Rashida Tlaib, other Israel critics get ready for US congressional confirmations

Rashida Tlaib, other Israel critics get ready for US congressional confirmations
Rashida Tlaib, an outspoken critic of Israel, will soon be confirmed for a third time to the House of Representatives. She is one of several progressives who managed to win despite major spending by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
05 January, 2023
Rashida Tlaib will soon be sworn in for her third term. [Getty]

This week, Rashida Tlaib wore her Palestinian embroidered gown, ready to be confirmed for a third term in the House of Representatives.

She is one of only a handful of progressive Democrats who ran a campaign in which she was openly critical of Israel. This made them targets of AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups, something that many other candidates this past election cycle did not survive.

In the case of Tlaib, an entire new PAC was created to defeat her in the Democratic Primary. The Urban Empowerment Action PAC, touted as empowering African Americans, was mainly funded by a hedge fund manager who also donates to Republicans and AIPAC, spending around a million dollars to defeat Tlaib.

In the end, Tlaib won her primary with around 65 per cent and the general election with about 70 per cent of the vote, showing the strength of her grassroots support.

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Meanwhile, Ilhan Omar, who narrowly won her primary, was later reported to have been up against AIPAC funding. She later sailed to victory in her solidly blue district.

One candidate who narrowly won both her primary and her general in her solidly blue district in the Pittsburgh area was newcomer Summer Lee.

Through its super PAC, the United Democracy Project, AIPAC spent around US$2 million against Lee in her primary and US$1 million in the general elections. She barely squeaked through her primary run and made it through a hard-fought general election.

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While these progressive candidates were able to reach victory, despite determined efforts by AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups, other progressives were not so fortunate. Jessica Cisneros in Texas, Marie Newman in Illinois, Donna Edwards in Maryland, and Andy Levin in Michigan were all defeated with the help of pro-Israel PAC money. 

Though politicians who are critical of Israeli policy face tough opposition, such criticism is, nevertheless, slowly becoming normalised, at least in the left wing of the Democratic party, in part due to the outspokenness of Tlaib and others like her.

On Wednesday, Tlaib posted a tweet condemning Israel's human rights record toward Palestinians.

"2022 was one of the deadliest years for Palestinians on record. Israeli forces and settlers killed more than 200 Palestinians, including more than 50 children, injured thousands more and demolished over 800 Palestinian homes," she wrote, retweeting a statement by Jewish Voice for Peace. "Congress must stop funding apartheid."