Schumer and Senate Dems Give Rashida Tlaib Platform for Anti-Semitic Event Mourning Israel's Creation After McCarthy Thwarts Plans

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).
May 11, 2023

After House leadership blocked Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) from headlining an anti-Semitic gathering, she was thrown a lifeline by Senate Democrats, who hosted her Wednesday evening to mourn Israel's creation.

The Michigan "Squad" member was given space for the event by socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who welcomed Tlaib and a crew of anti-Israel advocacy groups to take over a Senate committee room. The move came after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) intervened late Tuesday to stop Tlaib from headlining the anti-Semitic gathering in a Capitol Visitors Center auditorium, where he instead held an event celebrating the 75th year of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

"Let the headlines read ‘McCarthy tries to erase Palestine but fails,’" Tlaib boasted about the event on Twitter Wednesday night.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) was silent Wednesday evening, and although a source close to him told the New York Post he was "totally unaware" that the event would be hosted on the Senate side of the Capitol, his office failed to respond to multiple Washington Free Beacon requests for comment that were sent on Monday and Wednesday informing him of Tlaib's plans. Also unaware was Sanders's Republican counterpart on the committee that hosted Tlaib, adding new drama to a controversy that has been brewing on the Hill since the Free Beacon first reported Monday on the event.

"I wholeheartedly disapprove of the Majority permitting the use of the HELP Committee room for this divisive event," Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.), the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s ranking member, said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. "The Capitol Grounds should not be used as a pedestal to legitimize anti-Semitic bigotry."

Schumer's silence conflicts with his repeated claims of being a pro-Israel leader in the Democratic Party. The Jewish senator frequently boasts about his pro-Israel bonafides but has publicly defended Tlaib and her anti-Israel colleague, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), most notably during a 2019 episode in which Israel denied the two House members entry into the country. Other Democrats on the committee also did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

"Chuck Schumer’s decision to allow Bernie Sanders to host Rashida Tlaib’s hateful, antisemitic event in the HELP Committee room is disgusting," Sen. Rick Scott (R., Fla.) said in a statement. "It is a truly sad day for our country when Democrats so blatantly turn their backs on Jewish Americans by uniting around an antisemite who not only spreads hate but actively uses her position as a member of Congress to advance an ugly agenda with the purpose of degrading our special relationship and strong alliance with Israel."

"Every Democrat," Scott added, "must condemn Chuck Schumer’s decision to be complicit in spreading antisemitic hate."

Schumer also is facing pressure from Jewish advocacy groups, including the Coalition for Jewish Values, an organization representing more than 2,000 rabbis. In a letter sent to Schumer on Wednesday and obtained by the Free Beacon, the rabbinical group accused Schumer of not living up to his pro-Israel rhetoric.

"You have often reminded the Jewish community that your last name, Schumer, comes from the Hebrew word 'Shomer', a watchman, and that you guard both the US-Israel relationship and American and Jewish values," the group wrote. "Yet both the notions of bipartisan support for Israel and that hatred should not be promoted in Congress were both actively undermined on Wednesday evening, May 10, on your watch. This moment demands your response."

The Coalition was instrumental in pushing McCarthy to cancel Tlaib's event on the House side of Congress, but failed to receive any reply from Schumer when it petitioned him on Tuesday to condemn the anti-Semitic event.

"Your office failed to respond to this outrage as it happened," the group wrote. "Will you now publicly condemn this propaganda exercise and its open incitement against Jews, as we requested of you two days ago? You surely know that further silence sends a troubling message of its own."

The Wednesday evening event was held to honor the "Nakba," an Arabic term that loosely translates to "catastrophe" and is used by Palestinians and anti-Israel activists to lament Israel’s creation.

A Republican committee source said that Cassidy was not made aware of the event beforehand and was not consulted on Sanders’s decision beforehand.

"Anti-Semitism has no place in our society and certainly has no place inside the U.S. Capitol," Sen. Ted Budd (R., N.C.) told the Free Beacon. "The Democrat Majority should be ashamed of themselves for allowing our committee room to be a platform for this bigotry."

McCarthy told the Free Beacon on Tuesday that he canceled the event because "it’s wrong for members of Congress to traffic in anti-Semitic tropes about Israel," adding that "as long as I’m speaker, we are going to support Israel’s right to self-determination and self-defense, unequivocally and in a bipartisan fashion."

Joining Tlaib at the Nakba event were a host of organizations that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, an anti-Semitic effort to wage economic war on Israel. They include Jewish Voice for Peace, a "radical anti-Israel activist group" that has come under fire for glorifying Palestinian terrorism. Other organizers include Emgage Action, which claims Israel is an "apartheid state," and Americans for Justice in Palestine Action, an advocacy group that claims Jewish money is infecting politics.