislation has been widely criticized, including by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Milstein’s accusation of anti-Semitism is a typical play by right-wing supporters of Israel to misrepresent words while ignoring the vicious anti-freedom and anti-Palestinian hatred on their own side.

Attacks from Democrats

The New York Times displayed sexism by characterizing Tlaib’s comment about Trump as an “outburst,” but did at least point to “racially tinged” criticism such as that of the Christian Broadcasting Network which labeled her a “foul-mouthed Islamic congresswoman.”

Yet Tlaib may be right that impeachment is coming should the evidence from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller suggest impeachable offenses occurred.

If it does not then Democrats will probably have to wait for the 2020 presidential election for their chance to remove Trump.

Frequently overlooked in the Friday brouhaha is the case that Tlaib made in an op-ed last week for why impeachment can already be pursued for misdeeds that are unrelated to alleged collusion with Russia.

The attacks on Tlaib have come not just from Fox News and the far-right but also from her own side.

Democratic congressman Emanuel Cleaver went out of his way to bash Tlaib by tweeting repeatedly about her comment.

He supports and promotes US military aid that goes to Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory and the creation of an apartheid reality.

Yet Cleaver took time to criticize the word choice of his only Democratic Palestinian American colleague rather than the far greater horror of decades-long American support for Israel’s policies subjugating an occupied and dispossessed people.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told Fox News Friday afternoon that Tlaib’s remarks were “so disgusting, it was horrible.”

He is a leader in the unconstitutional effort to silence American supporters of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, to which Tlaib has recently given her backing.

Republican Senator Rand Paul went far beyond Cleaver and Manchin when he belittled Tlaib by referring to her not by name but as “this congresswoman.” Without an iota of evidence, Paul accused Tlaib during a Fox News interview of stirring violence and putting the president’s life “at risk.”

More racist and Islamophobic attacks on Tlaib seem inevitable, and not only from the Republican side.

Right on cue, Milstein tweeted this attack seeking to connect Tlaib to “Palestinian intifada,” “jihad” and armed struggle:

Anti-Palestinian haters such as Milstein were out before Tlaib’s impeachment comment and they’re going to keep after her.

What’s important here is that Tlaib verbally punched up – speaking truth to power as she put it – whether she used the right words or not.

The president and his supporters have said far worse in punching down – verbally and with policies – against some of the most vulnerable people in the country and around the world.

There’s a vital distinction.

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Comments

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Whereas I applaud Ms. Tlaib for standing up for her right to support BDS and Human Rights for Palestinian, I am insulted by her language. Just because we have a president who leaves a lot to be desired, it is no reason to descend to his level. To remain civil means to use civil language. English is a beautiful, rich language that can be used to express all sentiments without going down to the gutter.

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"Facts" are the smokescreen the elite hide behind when they are afraid that change is coming.
--unknown

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I had a genuine and spontaneous "LOL" when Trump criticized her language.
One doesn't have to look far to see that this is a very black pot addressing this kettle.
At least she is absolutely correct in her speaking of truth.

Michael F. Brown

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