ISSN 2330-717X

Palestinians In Congress Should Support Moderate Agenda – OpEd

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The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives last week adopted a resolution supporting the two-state solution as the basis for peace between Israel and Palestine — a snub to the policies of indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, the resolution failed to use the word “occupation” and that prompted three Democrats — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar — to vote against it.

But it was the vote of Michigan congresswoman Rep. Rashida Tlaib that caught my attention. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American woman and Muslim, also voted against the resolution for not describing the Occupied Territories as such. But she went one step further, also denouncing it for embracing the two-state solution.

In her speech, Tlaib denounced the two-state solution as “unrealistic and unattainable.” She also blamed Netanyahu and his extremist Likud Party for blocking its implementation, saying they “actively fought against a two-state solution and took steps to ensure its demise.”

That is somewhat surprising, and hypocritical too. Tlaib was an activist in Michigan long before she stumbled into Congress as a result of African-Americans splitting their vote in her constituency. As an activist, Tlaib consistently spoke on the two-state solution. Her current views reflect the agenda of the extremist left, which has done everything in its power to block the peace process that Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin kick-started when they shook hands and signed the Oslo I Accord in 1993.

Many people claim the two-state solution has failed because it is unachievable, but the truth is it failed because extremists on both sides fought to block it. Rabin and Arafat signing Oslo I was supposed to be the first in a series of steps leading to Palestinian independence. However, Hamas, the extremist terrorist organization, endeavored to block peace with Israel by launching a series of suicide bombings targeting Jewish civilians, which helped empower Israel’s far right.

Jewish settler extremists also engaged in violence against Palestinian civilians and even targeted Israelis who supported peace based on compromise, including murdering Rabin in 1995. Rabin’s killer was a disciple of Netanyahu, who has been repeatedly blamedfor empowering the fanatics and creating the incitement that led to Rabin’s murder.

While I am always proud to see a Palestinian serve in the US Congress, I am disappointed by the performance of the Palestinians and many other Arabs who have served there, mainly because, as soon as they address Israel in any critical manner, they are attacked and their political careers are jeopardized. So they often remain silent instead.

These congress members include John E. Sununu, who is of Lebanese and Palestinian Christian heritage. He was elected as a Republican to serve in Congress from 1997 until 2003, when he was elected to the Senate, serving until 2009. And there is also Justin Amash, a Republican elected in 2009 who this year declared himself an independent in opposition to President Donald Trump. Amash’s father is Palestinian and his mother is Syrian.

Neither Amash nor Sununu have been champions of the Palestinian cause. They have been attacked by pro-Israel activists and also ignored by Arabs and Palestinians, mainly because they are both Christian. This is one reason why many Arab and Palestinian activists falsely claim that Tlaib is the first Palestinian to serve in Congress. 

Tlaib claimed to support the two-state solution ahead of the Democratic primary for Michigan’s 13th congressional district last year. But, once she had won the vote and been embraced by extremists in the Arab-American community, Tlaib flippedand began opposing the two-state solution.

Tlaib toldthe In These Times newspaper: “One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42 years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.”

The burden to support peace is greater on Palestinians in Congress than it is on other candidates. Palestinians who criticize Israel are immediately labeled as “terrorists” and “extremists,” and have a tougher fight to survive. But they shouldn’t become hypocrites. Amash and Sununu never claimed to be activists for Palestinian and Middle East peace, but Tlaib has.

If she is going to help Palestine, she needs to break from her extremist views and support a more centrist Palestinian agenda. I want a Palestinian in Congress, but I want one who is going to be honest, moderate and who will be strategically successful. And I don’t think that’s Tlaib.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

*Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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