Opinion: Rashida Tlaib Condemns Terror Attack — but Not Really

Congresswoman Tlaib can tell Palestinian Arabs that murdering Jews is immoral and that there can be no excuses for it. But she didn’t.

By Moshe Phillips

When is a “condemnation” of a Palestinian Arab terrorist attack not a condemnation of a Palestinian Arab terrorist attack? When Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is the person speaking.

News media outlets are trumpeting what they say was Tlaib’s condemnation of the bombing attack last Friday in which a 17-year-old Israeli Jewish girl was murdered and her father and brother severely wounded.

Rep. Tlaib’s response to the attack was important. As the first and only Palestinian-American in Congress, she now has significant influence among Palestinian Arabs. She has the power to send a meaningful message to the Palestinian public. She can tell them that murdering Jews is immoral, and that there can be no excuses for it.

But she didn’t.

Rep. Tlaib’s response came in the form of a tweet. It began “This is absolutely tragic & horrible,” which sounded like the start of a heartfelt condemnation. But the condemnation never arrived. In fact, she couldn’t even bring herself to use the word “condemn.”

Tlaib wrote: “More than ever we need to support nonviolent approaches to ending the Israeli occupation and guaranteeing equal rights for all.”

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She did not say that the bombing was morally wrong. She didn’t even say that violence in general was bad or wrong. She said that it was “tragic” that the girl died — in the vague sense that all deaths are sad events. And she supports “nonviolent approaches.”

Of course, the “nonviolence” that Tlaib is talking about is non-existent. Violence against Jews has often been significant in Palestinian Arab culture—with violence against women, Christians, and political dissidents all too common as well.

Has Tlaib spoken out against “honor killings” in the Palestinian territories? In May 2018, Human Rights Watch, a well-known critic of Israel, stated, “The Palestinian Authority’s repeal of certain discriminatory provisions against women in March 2018 is a good first step toward what should be the repeal of a series of such measures.” Why isn’t Tlaib defending women’s rights in the Palestinian Authority?

Putting Tlaib’s hypocrisy aside, the most important aspect of Tlaib’s tweet is how she rushed to bring in “the Israeli occupation” and “equal rights.” She was insinuating, loud and clear, that Israeli policies are to blame for the violence.

This is remarkable, because nobody is being “occupied” or “denied rights” at the site where the murder took place. It’s a natural spring in the wilderness. There are no Palestinians there who are being “occupied.” There is no Israeli “settlement” there.

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There was one final sentence in Tlaib’s non-condemnation: “Extremism that puts innocent lives at risk moves us no closer to peace.” Notice the words missing from that sentence: “Palestinian” and “terrorism.”

Congresswoman Tlaib could not bring herself to explicitly acknowledge or condemn Palestinians for murdering Jews, nor would she call those murders “terrorism.” Instead, she equivocated, rationalized, and ducked.

A vague phrase such as “extremism that puts innocent lives at risk” is a moral-equivalence word game that Tlaib is playing. Rashida Tlaib managed to issue a “condemnation of Palestinian terrorism” that does not have in it the words “condemn,” “Palestinian,” or “terrorism.” And she managed, once again, to make an utter mockery of the truth.

Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s U.S. division.