Censured Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib: ‘Ceasefire movement won’t be silenced’
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., speaks during a ceasefire rally at the National Mall in Washington, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

On Nov. 7, 2023, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, for her outspoken criticisms of the Israeli government’s war on the Palestinian people and her call for an immediate ceasefire. Republicans accused her of being anti-Semitic. The final vote was 212 Republicans and 22 Democrats in favor of censure, 188 Democrats and 4 Republicans against. One Democrat and 3 Republicans voted “present.” During debate on the motion, Tlaib gave an impassioned speech, saying that censuring her would not silence the movement for peace. The text below is based on the transcript of her remarks.

I’m the only Palestinian American serving in Congress, Mr. Chair, and my perspective is needed here now more than ever. I will not be silenced, and I will not let you distort my words.

Folks forget I’m from the city of Detroit, the most beautiful, Blackest city in the country, where I learned to speak truth to power even if my voice shakes.

Trying to bully or censure me won’t work because this movement for a ceasefire is much bigger than one person. It’s growing every single day.

There are millions of people across our country who oppose Netanyahu’s extremism and are done watching our government support collective punishment and the use of white phosphorous bombs that melt flesh to the bone.

They are done watching our government, Mr. Chair, supporting cutting off food, water, electricity, and medical care to millions of people with nowhere to go. Like me, Mr. Chair, they don’t believe the answer to war crimes is more war crimes.

The refusal of Congress and the administration to acknowledge Palestinian lives is chipping away at my soul. Over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed. The majority, the majority were children.

But let me be clear, my criticism has always been of the Israeli government and Netanyahu’s actions. It is important to separate people and governments, Mr. Chair. No government is beyond criticism.

The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent, and it’s being used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation.

Do you realize what it’s like, Mr. Chair, for the people outside the chamber, right now, listening in agony to their own government dehumanizing them? To hear the President of the United States we helped elect dispute death tolls as we see video after video of dead children and parents under rubble?

Do you know what it’s like to fear rising hate crimes, to know how Islamophobia and anti-Semitism make us all less safe and worried that your own child might suffer the horrors that a 6-year-old Wadea in Illinois did?

I can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not disposable.

We are human beings just like anyone else. My sitti, my grandmother, like all Palestinians, just wants to live her life with the freedom and human dignity we all deserve.

Speaking up to save lives, Mr. Chair, no matter faith, no matter ethnicity, should not be controversial in this chamber.

The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of the Palestinians sound different to you all.

We cannot lose our shared humanity, Mr. Chair. I hear the voices of advocates in Israel, in Palestine, across America, and around the world for peace. I am inspired by the courageous, courageous survivors in Israel who have lost loved ones, yet are calling for a ceasefire and the end to violence.

I am grateful to the people in the streets for the peace movement, with countless Jewish Americans across the country standing up and lovingly saying, “Not in our name.”

We will continue to call for a ceasefire, Mr. Chair, for the immediate delivery of critical humanitarian aid to Gaza, for the release of all hostages, and those arbitrarily detained, and for every American to come home.

We will continue to work for a real, lasting peace that upholds the human rights and dignity of all people and centers coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians and censures no one, no one, and ensures that no person, no child has to suffer or live in fear of violence.

71% of Michigan Democrats support a ceasefire. So, you can try to censure me, but you can’t silence their voices.

I urge my colleagues to join with the majority of Americans and support a ceasefire now to save as many lives as possible.

President Biden must listen to and represent all of us, not just some of us. I urge the president to have the courage to call for a ceasefire and the end of killings.

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Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib

Rashida Tlaib is a member of the U.S. Congress representing Michigan's 12th District centered around the cities of Detroit and Dearborn.