First Palestinian-American congresswoman plans West Bank trip for freshmen, backs BDS

Greg Nash

Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, is planning to bring a congressional delegation of freshman lawmakers to the West Bank and also said she backs the boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The trip, which is still in the planning stages, would be an alternative to the Israel trips offered by pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for newly elected members. Democratic and Republican freshmen traditionally participate in AIPAC-led trips to Israel during the first August recess.

Tlaib told The Intercept that she does not believe those trips offer a comprehensive view of the highly contentious region. 

{mosads}”I want us to see that segregation [between Israelis and Palestinians] and how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region,” Tlaib told The Intercept. “I don’t think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue.” 

“It’s one-sided,” she said “[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 told the outlet that she may want to take the delegation to Beit Ur al-Foqa, the village where her grandmother lives.

The Michigan Democrat in the interview with The Intercept also came out in support of the Palestinian-led BDS movement, a campaign in which participants promote nonviolent means to protest what its supporters call human rights abuses against Palestinians by the Israeli state. 

“I personally support the BDS movement,” Tlaib told The Intercept, adding that she believes economic boycotts are an effective way to draw attention to “issues like the racism and the international human rights violations by Israel right now.”

She is the second member of Congress to publicly support BDS, alongside incoming Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Omar and Tlaib are the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress.

BDS is a controversial position in the U.S. and Israel, with lawmakers in both countries seeking to discourage its promotion in their countries. Israeli officials say that it the campaign’s mission is the eventual destruction of Israel.

Israel this year instituted a policy preventing foreign-born BDS supporters from entering the country, and legislation has moved through Congress designed to criminalize participation in the BDS movement. 

Vice President Pence recently said BDS has “no place” in the U.S. market.

According to international law, the West Bank is split into areas under Palestinian Authority, Israeli and international control.

Tlaib said she hopes a congressional trip would provide lawmakers insight into the regions where Palestinians live and govern. Tlaib told The Intercept that she hopes to shed light on Israeli military occupation in Palestinian territory, which she compared to what African-Americans in the U.S. endured in the Jim Crow era.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the incoming majority leader who typically leads the AIPAC trip to Israel for freshman lawmakers, confirmed to The Intercept that he intends to continue to do so.

“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,” Annaliese Davis, a spokesperson for Hoyer, wrote in a statement to The Intercept. 

Lawmakers typically meet with multiple Israeli officials during the AIPAC trips, and they met with the Palestinian Authority’s finance minister last year.

It is not yet clear which freshman members of Congress would accompany Tlaib to the West Bank. She told The Intercept that she does not want to meet with Palestinian or Israeli officials, as lawmakers do on the AIPAC-led trip.

Tags Boycott Divestment and Sanctions House Ilhan Omar Israel Middle East Palestine Steny Hoyer

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