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Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib set to become first Muslim woman elected to Congress

US Politics
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Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib, 42, won yesterday’s Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, defeating five other candidates and is now poised to become the first Muslim woman in Congress. She will run in November unopposed as there is no Republican or third party candidate vying in the race.

In the early morning hours well after polls closed a tearful Tlaib told supporters her family living in a “small town in the West Bank” had watched her election victory, “they are literally glued to the TV, my grandmother, my aunts, my uncles in Palestine.”

“I want them to know, as I uplift the families of the 13th Congressional District, I uplift them every single day being who I am as a proud Palestinian-American who is Muslim,” she said standing next to her mother.

Her grandmother was interviewed by the Arabic network Al-Arabiya today on the win.

Like Democrat insurgent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who won a primary in the Bronx weeks ago, Tlaib’s campaign was funded by contributions from small donors. She raised $1.2 million from a base of 50,000 contributors and did not accept money from political action committees. She is also endorsed by Bernie Sanders and J Street. 

Although Tlaib speaks often about her Palestinian heritage she has limited statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a J Street’s candidate profile, Tlaib is described as supporting a U.S. negotiated peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. The run down also states she “supports all current aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Algemeiner reported over social media she criticized fellow Democrat Kamala Harris for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last November, citing a photo as counter to “resistance to racism.” She once posted support to Rasmea Odeh, a high-profile Palestinian who was a naturalized citizens to the U.S. and was deported to Jordan last fall after a lengthy case investigating her immigration where she failed to disclose a 1970s arrest. Odeh maintained the lack of disclosure was and error and challenge the deportation proceedings citing physical and sexual abuse during her detention coerced her to make a false confession to murder charges.

“My entire heart and soul is dedicated to this District. I grew up here, raised my family here and proudly served as State Representative for six years,” Tlaib said in a statement today.

“As I fully grasp what we accomplished with our people- focused campaign, I am reaffirming my commitment that I will go beyond voting the right way. I will fight here at home and in the courts to make sure every single child and family in our strong 13th District lives in a just society, one that recognizes that all of us deserve the opportunity to thrive,” the statement continued.

In 2008 Tlaib became the first Muslim woman elected to Michigan’s state legislature. Her campaign website notes she is a mother of two, and one of 14 children raised in Detroit to immigrant parents. She is a also a product of public schools.

Once in Washington, Tlaib will focus on “Medicare-for-All, $15 minimum wage, sustainable environmental policies, funding for public schools, debt-free college, civil rights rooted in equity, fair immigration reform and much more,” said the statement.

On foreign policy, she told the New Republic last week that she is “firmly anti-war.” Crediting her Palestinian background she said, “I’ve seen firsthand how devastating military conflict is, and I think if more members of Congress actually knew the realities of war and regime change, they wouldn’t be so callous about dropping bombs in distant countries. We should be solving our problems with diplomacy, not by increasing our military spending budget.”

Weeks earlier after the supreme court upheld the Trump administrations travel ban on seven Muslim majority countries in June, Tlaib called the ruling “a victory for the bigots who have turned Americans against each other for their own gain” and said “their celebration will be short-lived.”

“I’ll introduce legislation immediately and fight tirelessly to overturn the Muslim Ban,” she warned, “The Trump administration will not wield its license to discriminate against immigrants at our borders on my watch.”

Updated 9:35 a.m., Aug 9, 2018: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Rashida Tlaib is set to become the first Palestinian-American in Congress. She is poised to become the third, following former Senator John Sununu (R-NH) and Justin Amash (R-MI) who are both of Palestinian ancestry. 

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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8 Responses

  1. ckg
    ckg
    August 8, 2018, 3:46 pm

    “first Palestinian-American in Congress”

    Don’t forget about Justin Amash (R-MI03), whose father was a Nakba refugee.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      August 8, 2018, 8:55 pm

      Yeah, memories are short. Especially for those who don’t even see you if you’re not from the correct side of the cesspool.

  2. JWalters
    JWalters
    August 8, 2018, 9:08 pm

    My profound thanks to Rashida Tlaib and every single supporter and contributor who helped in this important victory for justice for ALL people. THAT is the bedrock American value enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

  3. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    August 9, 2018, 10:47 am

    Mabruk Rashida Tlaib!!

  4. Kay24
    Kay24
    August 9, 2018, 11:25 am

    There are many people with talent and capability in the Palestinian territories too, if only they were given freedom and the chance to use it, without precision bombs, check points, and snipers pointed at them.

  5. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    August 9, 2018, 11:44 am

    She sounds like a liberal Zionist. The chances of her ever issuing any even vaguely meaningful criticism of Zionism are around about zero. J Street would not endorse her otherwise. She would not get elected otherwise. If she did, she would get the full Corbyn treatment and more.

    Sorry to be a party pooper but I see very little to celebrate.

  6. genesto
    genesto
    August 9, 2018, 12:30 pm

    Actually, this story makes me sad. It’s one thing to have a non Arab, nor Muslim, PEP rise to power in the Congress while still toeing the party line on I/P, i.e. calling for a two-state solution and refusing to speak out on Israeli atrocities nor demanding we cut military aid to Israel. But, to see a Palestinian American Muslim woman do this is actually depressing to me.

    We need strength and courage in Congress to speak truth to Israel lobby power, not another false progressive who may look the part but, in the end, is no better than all the other lemmings in Congress that give cover to the Jewish state while pretending to represent our interests in that part of the world.

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