An incoming Democratic congresswoman has plans to lead a delegation to the West Bank to combat what she complains is too much of a pro-Israel slant in Washington.
Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress after running unopposed in the general election, told the left-wing website The Intercept she wants to provide an alternative to a viewpoint of the conflict provided to new lawmakers by the lobbying group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
"I want us to see that segregation and how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region," Tlaib said. "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."
Tlaib compared the Israeli presence in the West Bank to the Jim Crow era in the United States. She didn't know which members would join her on the trip—no newly elected members would comment publicly to The Intercept that they were going—and she has no plans to meet with Israeli officials or members of the Palestinian Authority.
Tlaib and Representative-elect Ilham Omar (D., Minn.), once in office, will be the only two members of the House to publicly support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League as one of the most deceitful global efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state.
"I personally support the BDS movement," Tlaib said, adding the boycott brings attention to "issues like the racism and the international human rights violations by Israel right now."
The Intercept, which has a strongly anti-Israel editorial stance, complained about Israel's "military strikes against the Gaza Strip" in the article but did not mention Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that runs the territory and has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.
Tlaib recently came out in support of Marc Lamont Hill, a left-wing professor and political commentator who defended Palestinian violence against Israel and used a phrase often invoked by the terror group Hamas in calling for a "free Palestine from the river to the sea." Hill denied any anti-Semitic intent or calls for the destruction of Israel with his remarks, but CNN fired him as a contributor. Tlaib said Hill was right to call out the "oppressive policies in Israel."
The Intercept, which has a strongly anti-Israel editorial stance, took a shot at House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) for planning to once again lead the freshman Democratic House delegation on an AIPAC-sponsored trip to Israel, which typically takes place during the August recess:
Over the last decade, AIPAC’s education arm, the U.S. Israel Education Association, has spent $12.9 million on trips to Israel for 363 lawmakers and 657 congressional staff members, according to an Intercept analysis of public disclosures. A typical House freshmen trip usually costs between $9,300 to $10,500 per participant, which covers all expenses, including a business-class flight and a stay at a luxury hotel in Jerusalem. Lawmakers are invited to bring one family member.
The trips are institutionalized by congressional leadership officials in both parties. Hoyer’s press office confirmed that the Democratic leader will ask newly elected House Democrats to take part in an AIPAC trip to Israel next year and defended the program against charges of bias.
"While it has not yet been planned, Mr. Hoyer intends to once again serve as the senior member on a delegation of Members of Congress to Israel next year," said Annaliese Davis, a spokesperson for Hoyer.
"The delegation trip to Israel is an opportunity for freshmen Members of Congress to learn more about regional threats and dynamics in the Middle East and the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Davis wrote in a statement. The organizers of the AIPAC trip, she added, "work hard to show both sides of that conflict," including meetings with Palestinian leadership, the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now, and "Israeli leaders from across the ideological spectrum."