Detroit Evening Report: Rashida Tlaib defends pro-Palestinian video after backlash

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FILE - Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., speaks during a demonstration calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, Oct. 18, 2023, near the Capitol in Washington.

FILE - Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., speaks during a demonstration calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, Oct. 18, 2023, near the Capitol in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has received widespread criticism for a video she posted over the weekend that some deemed offensive to the Jewish community.

Tlaib posted a video of demonstrators chanting “from the river to the sea,” a political slogan associated with Palestinian nationalism that refers to the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — which many, including the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups, regard as a call to dismantle the state of Israel.

Many Palestinian activists disagree, saying the slogan is not a call for the destruction of Israel, but rather a call for freedom of movement and equal rights for the Palestinian people throughout the land.

In a statement sent Monday to The Associated Press, Tlaib — the only Palestinian American in Congress — said her critics should focus less on the words she used than on saving civilian lives in the Middle East.

“My colleagues are much more focused on silencing me — the only Palestinian American voice in Congress — than they are on ending the horrific attacks on civilians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank right now,” she said. “Instead of attacking me and distorting my words, they should listen to their constituents and call for a cease-fire to save innocent lives.”

Still, Jewish Democrats in Michigan, including U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin — the lone Jewish member of Michigan’s congressional delegation — Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Senate President Pro Tempore Jeremy Moss, are calling on Tlaib to apologize.

It’s the latest example of a public rift dividing Democrats in Michigan, which is home to one of the nation’s largest Arab American communities as well as a thriving Jewish community.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to censure Tlaib for her rhetoric about the Israel-Hamas war.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Other headlines for Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023:

  • Mama Shu, a Highland Park activist who tragically lost her son to gun violence, has been named to CNN’s list of Top 10 Heroes of 2023 for her contributions to social justice in Michigan.
  • The Southeast Michigan Refugee Collaborative is hosting a driving resource fair from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at Henry Ford College.
  • Sustainable fashion boutique Eugenie is accepting applications through Nov. 10 for a $10,000 grant it will award to a Detroit-based fashion designer leveraging sustainability in their practice. 
  • Metropolitan Baking Company, one of Hamtramck’s oldest local businesses, is expanding its space by 30,000 square feet.
  • The City of Detroit is inviting residents to Northwest Activity Center Park for a community meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, to review park improvement plans and provide feedback on the project.
  • The Greening of Detroit is looking for volunteers to help throughout the month of November planting trees around the city.

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  • Tia Graham
    Tia Graham is a reporter and Weekend Edition Host for 101.9 WDET. She graduated from Michigan State University where she had the unique privilege of covering former President Barack Obama and his trip to Lansing in 2014.