SHAFAQNA- The US House of Representatives began its new term in January 2019 with 87 out of 435 lawmakers or 20 percent of its seats occupied by female lawmakers. The majority of them who represent 34 states are from the Democratic Party. Two of the newly arrived congresswomen have attracted more attentions than others did, because they are both Muslims:
Born to a Palestinian immigrant family, Rashida Tlaib ran on democratic ticket and defeated longtime African-American Representative John Conyers.
Rashida has earned a reputation for her unwavering commitment to justice for the poor, the marginalized of her district and working white-class, African-Americans and Arab-Americans in the suburbs of Michigan.
Tliab is also a supporter of the Palestinian cause in the face of Israel’s aggression and an advocate for one-state solution. Rashida Tlaib is among a group of American lawmakers who pledged to change the status quo in Washington’s policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She is now planning to lead a congressional delegation to the Israeli-occupied West Bank territories.
Shafaqna has taken a brief look at the most important points Tliab made during two interviews with independent, non-profit online magazine inthesetimes.com as well as WBUR-FM public radio station in Boston, Massachusetts. The interviews were given in August 2018 just days after people in Michigan picked Rashida as their representative on the Capitol Hill.
How do you intend to help the residents of your district in Congress?
I grew up in Southwest Detroit, surrounded by inhumane conditions caused by polluters and corporate greed…I’m giving a voice and an opinion based on my residents who feel like they’re not being heard because elected officials haven’t been listening (to people) for ages. I hope people can see I am sincere. This is not a political strategy. I want to change people’s lives for the better and change the climate in Washington.
Do you see your victory as part of a larger movement toward the left in the Democratic Party?
Absolutely. People who talk about universal health care, accessibility, that is what is moving people towards us. When we stop trying to label it, more people will come.
What do you think about working with President Trump?
It is hard to work with someone that does not understand the rule of law, taking his powers beyond what is permitted. It will be very hard when the president is speaking about poor people and Muslims and others in the way that he does, it really takes the ability to be able to work across the aisle away.
Should the US grant asylum to those who seek asylum at the southern borders?
They deserve a chance to apply. I was an immigration attorney for almost 2 1/2 years, I remember the process that you go through — it is a rigorous process. But everyone had an equal access to that process, if they did it right. They have every right to claim asylum. All I am asking is that we go back to fairness and the rule of law. We cannot just sit there and allow our president to act above the law. To me, it’s dictatorship.”
You have a strong anti-war stance in your platform. How do issues of war and militarism fit into your agenda?
I do not support military operations. If you go to the Department of Defense website, every day, there is an area called “contracts.” Go there. You want to pay for college? Medicare for All? Pay to take care of Americans dying from famine to basic human rights abuses? Look at those contracts. I am floored at how much money they are spending.
On the issue of Israel-Palestine, some writers have criticized you for accepting donations from J Street. (Advocacy group whose stated aim is to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict peacefully). Why did you take money from the group?
Americans should not be aiding any country that does not support human rights. I have been very clear. I will not support racist countries that chooses who gets access to justice. My grandmother should not been denied access or considered less human because she was a Palestinian. I grew up in Detroit, where every corner is a reminder of the civil rights movement.
Seeing the unequal treatment (of Palestinians) in Israel, in the different colored license plates for Palestinians, and even in the ocean. When I was 19 and with my family and some of them had headscarves on, we all jumped in the water and the Israelis jumped out as if my cousins were diseased. That reminded me what I learned about the African-American struggle.
My social justice and passion for human rights was birthed in Palestine. My grandfather was shot 11 times—and he survived. Palestinians are also attacking me now, but I am not going to dehumanize Israelis. Many Israelis are marching, saying no to Netanyahu’s apartheid policies. There’s a movement in Israel that I support and it wants an Israel that embraces Palestinians.
I do not support aid to a Netanyahu’s Israel and I am pro-humanity. Maybe that’s why J Street helped me.
Where do you stand on Palestinian right of return—support or oppose?
Very supportive. I see what happened to African Americans in our country. I support right of return absolutely. I have family that left Palestine in 1967. They left, took their keys with them. They thought they could come back, and they have never been back. My uncle would tear up because he could not believe he couldn’t go back. He had to raise his kids in Jordan. You do not have equal access. Separate but equal does not work.
Where do you stand on BDS (The Boycott, Divestment, Sanction Movement), support or oppose?
I stand by the rights of people who support BDS. Allow the students to be a part of the movement. I am so proud of the Center for Constitutional Rights in support of student movements for BDS. If you do not support freedom of speech, you are in the wrong country.
What about a two-state versus one-state solution?
One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I am only 42 years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, doesn’t work. Even though we continue the struggle in the United States, we have a better chance to integrate. My grandfather said, ‘I don’t understand, we were doing so good. My neighborhood, Arab-Jew. We picked olives together. Why now do they want to be over me?’ ‘You did nothing wrong,’ I told him.
I feel the same way. Equality is not based on faith. The only way to feel safe is when you look across the table and say they deserve to feel safe in their own country.
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