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Rashida Tlaib Confronted Biden on His Weak Stance on Israeli Apartheid

The progressive lawmaker emphasized the White House can and should go further in protecting Palestinians’ human rights.

President Joe Biden puts his arm around Rep. Debbie Dingell as he speaks to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, upon arrival at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Detroit, Michigan, on May 18, 2021.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) confronted President Joe Biden on Tuesday about his tepid stance on Israel’s violent abuses of Palestinians, urging him to stand up for the historically marginalized population amid a second week of escalated Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Confronting Biden on a tarmac in Detroit, Tlaib echoed remarks that she made on the House floor on Palestinian rights last week, saying that Palestinians’ human rights should be protected and that the U.S. can’t fund a government that’s committing human rights violations. Tlaib is the only person of Palestinian descent currently serving in Congress.

Tlaib told Biden that “Palestinian human rights are not a bargaining chip and must be protected, not negotiated,” an aide told reporters. “The U.S. cannot continue to give the right-wing [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu government billions each year to commit crimes against Palestinians. Atrocities like bombing schools cannot be tolerated, much less conducted with U.S.-supplied weapons.”

Though the president has come out in favor of a ceasefire in the region, his administration has thus far stuck to the U.S. government’s default stance of defending and funding Israel. The Biden administration on Monday blocked a United Nations statement urging a ceasefire — and though Biden appeared to flip his position on the issue just hours later, he has continued to assert that Israel is justified in its recent attacks.

Tlaib emphasized to the president that it’s unconscionable to continue funding violence against Palestinians. The Biden administration has said that it plans to go through with a $735 million weapons sale to Israel, despite the current ongoing attacks on Palestinian civilians.

Tlaib also told Biden that, “The White House must do far more to protect Palestinian lives, dignity and human rights,” according to the aide.

The White House has not said anything on the exchange, but Biden praised the progressive congresswoman in a speech he delivered at an auto factory later in his visit to her home state. “I admire your intellect, I admire your passion and I admire your concern for so many other people,” he said. Referring to Tlaib’s grandmother, Muftia Tlaib, who lives in the West Bank, Biden continued, “From my heart, I pray that your grandmom and family are well. I promise you, I’ll do everything to see that they are.”

Israel has brutally accelerated attacks on Palestinians this month. The Israeli government has killed over 200 Palestinians in Gaza in less than two weeks, including over 60 children. In response to the attacks, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians across Gaza and the West Bank went on strike on Tuesday to protest the Israeli government’s actions. Palestinians have a long history of holding protests in the region — protests that are often met with violence from Israeli forces.

“Our people can no longer contain their need to resist a settler-colonial state that has trafficked in generations of dispossession, oppression and lies sold to justify our dehumanization,” wrote Palestinian writer Dima Khalidi, for Truthout. “The latest Palestinian uprising firmly rejects the conquest and division of our people legally and geographically, into separate, besieged, apartheid parcels of land.”

Palestinians have been marginalized and targeted by Israel for decades, but the U.S. government has continued sending billions of dollars a year to the oppressive government — money that’s foundational to Israel’s ability to continue its expansion on Palestinian land and to carry out these deadly attacks against Palestinian resistance.

Other lawmakers within the progressive front in Washington, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have also joined Tlaib in condemning the U.S. for upholding Israeli violence and human rights violations.

Recent comments by some centrist Democrats suggests that they, too, may finally have come around to understanding the full extent of the apartheid regime created by the Israeli government. The tide may be shifting on the issue — and, as they have with other topics, progressives hope they can successfully push Biden to the left.

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