Jewish leaders condemn Tlaib’s ‘antisemitic dog whistle’ in recent comments

Congresswoman spoke of people ‘behind the curtain’ exploiting ‘the rest of us,’ from Gaza to Detroit

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat-Michigan, listens during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on February 12, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat-Michigan, listens during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on February 12, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)

American Jewish leaders have accused Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of making antisemitic comments earlier this week when she alluded to people “behind the curtain” exploiting “the rest of us” from Gaza to Detroit.

Tlaib, a Palestinian American, spoke via videoconference to the Democratic Socialists of America’s national convention on Tuesday, criticizing a structure “designed by those that exploit the rest of us for their own profit.

Whether in her home state of Michigan or in the Gaza Strip, she said, “if you open the curtain and look behind the curtain, it’s the same people that make money and, yes they do, off of racism, off of these broken policies. There is someone there making money.

“They do it from Gaza to Detroit. And it’s a way to control people, to oppress people. And it’s those structures that we continue to fight against.”

Jewish leaders accused Tlaib of using antisemitic tropes to hint at a Jewish cabal controlling the world from behind the scenes.

The Conference of Presidents said on Friday that Tlaib “described a shadowy force acting behind the curtains in both places and around the world, controlling a system which is ‘designed by those who exploit the rest of us, for their own profit.’ Through her pointing to the tensions between Israel and Gaza, and saying that ‘they do it from Gaza to Detroit,’ it is clear that Rep. Tlaib is suggesting that the Jews are the uniting factor.

“We condemn these harmful, inflammatory remarks and urge those who are influential in every field to join in holding those who traffic in antisemitism accountable.”

The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, tweeted: “Stunning to hear @RashidaTlaib claim ‘behind the curtain,’ those who prevent a ‘free Palestine’ are the ‘same people’ who exploit ‘regular Americans.’ We’ve heard this kind of ugly #antisemitic dog whistling before, but it’s appalling when it comes from a member of Congress.”

Tlaib does not believe Israel should exist as a Jewish state and supports the pro-Palestinian boycott movement against the country.

She is known for being a member of “The Squad,” a group of four progressive women of color elected in the 2018 United States House of Representatives elections, made up of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Tlaib.

Tlaib and Omar — the first two Muslim women elected to Congress — were denied entry to Israel in 2019 over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement, under a 2017 law allowing it to expel or deny entry to anyone who backs BDS.

Israeli officials later relented and said Tlaib could come to visit her 90-year-old grandmother as she had planned if she did not engage in politics, but Tlaib then declined.

JTA contributed to this report.

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