When the U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) “for promoting false narratives regarding the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the State of Israel,” 22 Democrats crossed party lines to pass the resolution.
None of those Democrats were from Pennsylvania.
All three local Democrats, Reps. Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon, and Chrissy Houlahan voted against the censure resolution, which passed the House in a 234-188 vote. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) supported the resolution.
In particular, members of Congress were outraged by Tlaib’s use of the antisemitic phrase ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ a call to destroy the Jewish nation of Israel. More than 70 House Democrats took the unusual step of releasing a statement condemning the language as “a rallying cry for the destruction of the state of Israel.”
“We reject the use of the phrase “from the river to the sea”— a phrase used by many, including Hamas, as a rallying cry for the destruction of the State of Israel and genocide of the Jewish people. We all feel deep anguish for the human suffering caused by the war in Gaza. Hamas started this war with a barbaric terrorist attack on Oct. 7, 2023, and neither the Palestinian nor Israeli people can have peace as long as Hamas still rules over Gaza and threatens Israel,” the statement read in part.
Tlaib has made no secret of her animosity toward Israel. The only Palestinian-American currently serving in Congress, Tlaib claims, “‘From the river to the sea’ is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”
Supporters of Israel note that it is a common chant of terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and is usually accompanied by maps with Israel wiped out and replaced by a nation called “Palestine.”
“This phrase means eradicating Israel and Jews. Period. Dressing it up in a new PR ploy won’t change that,” says Florida Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Houlahan said in a statement that, while she “wish[ed] Rep. Tlaib hadn’t defended this particular charged phrase,” she accused Republicans of also making offensive statements and argued that censoring members of Congress over “essential freedoms, including speech and expression,” is a mistake.
“As a veteran who has sworn the oath to defend the constitution many times, I support those freedoms, even if I vehemently disagree with what’s being said.”
As for the Democratic letter regarding the phrase, a spokesperson for Houlahan told DVJournal, “There was particular phrasing” in the statement with which she disagreed.
Dean issued a statement saying, “As a longtime supporter of a two-state solution — as someone who works in the pursuit of liberation for Palestinians and long-term peace for both Israelis and Palestinians — I do not believe the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ has a place in our discourse.” And, she added, she believes the phrase “has been co-opted by terrorist groups like Hamas to mean complete and total destruction of the Jewish state.”
But she also refused to sign the Democratic letter of condemnation or vote for censure.
“That’s not to say some of these censures aren’t warranted — but this is not the best use of our limited time,” Dean said via social media.
Scanlon did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
The only Pennsylvania Democrat who didn’t vote against the resolution was embattled Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown).
She voted “present.”