House Speaker McCarthy blocks Rashida Tlaib from hosting Capitol anti-Israel event

Republican lawmaker reserves Visitor Center space that Democratic congresswoman wanted to use for Nakba meet, says he will hold celebration of 75 years of US-Israel ties instead

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, speaks during a rail union workers rally near the Capitol in Washington, December 13, 2022. ( Jose Luis Magana/AP)
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, speaks during a rail union workers rally near the Capitol in Washington, December 13, 2022. ( Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy blocked Michigan’s Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from hosting an anti-Israel event planned in the US Capitol building by reserving for himself the area in the building she wanted to use.

McCarthy tweeted Tuesday that he will instead host an event in the Capitol Visitor Center space celebrating 75 years of US-Israeli ties.

“It’s wrong for members of Congress to traffic in anti-Semitic tropes about Israel,” McCarthy told the Washington Free Beacon. “As long as I’m Speaker, we are going to support Israel’s right to self-determination and self-defense, unequivocally and in a bipartisan fashion.”

Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, is the only member of Congress who opposes Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state. She intended to headline the event to commemorate the Nakba — meaning “catastrophe” — a Palestinian term used for the founding of Israel in 1948. Among the planned participants were several groups that support boycotting Israel, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Engage Action, and Americans for Justice in Palestine Action. According to the Free Beacon, some of the groups that were to attend have defended terrorism. Palestinians mark Nakba Day each year on May 15.

An invitation for the Tlaib meeting read, “Seventy-five years ago, Zionist militias and the new Israeli military violently expelled approximately three-quarters of all Palestinians from their homes and homeland in what became the state of Israel.”

It said the gathering aimed to “uplift the experiences of Palestinians who underwent the Nakba, and educate members of Congress and their staff about this history and the ongoing Nakba to which Israel continues to subject Palestinians.”

Tlaib could still reschedule the event for a later date.

Earlier Tuesday, pro-Israel advocacy group the Coalition for Jewish Values sent a letter to House and Senate leaders asking them to condemn Tlaib’s plans, the report said.

“It is unsurprising but appalling that the featured speaker at this event will be a Member of Congress who describes the only Middle Eastern country to give equality and voting rights to both Jews and Arabs as ‘apartheid,’” they wrote in a copy of the letter seen by the outlet. “We hope that our request will meet with your favorable response, and that you will condemn this event in the strongest terms as soon as possible.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Tlaib’s office did not immediately respond to a Free Beacon request for comment.

The Capitol Visitor Center in Washington is seen on June 30, 2021. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Tlaib has in the past accused Israel of being an apartheid regime. In 2019, she attacked Republicans who backed a bill targeting the Israel boycott movement, saying in a tweet, “They forgot what country they represent.”

Then, in 2022, she was criticized by her own party for saying that there was no room in the progressive movement for supporters of what she called Israel’s “apartheid” government.

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks at a special session of the Knesset plenum, May 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

McCarthy earlier this month visited Israel, where he addressed a special gathering of the Knesset.

JTA contributed to this report.

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