In a March 5 meeting between Jewish and Muslim House Democrats meant to build bridges, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib ended up in tears.
By David Isaac, World Israel News
On Monday, The Washington Post reported on a previously undisclosed March 5 meeting between Jewish and Muslim House Democrats meant to “foster tolerance” but which ended with Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib in tears.
The meeting was the second to take place with the purpose of building bridges between Jewish and Muslim Democratic representatives after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) made a series of statements that borrowed from classic anti-Semitic stereotypes.
The Democratic party’s disjointed efforts to cope with Omar’s remarks left it open to political attack from Republicans.
When the Democrats altered an anti-Semitism resolution to include other kinds of hate, President Donald Trump, who earlier called for Omar’s dismissal from Congress for her remarks, accused Democrats of becoming “an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party.”
The internal division created by the Omar controversy led Democrats to start the informal, private dialogue, The Washington Post reports. “Success or failure of the private meetings could have an impact on the party’s larger effort to unite across schisms on race, gender and ideology,” the paper reported.
According to The Washington Post‘s account, two hours into the late-night meeting, which took place near the Capitol, Rep. Dean Phillips, a Jewish Democrat from Minnesota, addressed the elephant in the room and brought up recent comments of Somali-born Congresswoman Omar, in which she suggested that Americans are asked to swear “allegiance to a foreign country,” namely Israel.
Phillips said the comments represented the “tips of the arrow,” and made Jews afraid that anti-Semitism was on the rise. Phillips told Omar, also from Minnesota, that she needed to apologize “and said the group should publicly affirm Israel’s right to exist and protect itself,” the paper reports.
“His words stunned the three Muslim Democrats in the room, as well as some other Jewish members and third-party participants,” The Washington Post reports.
Tlaib started crying and talked about her Palestinian family’s experiences in Judea and Samaria. “She would treat you like a grandson,” she said to Phillips, referring to her grandmother, the Post reports.
Tlaib and Omar would not comment about the meeting. Phillips said the meeting was “cathartic” for him. The group plans to continue to meet.
“We are committed to building authentic relationships of mutual understanding and solidarity to tackle all forms of discrimination and oppression. The only way to do that is by having private dialogues where folks can speak freely so we can really learn from and about each other,” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), a former synagogue president and labor organizer, who initiated the meeting.