Trending Topics:

Palestinian American women approach Rashida Tlaib’s congressional win with excitement and cautious optimism

US Politics
on 30 Comments

As the polls came to a close and the midterm results began rolling in this November, Palestinians at home and across the diaspora celebrated the election of one of their own, Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.

Tlaib made headlines across the US and the world as one of the first Muslim-American women to be elected to Congress, and the first ever Palestinian-American woman to do so.

After a year of relentless foreign policy and financial blows to their cause, Palestinians finally had something to celebrate.

In Palestine, Tlaib’s win was a form of poetic justice: the descendant of Palestinians from a small occupied West Bank village would now be serving in one of the highest levels of US government.

In the US, however, Tlaib’s win meant so much more. For Palestinian Americans, specifically women, Tlaib means representation in a predominantly white male government, and an opportunity to shift the narrative on their homeland.

Mondoweiss spoke to young Palestinian American women from across the country on what Rashida Tlaib’s win means to them, their hopes for her in congress, and the lasting impact of her election.

‘Representation matters’

When 22-year-old Jannah Fakhouri, a resident of Tlaib’s home state of Michigan, got news of the congresswoman elects win, she was overwhelmed with a sense of pride.

“It made me feel like there was hope in America,” Fakhouri told Mondoweiss.

Jannah Fakhouri (Photo: Courtesy of Jannah Fakhouri)

“Despite all of the rampant bigotry and racism, despite the movement of the US Embassy to Jerusalem amidst global outrage, despite our faulty foreign policy as Americans, we still united and voted in a woman who is unapologetically Palestinian and also, Muslim,” she said.

For Fakhouri and other young women like her, who have faced discrimination for the way they look, Tlaib’s presence in the halls of Congress offers a historically marginalized group such as Palestinian women a shot at having their voices heard.

“I think it is vital now, more than ever, in light of Islamophobia and bigotry towards people of Middle Eastern origin, that our narratives are being shared, that our voices are being heard and that we are seen,” Fakhouri continued,  “not as ‘the other’, but as an active political and social force within American communities.”

“It is only through representation that we will begin to see change,” she said.

Alia Taqieddin, 23, a Legal Advocate at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Palestinian activists, told Mondoweiss that she believes representation matters, “as long as it is authentic representation.”

“She represents Palestinians in the political arena, but she is representing us in a system that is fundamentally broken,” Taqieddin said.

Alia Taqieddin (Photo Courtesy of Alia Taqieddin)

“I want to be represented by a Palestinian-American woman who is not afraid to name Israel as an apartheid state. I want to be represented by a Palestinian American woman who reaches out to radical youth, like the Palestinian Youth Movement or the National Students for Justice in Palestine, to represent our calls for justice,” she continued.

Taqieddin criticized Tlaib’s previous use of language that normalizes the Israeli occupation, citing an August interview with Democracy Now in which Tlaib said: “I’m going to humanize this issue, and I’m not going to choose sides… I am for everyone, every single person, Israeli, Palestinian, to have equal access to opportunities, to feel safe where they live, and to really be a genuine partner and a visionary around reaching peace in that region.”

“That kind of language scares me,” Taqieddin said.

Some critics believe that Tlaib toned down her rhetoric on Palestine and issues like BDS leading up to the election in an effort not to hurt her campaign.

Since November 7th, she has come out in defense of fellow Muslim Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar’s support of the BDS movement, tweeting a photo of herself as a child along with her grandmother:

Tlaib has also vocalized her support for the so-called “one-state solution,” an increasingly popular position among Palestinian youth who no longer see the two-state solution as viable under the political climate in the occupied territories.

While she doesn’t believe Tlaib can single handedly give a platform to the Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS, Taqieddin hopes that the congresswoman-elect along with other progressive candidates “can collectively block the steady stream of fascist policies and bills that have been emerging from the current administration.”

Cautious optimism

While there is certainly a sense of excitement that comes along with having a Palestinian American woman elected to congress, the women Mondoweiss spoke to all expressed feelings of being cautiously optimistic when reacting to Tlaib’s election.

Twenty-two year-old Yasmin Mjalli, a graduate student at Duke University and the founder of BabyFist, a feminist clothing company “designed to start a conversation about Women’s Rights” in Palestine, told Mondoweiss that while she is “incredibly proud of Rashida,” she is “erring on the side of caution.”

“She’s greatly outnumbered by Zionist politicians, not to mention Islamophobic and misogynistic politicians,” Mjalli remarked.

Yasmeen Mjalli (Photo Courtesy Yasmeen Mjalli)

“That being said, no one who ever changed history was really part of the majority,” she continued. “Having a diverse representation presents various narratives, some of which can hopefully challenge dangerous voices which have historically gone unchallenged in Congress.”

“I want to see Congress finally see and defend the reality of the Palestinian struggle,” Mjalli said, adding that she hopes Tlaib’s presence in Congress could help contribute to that shifting narrative.

As she spoke to Mondoweiss, Fakhouri expressed similar doubts as to what tangible changes Tlaib and other candidates like her may be able to bring about.

“I genuinely do not know what power Rashida may hold or what sway she may have, now that she has been appointed,” Fakhouri said.

“But I do hope that she can be a herald for true equality and understanding within America, especially for minorities,” she said, adding that she hopes Tlaib will “stand for less invasive US involvement in the Middle East, particularly in regards to the zealous support of Israel, against the occupied Palestinian people.”

As for Taqieddin, things are already off to a less than promising start.

“I truly hope that they will stay strong in their convictions,” she said, speaking of Tlaib, Omar, and other progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez.

“We’ve already seen the progressive Democrats’ original platform on ICE shift from abolishment to reform, which is disheartening to say the least,” she said.

‘What comes next?’

“My immediate reaction when I saw that Rashida had won was ‘okay, what comes next?’,” Taqieddin, the co-founder of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at Western Washington University, told Mondoweiss.

For activists like her, Taqieddin says, the political motions that will be taken by Tlaib and other progressive candidates throughout their terms can only succeed when they work hand in with grassroots activism.

“A lot of the work that needs to be done, and is actively being done, must happen outside of the political arena, Taqieddin said, pointing to the necessity of building solidarity across movements.

In Taqieddin’s eyes, the struggle for justice in Palestine, Black Lives Matter, and the fight against Trump’s anti-immigration policies are all one and the same.

“Right now we’re reading about Trump’s complete militarization of the U.S./Mexico border against asylum seekers from Central and South America, and there are hundreds of images circulating where you can barely distinguish Ferguson, from Tijuana, and from Gaza,” she said.

“Actively and vocally supporting Queer and Trans rights is also urgent,” she added.

“Rashida Tlaib’s election is one part of a much bigger movement.”

yumnapatel
About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

Other posts by .


Posted In:

30 Responses

  1. Kay24
    Kay24
    November 28, 2018, 6:59 am

    Sadly, Trump is putting the final nail in the coffin created by the vicious zionists.

    “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”

    https://www.juancole.com/2018/11/palestinians-ending-support.html

    • jon s
      jon s
      November 28, 2018, 10:02 am

      That’s a phony quote, totally fabricated.

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        November 28, 2018, 10:11 am

        Maybe, maybe not. But Israel’s crimes through the years certainly support it. They have (viciously) followed that plan. Coincidentally, this is a “phony” quote come true.

      • eljay
        eljay
        November 28, 2018, 10:16 am

        || jon s: That’s a phony quote, totally fabricated. ||

        But this one isn’t:

        Israeli Mayor Who Doesn’t Want Arabs in His Pools Is No Extremist – He’s in the Mainstream

        The race culture that brought about Moti Dotan’s statement is fed by a leadership that has made the exclusion and isolation of this country’s Arab citizens the backbone of Israeli patriotism.

        In saying “I don’t hate Arabs, but I don’t want them at my swimming pools,” Lower Galilee council chief Moti Dotan was expressing the essence of that deep-rooted form of racism – the kind that doesn’t masquerade as something else or cloak itself in political correctness.

        … It also allows Moti Dotan, even if not formally, to establish his own “cultural” rules to rid swimming pools in the Lower Galilee Regional Council of the presence of Arabs. …

      • annie
        annie
        November 28, 2018, 10:17 am

        speaking of social services, do you know how many unrecognized villages there are in israel that don’t get services? i heard there were over 100 but i can’t recall. it was one of the things that really surprised me while i was there (for some reason).

      • Keith
        Keith
        November 28, 2018, 10:48 am

        JON S- “That’s a phony quote, totally fabricated.”

        Wrong.

        https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/mideast/hidden/ch04.htm

      • Misterioso
        Misterioso
        November 28, 2018, 11:01 am

        @jon s

        I don’t know if its a “phony quote” or not. However, it is perfectly consistent with the statements of various Jewish Zionist leaders.

        To wit:
        Rabbi Perin, in an eulogy for mass murderer, Baruch Goldstein, in 1994: “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” (New York Times, Feb. 28, 1994)

        In April, 2001, during his Passover sermon, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party and former Israeli Chief Rabbi, described the Arabs as “serpents” and in his Passover sermon, he stated that “the Lord shall waste their seed, devastate them and vanish them from this world. It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.”

        Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir declared during an interview with the foreign editor of the London Sunday Times that “it was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine…and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.” (Sunday Times, London, June 15, 1969)

        In the view of another prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, the Palestinians are of no more significance than insects when compared to Jews: “From this mountain top and from the vantage point of history I say that these people [the Palestinians] are like grasshoppers compared to us.” (The Independent, April 1988, from Reuter, Tel Aviv; quoted by Michael Rice, False Inheritance, Kegan Paul International, London and New York, 1994, p. 127).

        While delivering a televised address to his Likud party in 1989, Shamir further maligned the indigenous Palestinians by describing them as “alien invaders of the Holy Land…. They are brutal, wild alien invaders in the land of Israel that belongs to the people of Israel, and only to them.” (New York Post, February 6, 1989)

        During a speech to the Knesset, Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister, referred to Palestinians as “beasts walking on two legs.” (New Statesman, 25 June 1982)

        Regarding Palestinians residing in the occupied West Bank, Raphael Eitan, then Israel’s Chief of Staff, declared: “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle…. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” (New York Times, 14 April 1983)

        Prime Minister Ehud Barak: “The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more…” (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 30, 2002)

        Rafael Eitan, Israeli Chief of Staff, stated:” When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” [N.Y.Times, 14 April 1988].

        Also:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=6sCW4IasWXc
        Short video, Oct. 25, 2013, discussion between rabid Zionists, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Sheldon Adelson, billionaire casino mogul and Trump’s number one financial contributor.
        Adelson – “Attack Iran with an atomic bomb”

      • jon s
        jon s
        November 28, 2018, 12:12 pm

        Keith,
        You provide a link to a source which cites the fabricated quote, right above another fabricated quote, from “Chairman Heilbrun”. No such person, no such quote. Also: I was never a supporter of Menahem Begin, but in fairness, he never referred to the Palestinians as “two legged beasts”.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        November 28, 2018, 1:22 pm

        “jon s”, when it comes to this kind of thing, it really doesn’t matter what, exactly, is true.
        What matters is whether people believe it’s true. It’s apocryphal.
        Unless you think you have some way to control that.
        If you want to try, just remember, the present conditions the perception of the past.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        November 28, 2018, 1:40 pm

        I wonder how many Israelis believe, proudly, in those quotes?

        Go tell them the quotes are false, “Jon s”.

      • eljay
        eljay
        November 28, 2018, 1:52 pm

        || Mooser: I wonder how many Israelis believe, proudly, in those quotes? … ||

        Dunno how many Jewish Israelis believe in those quotes, but according to this survey:
        – almost 48 percent said that “Arabs should be ‘expelled or transferred’ from Israel”; and
        – almost 80 percent said that “Jews deserved preferential treatment in Israel”.

        If that’s not a “progressive paradise”, I don’t know what is.

      • Keith
        Keith
        November 28, 2018, 3:26 pm

        JON S- “You provide a link to a source which cites the fabricated quote, right above another fabricated quote, from “Chairman Heilbrun”.

        The quotes are from “The Hidden History of Zionism,” by Ralph Schoenman who has a lot more credibility than you. Wasn’t it you Zionists who claimed that the Palestinians fled Palestine in anticipation of the Arab armies throwing the Jews into the Sea? No Nakba here, folks. And I am supposed to let you and other Zionists be the arbiters over what is a legitimate quote and what is not? Fat chance. So I will stick with Ralph Schoenman that the quote came from the Koenig Report and was quoted in Al Hamishmar. I might add that the quote is consistent with numerous other internal statements by Zionists that they recognized from the start that ethnic cleansing was an inevitable consequence of Zionist objectives. Furthermore, these statements were entirely consistent with the actual course of events. Facts on the ground which Zionists routinely deny as they turn reality on its head.

    • tony greenstein
      tony greenstein
      November 28, 2018, 1:37 pm

      Kay24 it’s not enough to say that it’s a phony quote come true. If it’s a phony quote DON’T USE IT. By making stuff up or using stuff you know is not true you only give the Zionists an additional weapon. There are also plenty of accurate quotes that make the same point.

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        November 28, 2018, 2:07 pm

        I say actions speak louder than words. That may or may not be a phony quote, and I used it to make the point. They are terrorizing, assassinating, intimidating, stealing lands, and cutting off social services (and Trump helped them further by cutting all aid to the Palestinians, recently. Even if this is not “phony” the Hasbara will try to make it so, to prevent the truth, and negativity against them brought into focus. Only the sayings of Palestinians are not “phony”.

      • eljay
        eljay
        November 28, 2018, 2:49 pm

        || tony greenstein: Kay24 it’s not enough to say that it’s a phony quote come true. If it’s a phony quote DON’T USE IT. By making stuff up or using stuff you know is not true you only give the Zionists an additional weapon. There are also plenty of accurate quotes that make the same point. ||

        +1. Best to leave the untruths to Zionists.

      • Keith
        Keith
        November 28, 2018, 5:27 pm

        TONY GREENSTEIN- “If it’s a phony quote DON’T USE IT.”

        I wouldn’t be so quick to take Jon S word for this (see my comments above). Jon S is doing what Zionist commenters always do, they make unsubstantiated allegations with zero source references. How does Jon S know that this is “fabricated?” The quote appears in “The Hidden History of Zionism,” by Ralph Schoenman where it is referenced. Ralph Schoenman is a person of integrity, whereas, Zionists are demonstrated liars with a history of misrepresentation. So, unless Jon S can make a more convincing argument, I’ll stick with Schoenman. If nothing else it would be fun to see Jon S’ sources for his allegation.

      • jon s
        jon s
        November 29, 2018, 4:26 pm

        Keith,
        The Koenig Report is available here:

        https://www.paljourneys.org/sites/default/files/The_Koeing_Memorandum.pdf

        My recommendation: don’t waste your time looking for that quote.

        According to Schoenman’s own footnote the “Heilbrun” quote is based on hearsay.

        As to ” you Zionists who claimed that the Palestinians fled Palestine in anticipation of the Arab armies throwing the Jews into the Sea” : I never wrote any such claim.

      • Keith
        Keith
        November 30, 2018, 3:55 pm

        JON S- “My recommendation: don’t waste your time looking for that quote.”

        While the English translation of the Koenig report you linked to does confirm the essence of the report, it does not include the sentence Ralph Schoenman quoted. Remember, at the time, the report (in Hebrew) was secret. Schoenman’s reference was the Hebrew language newspaper Al Hamishmar. I have no way of knowing what the article said at the time in Hebrew, how accurate the translation was, etc. The point being that Schoenman didn’t simply fabricate a quote, but relied upon a source. As for your linked translation, I have no way of knowing to what extent this is a sanitization of the original report in Hebrew. The Israeli press is able to say things in Hebrew which never see the light of day in any official English translation. And if the Al Hamishmar quote was accurate and caused a problem, it would likely be disappeared. I have never used that quote and would be reluctant to use any quote which could not be easily verified to avoid discussing the authenticity of the quote at the expense of the facts on the ground which, in the case of Israel (and empire), speak for themselves.

        JON S- “I never wrote any such claim.”

        No, but you teach the curriculum developed by the same group of ideologues who told lie after lie denying the Nakba. Even now, the ideas of the “new historians” are being ignored in favor of Zionist myth-history. Have your students been exposed to “The Fateful Triangle,” by Noam Chomsky? “The Founding Myths of Israel,” by Zeev Sternhell? “Imperial Israel and the Palestinians,” by Nur Masalha? Etc, etc, etc? So don’t deny your complicity in counterfactual indoctrination.

      • jon s
        jon s
        December 4, 2018, 12:39 pm

        Keith,
        The quote is phony and you seem to be clutching at straws. I linked to the Koenig Report from a Palestinian source, not a source that would be interested in sanitizing it.
        Ralph Schoenman immediately goes on to use another phony quote. I’m not impressed by his credibility as an historian.

        As to my teaching, I do try to make sure that my students are exposed to the Palestinian viewpoint.

      • Keith
        Keith
        December 4, 2018, 7:04 pm

        JON S- “Ralph Schoenman immediately goes on to use another phony quote.”

        Three points: 1) Due to circumstances, Schoenman is quoting the Al Hamishmar story about the Koenig report, not the report directly, 2) I have no way of knowing how complete and accurate the translation of the Koenig Report is that you linked to. That the link is to a Palestinian (?) website hardly tells me about the article in Al Hamishmar, 3) the fact that Schoenman is quoting a conversation in the second quote hardly makes the quote “phony.”

        JON S- “As to my teaching, I do try to make sure that my students are exposed to the Palestinian viewpoint.”

        Do you teach that the Palestinian natives were ethnically cleansed to permit a Jewish majority? That the original claims about a voluntary exodus to await an invasion of Arab armies was/is false? Or do you teach the approved curriculum? Cut the B.S., the “new historians” fell into disfavor and their viewpoints disappeared.

        “When he formed his new government Ariel Sharon was prepared to let the Labor Party have foreign affairs and defense, but not education. He gave this ministry to Limor Livnat, one of the leaders of Likud’s ideological right wing.

        In the space of a few months Livnat carried out a thorough housecleaning in the school system. Under the motto, “More Zionism, more Bible,” she reorganized the curriculum and scrubbed all “defeatist” odors out of the manuals for history and civics instruction. In particular she banned the history textbooks that the Rabin government had introduced a decade earlier, in which the “new historians” influence was detectible, and eliminated the courses on peace and democracy.” (p59, “Toward an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society,” Michel Warschawski)

      • jon s
        jon s
        December 5, 2018, 1:10 pm

        Keith,
        OK, I give up, if you want to base your argument on fabricated “quotes”, go ahead. If you want to believe that Schoenman is a credible historian, when, for example, he produces a quote from “Chairman Heilbrun” based on hearsay, without apparently bothering to check its credibility, go right ahead.
        Regarding my teaching, in the classroom I pretty much say whatever I want. I don’t hide my leftist views from my students and I use a textbook which includes Palestinian accounts of the Nakba (and is approved by the Min. of Ed). The Palestinian voice is heard in my classroom.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 5, 2018, 2:29 pm

        “The Palestinian voice is heard in my classroom.” “Jon s”

        Naturally, it’s just a sort of disembodied, very passive voice. And bewailing it’s own failures, I’d wager.
        Of course, for security reasons, an actual Palestinian person couldn’t be there.

        “I don’t hide my leftist views”

        You want to replace Jewish Democracy, which simply fronts for the Israeli Oligarchs, with Jewish Socialism.

      • Keith
        Keith
        December 5, 2018, 3:46 pm

        JON S- ” If you want to believe that Schoenman is a credible historian, when, for example, he produces a quote from “Chairman Heilbrun” based on hearsay, without apparently bothering to check its credibility, go right ahead.”

        Schoenman is a human rights activist, not a historian. And hearsay beats flagrant lies any day of the week. Cut the B.S. Jon S, do you teach that the official tale that the Palestinian Arabs fled their towns because of some bogus radio transmission telling them to make way for Arab armies is propaganda? I doubt it. If you did, you would be looking for a job.

        JON S- ” I don’t hide my leftist views from my students and I use a textbook which includes Palestinian accounts of the Nakba (and is approved by the Min. of Ed).

        So Michel Warschawski is full of crap? Netanyahu has liberalized the education curriculum? Forgive me for being skeptical.

        JON S- ” I don’t hide my leftist views from my students….”

        Of course you don’t. Your comments indicate that you fully accept the official Israeli narrative. Enjoy your job security.

      • jon s
        jon s
        December 5, 2018, 4:33 pm

        Keith,
        Schoenman is a human rights activist, not an historian?
        Is that some sort of excuse for using phony quotes?

        I’ve never used the a story about a radio broadcast to explain the origins of the refugee issue.
        Perhaps I should have added that in my classes I also need to consider the sensitivities of the Palestinian kids in the classes.

      • amigo
        amigo
        December 5, 2018, 6:18 pm

        ” I also need to consider the sensitivities of the Palestinian kids in the classes.” jon s

        Tell us jon s , would those Palestinian kids be the Grand children of the Palestinians whose land you are squatting on.Effectively , you are squatting on their land.

        You don,t tell them that do you jons .Your far to considerate of their sensitivities , eh.

        Must be difficult to teach temporary students who are constantly under the threat of being evicted from their homes to make way for more ” Jewish (only )” Communities.

      • jon s
        jon s
        December 7, 2018, 5:30 am

        amigo,
        Your comment is way off-base, so far from reality as to being embarassing.
        Just so as not to be accused of having no answers:
        No, I’m not “squatting”.
        No,my home did not belong to the grandparents of my pupils.
        No, my students are not “temporary”.
        No, they are not under threat of being evicted.

  2. gamal
    gamal
    November 28, 2018, 1:13 pm

    “Chairman Heilbrun”. No such person, no such quote.”

    who was the Chairman of the committee for the re-election of Schlomo Lahat in 1983?

    “: I was never a supporter of Menahem Begin, but in fairness, he never referred to the Palestinians as “two legged beasts”

    Is Camera (https://www.camera.org/article/exposing-false-zionist-quotes-ii-quote-busters-ii/)
    really a source dear to the heart of a non-lieing professional historian Zionist pioneer, irrespective of what you do or do not support Zionism is replete with all the crimes and disgusting attitudes of Western Settler colonialism, and it is not really Hamas’ fault now is it Jon, it was all an accident? even failing to allow the expelled to return? acknowledging the massacres? and you promised to be truthful, nothing a Zionist says can be trusted.

  3. annie
    annie
    November 28, 2018, 8:40 pm

    Another excellent article by Yumna Patel. i had never heard of any of these young women you interviewed either. i was so impressed with what Alia Taqieddin said i googled her and watched her give the commencement speech at her university.

    she’s got a promising future., they all do. it gives me hope.

  4. niass2
    niass2
    November 29, 2018, 4:02 pm

    as your basic caucasian fifty year old jewish american it excites me too…not much else about Congress is very interesting and this is, I can ask my reps whether they might consider what this person thinks, as they are part o the caucus now. It helps when I call and tell them about reality. It’ll help humans like Senator Warren identify and we can use it to explain that the earth is only half flat to senator markey. Those two pretend they care, but only on TV and in the movies is it true.

  5. klm90046
    klm90046
    November 29, 2018, 5:10 pm

    Eljay: About Palestinians not using Israeli pools.This mayor said Palestinians “don’t have the same hygiene.” I entirely agree. Most Israelis, being of European descent, merely wipe themselves after potty. Palestinians wash themselves. So who has the better hygiene?

Leave a Reply