BDS champion Rashida Tlaib leading Congressional delegation to West Bank

BDS champion Rashida Tlaib leading Congressional delegation to West Bank
The progressive Democrat has made good on her election promises to tackle injustice, endorsing BDS and announcing her plan to lead an alternative US delegation to the West Bank
3 min read
04 December, 2018
Tlaib won the seat for Michigan's 13th congressional district in November [photo credit Rashida Tlaib]
Incoming US House Representative Rashida Tlaib is set to lead a delegation of fellow Congress members to the West Bank after endorsing the BDS movement, she told The Intercept on Monday.

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress, will lead the trip as an alternative to the annual visit organised by prominent pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

According to The Intercept, her trip will focus on "issues like Israel's detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty". She may also take the group to Beit Ur al-Foqa, the village in the northern West Bank where her grandmother lives.

"I want us to see that segregation and how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region," Tlaib told The Intercept in an interview.

"I don't think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue. It's one-sided. … [They] have these lavish trips to Israel, but they don't show the side that I know is real, which is what's happening to my grandmother and what's happening to my family there," she added.

She also spoke of her support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to draw attention to Israel's human rights abuses.

"I personally support the BDS movement," she said, adding that economic boycotts are a means of highlighting "issues like the racism and the international human rights violations by Israel right now".

Many consider the AIPAC lobby to hold considerable sway over US policy towards Israel, especially as the Trump administration has increased military aid to the country, on top of cutting funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, reneging on the Iran nuclear deal and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Over the past ten years, AIPAC has spent approximately  $12.9 million on trips to Israel for 363 US lawmakers and 657 congressional staff members, according to analysis by The Intercept.

Tlaib forms part of a progressive wave of Democrats elected to Congress in the November mid-terms. Fellow incoming Congresswoman Ilhan Omar also declared her support for BDS last month.

Tlaib responded defiantly to CNN's decision last week to sack commentator Mark Lamont Hill for criticising Israel, endorsing BDS and calling for a "free Palestine".

"Calling out the oppressive policies in Israel, advocating for Palestinians to be respected, and for Israelis and Palestinians alike to have peace and freedom is not antisemitic. @CNN, we all have a right to speak up about injustice any and everywhere. @marclamonthill," she tweeted on Thursday.

CNN's move was widely condemned on social media, yet shows the power of the pro-Israel lobbies in the US who pressured for the commentator to be sacked.

Tlaib told The New Arab in July how going to the West Bank as a child opened her eyes to the glaring inequalities left by systemic segregation. These experiences have informed her progressive platform on which she pledges to improve the lives of the residents of her Detroit district.

"Detroit has been neglected for so long. For me, it's a calling to serve, and a calling to protect. I think that comes from my Palestinian roots," she said in an interview.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab