Rashida Tlaib and the Palestinians

We at MJAC have been posting regularly about Rashida Tlaib. While there are very few (if any) Jews in the district she is going to represent, her voice in Congress will affect our local Jewish community. Liberal Jews don't seem to care much though, even though her stand on Israel was even too distressing for J Street. In a surprising move, they dropped their support for Tlaib, who might not be the only candidate making J Steet look foolish.

Tlaib’s trouble with J Street, her sudden reversals of positions, Omar’s changing stances on Israel; all of this points to larger shifts that are already producing visible strains. J Street, representing an older Obama-era mode of liberalism, finds itself now unexpectedly in the dark, awkwardly “seeking clarification” about its candidate’s views.

Rashida Tlaib will not be the only anti-Israel Democrat in Congress.

Nor were very many others on the left up in arms about Tlaib. Though Democrats have been working hard to associate all Republicans with a handful of far-right extremists who won GOP nominations in districts where they had no chance to win, there was no rush to disassociate the party from Tlaib or Ilhan Omar, another Muslim woman who is on her way to winning another House seat in Minnesota, despite having made brazenly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments.

Why isn’t there a backlash … or even much debate about their primary victories?

The answer is that while the party might have once sought to close ranks against an anti-Semite or foe of Israel in their caucus, it won’t do so now for two reasons. One has to do with the general shift among Democrats to a critical stance on Israel. The other has to do with something more fundamental about an American Jewish community that has long been an integral part of the Democratic coalition.

Does having one member of Congress, who represents a heavily Arab-American district that opposes Israel’s right to exist, change much in Washington? Not really. But Tlaib’s election, along with that of Ilhan Omar, cannot be dismissed as meaningless. Along with fellow Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will soon represent New York in Congress, the trio represents a troubling trend in which the left wing of the Democratic Party is abandoning support for the Jewish state.

The fact that earlier this summer 70 House Democrats and 13 in the U.S. Senate led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders signed letters calling for an end to the blockade of terrorist-run Gaza and treated Israel as equally to blame regarding the situation there as the Hamas terrorist group that rules the strip represented another crucial turning point for the party. Such views have clearly moved from the margins of American politics to the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

When Democrat, Bernie Sanders is so strongly supported, it's probably foolish to expect Democrats, even Jewish Democrats, who support Sanders, to reject Tlaib.


As studies such as the 2013 Pew Survey of Jewish Americans showed, a community that considers liberal politics, food and humor to be the core values of their Jewish identity is unlikely to view Zionism or any expression of Jewish peoplehood with much sympathy or even association.

While so many Jews really don't care for Judaism or Israel any more, others who don't care much for Judaism, or probably Jews for that matter, are standing strong in their anti-Israel beliefs.

On August 9th, 2018, Palestine became a litmus test for Muslim candidate Rashida Tlaib over accusations that she was not vocal enough about Palestine during her campaign. Electronic Intifada ran a critical piece on Tlaib — a Palestinian American and Democratic congressional candidate in Michigan — arguing that her words have not been “comforting.”

Speaking to Jewish voters at a Detroit synagogue, Tlaib was quoted saying, “We need to be honest about dehumanization on both sides … and more importantly, we need to not be choosing a side.”

For many Muslims (candidates and activists alike), the issue of Palestine becomes a litmus test of one’s loyalty to his or her Muslim identity. This summer, writer and media personality Wajahat Ali also faced intense scrutiny over his feature in The Atlantic that explored the perspective of Israeli settlers. Despite a laundry list of accomplishments that brought him immense support and a growing public platform, this one piece blacklisted him in the Muslim community (including a call to boycott Ali).

While there is cause for worry with Tlaib, Jiahn Omar from Minnesota, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York entering Congress after the next election, our biggest worry should be the Jews who either don't care or who support this wing of the Democratic party.