Congressmembers on Israel’s Occupation of Palestine

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US Rep Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) speaks as Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) listens during a news conference in Washington – J. Scott Applewhite, AP photo

By Gurman Sidhu 

For the past few weeks, the world has been witnessing growing tensions between Israel and Palestine, as Israel continues to oppress Palestinians with violence.

While many are protesting “Free Palestine” across the globe, others are showing their support for Israel. The United States Congress itself is split between the two countries. Congresswomen Rashida Tliab and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez have decided to stand up and fight for Palestine. 

Within the Democratic Party, there has been a huge shift in views on the Middle East. Younger generations in the party are more sympathetic towards the Palestinians. As conditions in Gaza and the West Bank worsen, leaders of the Democratic Party are becoming more concerned. However, President Biden and Vice President Harris have voiced their support for Israel. They have stated multiple times that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas. 

Recently, on May 14, Congresswoman Rashida Tliab of Michigan, the only Palestinian-American US representative, made a statement in front of colleagues on Capitol Hill. With tears, she began by saying, “I am a reminder to colleagues that Palestinians do indeed exist, that we are humans. My ancestors and current family in Palestine deserve the world to hear their history without obstruction.” 

After explaining the struggles of those in Palestine, she said, “We must, with no hesitation, demand that our country recognizes the unconditional support of Israel has enabled the erasure of Palestinian life and the denial of the rights of millions of refugees.” Rashida Tlaib stood on the House Floor and strongly opposed giving military aid or money to Israel. 

During this House meeting, Tlaib’s colleague, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, called out Congress for supporting Israel. 

“Instead of condemning blatant crimes against humanity and human rights abuses, many members of Congress have instead fallen back on a blanket statement defending Israel’s airstrikes against civilians under the guise of self-defense,” said Omar. 

In response to President Biden’s proposal to sell $730 million worth of weapons to Israel, a progressive group in the House led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has proposed a resolution to block the weapons sale. Some of the main democrats apart of this resolution, including co-sponsors, are representatives Rashida Tliab, Mark Pocan, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Pramila Jayapal, Betty McCollum and André Carson. 

Many of these democrats believe that the US should not be sending weapons to Israel when so many are calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Talib made a statement saying, “Approving this sale now, while failing to even try to use it as leverage for a ceasefire, sends a clear message to the world, the U.S. is not interested in peace, and does not care about the human rights and lives of Palestinians.” 

On Tuesday, Rashida Tliab also confronted President Biden on the tarmac when he landed in Michigan for a tour of an electric car factory. She and Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan had a conversation with President Biden. This encounter seemed intense and lasted about eight minutes. 

After their encounter, President Biden publicly admired Tliab’s courage and passion to help others. He also wished that her family back in Palestine, on the West Bank, was safe.

The split between the leadership of the United States on the matter of Palestine and Israel is reflective of the split between all Americans on this issue. Despite the support for Israel, many Americans across the nation, just like Representatives Tliab and Ocasio Cortez are showing courage and are fighting for the end of oppression in Palestine.

Gurman Sidhu is a first-year Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior major at UC Davis from Union City, California.

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