When all else fails, play the grandma card.
That’s the playbook used by United States Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) – when confronted by a difficult or embarrassing question, she trots out her grandmother, Mrs. Muftieh Tlaib, as a supposed victim of Israeli persecution. There’s just one problem: Grandma lives under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel.
The American Jewish students who recently initiated a Zoom discussion with Tlaib probably could not have imagined that a US congresswoman would try to blatantly hoodwink them. But then again, we live in an age when some politicians do things that were unimaginable in years gone by.
New York City high school student Ezra Beinart organized the discussion so that several dozen Jewish students could hear “the Palestinian side,” as he told the JTA.
Tlaib accused Jews of dual loyalty
At one point in the conversation, a student asked Tlaib, “Is anti-Zionism antisemitism?” That’s an interesting question, of course, but perhaps it should have been preceded by a question along the lines of, “Why did you accuse Jewish and other pro-Israel members of Congress of being secretly loyal to Israel?”
It happened on January 7, 2019. Jewish members of Congress, together with other congressional friends of Israel, had been promoting anti-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement legislation. Tlaib, a fervent supporter of BDS, tweeted, “They forgot what country they represent.”
Her meaning was obvious. Executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, called Tlaib’s statement antisemitic. Even the left-leaning head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, responded that Tlaib’s remark “could be interpreted as offensively insinuating dual loyalty – a trope with a long, troubling history.”
The official definition of antisemitism used by the US State Department (and 31 other countries) says that “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations” is an example of antisemitism.
Tlaib's grandmother lives in a village governed by the PA
I GUESS the students on the Zoom call with Tlaib hadn’t done their homework; maybe they didn’t know about her dual loyalty statement. To judge by the JTA’s account, nobody on the call even mentioned it. So Tlaib was able to get away with changing the subject to Grandma. It’s a tactic she has used many times before.
According to the JTA, Tlaib replied to the question about antisemitism by bringing up “her grandmother, Muftieh, whom she refers to with the Arabic term “Sity” and whom she has portrayed as the face of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.” Tlaib said, “My grandmother, literally solely based on the fact that she was born Palestinian, she just doesn’t have equality.”
The notion that Grandma Tlaib is oppressed by Israel is a lie.
She resides in the Palestinian Arab village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa. The Israeli occupation of that village ended in 1995. For the past 28 years, Beit Ur al-Fauqa has been governed by the Palestinian Authority.
In the autumn of 1995, then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed an agreement with then-PA chairman Yasser Arafat, known as the Oslo II Accord. It provided for the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the territories where 98% of the Palestinian Arabs reside, including Beit Ur al-Fauqa. The Israelis withdrew. The occupation ended.
Arafat agreed that one portion of the non-residential agricultural land, which Beit Ur al-Fauqa claims belongs to it, would be allotted to the area under Israeli security control. Rabin requested that arrangement because the area is dangerously close to the Israeli towns of Beit Horon and Givat Ze’ev, and Route 443, a highway where Israeli automobiles are often the targets of Arab terrorist attacks.
But the residential portion of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, as well as the rest of the adjacent agricultural land, have been under the rule of the PA for almost three decades now.
The only oppression experienced by Grandma Muftia “Sity” Tlaib is at the hands of her fellow Palestinian Arabs. Since 1996, Beit Ur al-Fauqa has been governed by 11 administrators appointed by the PA. And Grandma hasn’t been allowed to vote for the head of the Palestinian Authority since 2005; Mahmoud Abbas is now serving the 18th year of his four-year term. So much for Palestinian democracy.
Tlaib has devoted much of her life to smearing Israel. And she is willing to stoop as low as necessary to accomplish that goal even if it means both lying about her own grandmother and using Grandma as a political weapon. That’s really about as low as you can get. Maybe the students will ask her about that in a follow-up call someday.
The writer is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack, in 1995. He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror, and is an oleh chadash (new immigrant).