“I can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not disposable,” said Representative Rashida Tlaib, the sole Palestinian-American in Congress, last Wednesday. In a speech that has gone viral on social media, Tlaib defended herself from the motion of censure imposed by the House.

The White House denounced Tlaib over words she showcased in a video on her social media. She shared the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which many Palestinian groups embrace as a cry for freedom. However, the U.S. government considers those words incendiary.

“When it comes to the phrase that was used, it is divisive […] many find it hurtful, and many find it antisemitic,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House spokeswoman. “We categorically reject applying that term to the conflict.”


‘Palestinian people are not disposable … We are human beings’ — A tearful Rep. Rashida Tlaib defended herself before Congress on Tuesday, as the House’s GOP majority advanced a resolution to censure the Michigan rep for her recent remarks on the Israel-Gaza conflict #michigan #rashidatlaib #gop #news

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Tlaib defended her right to call for a cease-fire

“We are human beings, like anyone else,” Tlaib continued in her speech on the House floor. “My sitty, my grandmother, like all Palestinians, just wants to live her life with freedom and human dignity we all deserve,” the representative said.

“Speaking up to save lives, no matter faith, no matter ethnicity, should not be controversial in this chamber,” Tlaib added.

Wearing a keffiyeh — a powerful symbol of Palestinian nationalism — Tlaib took to the House floor after the censure.

“I will not be silenced, and I will not let you distort my words,” she said

“No government is beyond criticism. The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent. It’s been used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation,” the representative continued.

“The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all,” Tlaib said. “We cannot lose our shared humanity, Mr Chair. I hear the voices of advocates in Israel and Palestine across America and around the world for peace.”

11/04/2023 Washington DC, USA. People wave the Palestinian flag and hold placards during a demonstration of solidarity with Palestinians. Photo by ALI KHALIGH/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images.

A controversial phrase takes center stage

Tlaib, a leading voice calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, posted a video last Friday accusing President Joe Biden of colluding with Israel in the genocide of the Palestinian people. 

“Mr. President, the American people are not with you on this one,” Tlaib says in the video. “We will remember in 2024.”

The video shows footage of pro-Palestinian protests from Michigan to New York, California to Ohio. You can hear many chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”


Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, wrote on Twitter that the phrase in the video was an “aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”  

The phrase is part of a slogan pro-Palestinians have used since the 1960s and is open to numerous interpretations.

However, House members interpreted it as an attack on Biden and hate speech. The censure, backed by 22 Democrats who joined most Republicans, passed 234 to 188. 

The resolution deemed the phrase “a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people to replace it with a Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

Rashida Tlaib is now the twenty-fourth member in the House’s history to be censured 

A censure is a reprimand of a House member’s actions or words and needs a majority to pass. It doesn’t mean removal from committees or that said member can’t exercise authority as a lawmaker. 

The penalization of Tlaib comes after the brutal Oct. 7th attack by Hamas that left 1,400 Israelis dead, mostly civilians, and 200 people as hostages.   

Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza has killed more than 10,000 people, almost half of them children. It laid large parts of Gaza to waste, including hospitals and homes.

The House doled out Tlaib’s punishment as other Congress members used what many also consider incendiary language to refer to the Palestinian people.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, said Gaza should be “flattened.” For his part, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) introduced legislation to expel Palestinians from the U.S.

Meanwhile, millions of people in every major city worldwide have spilled out onto the streets, demanding a cease-fire.