In an interview published Saturday, US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said President Donald Trump’s continued verbal assault on her and several of her Democratic colleagues in the so-called Squad was due to him being “scared of us.”
Tlaib told the Guardian she was referring specifically to women of color.
“It’s been very clear to me, especially this last week, that he’s scared of us,” she said. “He’s afraid of women of color… because we’re not afraid of him and we’re not afraid to speak up and say that we have a white supremacist in the White House who has a hate agenda.”
She added: “He’s afraid because we have a real agenda for the American people… policies that came from the people.
“What he’s doing by choosing us four as his target is trying to distract folks from the fact that more people are living in poverty than ever, because he has failed as a president.”
Tlaib and Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar — the first two Muslim women elected to Congress — were denied entry to Israel last week over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement.
Israel had granted Omar and Tlaib permission to enter in principle last month, but banned them from visiting the country last Thursday under a 2017 law allowing it to expel or deny entry to anyone who backs the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
The decision was made less than two hours after Trump tweeted that it would be a show of “great weakness” if Israel gave them permission to come, and the reversal was widely seen as the result of pressure from the US president, who has sparred with the lawmakers.
On Tuesday Trump ramped up his attacks on Tlaib after the Michigan Democrat got visibly emotional during a press conference discussing her ban.
“Sorry, I don’t buy Rep. Tlaib’s tears. I have watched her violence, craziness and, most importantly, WORDS, for far too long. Now tears?” Trump tweeted. “She hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an anti-Semite. She and her 3 friends are the new face of the Democrat Party. Live with it!”
Tlaib, a US-born Palestinian-American from Michigan, had also planned to visit her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank, and submitted a request to go on humanitarian grounds, promising that she would not use the trip to urge boycotting Israel. Israeli officials said she could make the family visit, but Tlaib then declined.
She said her grandmother had urged her not to come under what they considered such humiliating circumstances.
Tlaib and Omar are known as supporters of the BDS, a campaign that seeks to force Israel through economic pressure and social and cultural ostracism to dismantle its military presence in the West Bank. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel’s 52-year military rule over the Palestinians, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the state’s existence.
Tlaib and Omar are part of the “squad” of four liberal House newcomers — all women of color — whom Trump has labeled as the face of the Democratic Party as he runs for reelection. The Republican president subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to “go back” to their “broken” countries. They are US citizens — Omar became a citizen after moving to the US as a refugee from war-torn Somalia.
Trump widened his attacks in recent days, and in highly controversial comments said Jews who voted for Democrats were being “disloyal.”
American Jewish leaders condemned Trump over his remarks, which were seen as employing anti-Semitic tropes of dual loyalty. It was initially unclear who he meant Jews were being disloyal toward. He later said he was referring to disloyalty to Israel and the Jewish people.
Trump has repeatedly voiced his frustration over his unpopularity among American Jews, despite his close support for Israel and his steps to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.
Indeed, more than 75 percent of American Jews voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, according to exit polls. That marked a four percentage point increase from the percentage of Jewish voters (71%) who pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly commented on Trump’s accusations against Jewish Democrat voters.
But President Reuven Rivlin spoke Wednesday with House Speaker Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to impress upon her that the Jewish state’s ties with the United States were entirely bipartisan.
“The relationship between the State of Israel and the United States is a link between peoples, which relies on historical ties, deep and strong friendships and shared values that are not dependent on the relationship with one particular party,” Rivlin told Pelosi.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.