Democratic US congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib before Election Day in Michigan, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/REBECCA COOK)
WASHINGTON – Rashida Tlaib, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from Michigan, pushed back against widespread rebuke on Monday for her tweet accusing Israel advocates in Congress of dual loyalties.
She said she was attacking legislation introduced by Republicans in the Senate earlier that would bolster state efforts to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Tlaib is one of the only members of Congress that openly supports the BDS movement, and questions Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
“They forgot what country they represent,” she wrote over the weekend. “This is the US where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality. Maybe a refresher on our US Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”
Her remark prompted rebuke from the Jewish Democratic Council of America and concern from the Anti-Defamation League, which reached out to Tlaib’s new congressional office to educate her on the sordid history of dual loyalty charges.
Senator Marco Rubio, the senior Republican senator from Florida, responded on Twitter to Tlaib: “This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line. #BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel. And if boycotting #Israel is constitutionally protected, then boycotting companies that boycott #Israel is also constitutionally protected.”
On Monday, Tlaib clarified that her tweet was not meant as a coded reference to Jews splitting their loyalties between the US and Israel – long considered a dog whistle for antisemitic conspiracy theorists.
“Sen. Rubio, it’s clear my earlier tweet was critical of US Senators like yourself, who are seeking to strip Americans of their Constitutional right to free speech,” she said in response.
The Senate anti-boycott provisions are part of catch-all legislation, the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019,” which includes a series of Israel and Mideast-related bills that failed to pass at the end of the last year.
The passage of section 1 by Congress would codify a 10-year memorandum of understanding on military assistance with Israel, reauthorize defense cooperation with Jordan, reimpose sanctions on entities financing the Syrian government, and authorize state and local governments to combat BDS.
Several Democrats have sponsored the BDS legislation. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who supports the measure, said that the caucus will not support the passage of any legislation until Republicans agree to reopen the government, now in a partial shutdown for the past three weeks over President Donald Trump’s demand for increased funding for a border wall with Mexico.
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