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Al-Awda stands with Reps. Omar and Tlaib: Confront racism, defend Palestinian rights

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Photos: Fibonacci Blue/VOA

Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, expresses our solidarity with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), targeted for racist anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and fundamentally anti-Palestinian attacks. Reps. Omar and Tlaib, the first two members of the U.S. Congress to announce their support for the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign in solidarity with Palestine, are facing this onslaught for one primary reason – their support for Palestinian freedom. They are an attempt to silence, marginalize and suppress criticism of Israel and support for the Palestinian people’s fundamental rights to self-determination, national liberation and return.

Like progressive and left-identified politicians in elsewhere in the world (such as Jeremy Corbyn and other members of the British Labour Party), academics, student organizations and community groups who have expressed even the most basic sympathies with Palestinian rights denied for over 70 years, Reps. Omar and Tlaib have been falsely labeled as “anti-Semites.” This labeling is being used to target both Congresswomen, who are strongly anti-racist, not because they are even accused of mistreating, ignoring or degrading their Jewish constituents, but because they criticize the Israeli state and the lobbying organizations that support it in the United States.

AIPAC and other right-wing Israel lobby groups like Christians United for Israel have undue influence on US policy, just like other special interest groups like the NRA, the fossil fuel industry and big pharma. We must be able to express concern over their destructive influence without fear of being smeared by groups seek​ing​ to ​silence progressive voices fighting for change. Indeed, AIPAC has a harmful impact not only on US policy but also on the lives of Palestinians struggling for freedom. There is, of course, nothing anti-Semitic about denouncing Israel lobby organizations or the Zionist movement; quite the contrary.

Such baseless allegations rest on the equation of Jewish people with diverse histories and backgrounds with the Israeli state, a racist, settler colonial apartheid project. We reject this equation as one that is racist and, indeed, anti-Semitic. Jewish people are not collectively responsible for the racism and apartheid that has denied Palestinian rights for over 70 years; that ignominy belongs to the Israeli state and its allies, partners and supporters of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. Indeed, an increasing number of young – and older – Jewish Americans reject identification with Israel and its far-right allies and apartheid regime. At the same time, a growing number of people of all backgrounds support left, progressive and socialist movements like those that have worked with Reps. Omar and Tlaib.

It should be noted that the most prominent figures leading this campaign against supporters of Palestinian rights are often themselves part of or allied with the far right in the United States, the Israeli state and globally. And it is also no coincidence that their attacks target progressive political figures supported by many who are involved in movements against racism, imperialism and oppression.

Many such attacks claim to confront a mythical “new anti-Semitism on the Left,” yet fail to address in any way the actual threats to Jewish people posed by far right, racist and neo-Nazi organizations, instead identifying Jewishness with Zionism and the Israeli state. For example, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who pledged to “take action” against Rep. Omar, was himself responsible for tweets linking Jewish figures – not Israel lobby organizations – to “buying” elections. The Conservative Party in the UK, the Israeli embassy and Zionist organizations have worked hand in hand in launching attacks on British Labour Party figures for supporting Palestinian rights.  Austrian and German far-right parties have combined support for Zionism and anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racist rhetoric to evade European responsibility for actual anti-Semitism while attacking Palestinians and Arabs, the victims of colonization and apartheid.

In the meantime, the Israeli state has forged warm relationships with global far-right leaders such as Viktor Orban of Hungary and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. This is nothing new; it reflects a long history of alliances between the Zionist movement, the Israeli state, U.S. imperialism and reactionary forces around the world. Israel has made a global name for itself marketing global repression, reflected here in police training partnerships, the “deadly exchange” that puts Black and Brown lives even more severely at risk.

Most recently, the Israeli state has enthusiastically supported the U.S.-backed attempted coup in Venezuela, which Rep. Omar has spoken out strongly against. Rep. Omar displays consistency in her approach to domestic and foreign policy – both are guided by values rooted in equality for all.

These smears directed against Rep. Omar come as part of a series of attempts to silence Black activists and intellectuals who stand in solidarity with Palestine. There is a long, deep history of Black-Palestinian solidarity, and Black figures have been targeted in particular for speaking up for justice. Thus, we have seen CNN firing Marc Lamont Hill, the withdrawal (and re-presentation) of a civil rights award to Angela Davis and unremitting attacks on Women’s March organizers.

Rep. Tlaib has also faced ongoing racist attacks that come as an attempt to silence her proud Palestinian identity and support for Palestinian rights, including the BDS campaign. McCarthy also pledged “action” against Tlaib, who is facing ongoing attempts to block her from leading a Congressional delegation to the occupied West Bank of Palestine. While she has been baselessly accused of “bigotry” for defending Palestinian rights, she has been targeted for true bigotry not only by online trolls, but by elected officials like Florida commissioner Adrienne Lima-Taub, who said Tlaib might “blow up Capitol Hill.”

We will not go back – and we will not be silent. All of these attempts to suppress and even criminalize anti-Zionism, the BDS movement, and solidarity with Palestine are being met with growing awareness, anger and action. There is no time to lose; the anti-BDS bills being backed in Congress and state legislatures by AIPAC and other lobby organizations like those criticized by Rep. Omar are trying to dismantle our rights to defend Palestine. This comes at the same time that Palestinians are under siege in Gaza, facing military occupation and daily violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem, fighting intensified racist laws in Palestine ‘48 and denied the right to return in exile and diaspora; the same time that the Trump administration has expressed its favor for Israeli dominion over Jerusalem.

These attacks cannot stop the movement for Palestinian freedom – but it is critical that we defend Reps. Omar and Tlaib against this attempted silencing. Join us to take action:

  1. Sign and share petitions demanding House Democratic leaders not succumb to demands to penalize Rep Omar:

Sign this petition against racist attacks on Rep. Tlaib:

  1. Write to your representative to express your support for Reps. Tlaib and Omar and opposition to any actions against them. Ask your representative to join them in supporting the BDS campaign – and to go one step further and vote “no” on U.S. aid to Israel.
  2. Call the Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to demand she oppose the attacks on Reps. Omar and Tlaib: 202-225-4965 (Washington, D.C.), 415-556-4862 (San Francisco). Tell her office that anyone supporting these attacks on Reps. Omar and Tlaib are helping forward a bigoted, racist agenda and empowering those who would put a stop to progressive change.
  3. Join us! Get involved with Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, or your local Palestine solidarity organization. Help build the movement to confront Zionism and work for a free Palestine.


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