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Israeli Lobby Supports Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s Black Opponent in Michigan Election

posted on: Jun 15, 2022

Israeli Lobby Supports Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s Black Opponent in Michigan Election
U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, popular Rep. for Michigan’s District 12, has a primary opponent supported by pro-Israel PACs – Photo: Detroit Free Press

By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer

A new political action committee of Black and Jewish leaders has formed to run a campaign against Congressional Rep. Tlaib. Its candidate is Janice Winfrey, Detroit City Clerk, a Black and Democrat. Winfrey is strident in her support for Israel, not, however because of Israel’s sanctity. Rather, it is due to Tlaib’s pro-Palestinian stance and her voting record against Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians.

Israeli lobby conflates pro-Israel/anti-Palestinian stance with pro-Black/anti-Palestinian politics in the reelection of Congresswoman Tlaib

A new political action committee of Black and Jewish leaders has formed. Called the Urban Empowerment Action (UEA), its goal is to unseat Representative Tlaib. This PAC will spend $1 million to do its aim. It proposes Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey to run against Tlaib in the primary. She is Black and a Democrat. Tlaib is the sole Palestinian American serving in the House.

Israeli Lobby Supports Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s Black Opponent in Michigan Election
Black Democrat opponent to Tlaib, Janice Winfrey, Detroit City Clerk–has taken a wildly pro-Israel and virulently anti-Palestinian stance Photo Detroit Press

UEA’s declared mission is laudable. According to Deadline Detroit, it supports the “educational empowerment uplift of Black communities.” But its hidden agenda is to switch support away from pro-Palestinian constituents. Further, it wants to redirect it to pro-Israel voters. Tlaib is of course an outspoken critic of Israel. This is due to its military occupation of Palestinians. UEA reverses that stance to label her antisemitic.

Tlaib figures to win because of the large Arab American constituency in District 12. A recently redrawn 12th District has shifted the demographic. The new District includes parts of Detroit. But it also comprises more conservative areas of Livonia and the city of Dearborn. The winner of that District’s primary in August should win the November election.

Wildly pro-Israel, virulently anti-Palestinian rhetoric of Black candidate Winfrey

As Winfrey states her concerns about local issues, she is strident in her support for Israel. Electronicintifada reported that Winfrey’s claims are false and misdirected. They claim hatred of Jews is what motivates its critics. She uses this trope as a key motivator for her effort to unseat Tlaib.” Winfrey further accuses Arabs of being antisemitic and hateful towards Jews.

She doesn’t understand what most of the world believes. That is, Israel practices apartheid against the Palestinians. Winfrey has even accused well-established institutions of being “terrorist organizations.” These include the United Nations, International Criminal Court, and the Palestinian-led BDS movement.

Israeli Lobby Supports Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s Black Opponent in Michigan Election
Pro-Israel PACs, such as Pro-Israel America and Urban Empowerment Action, are backing Winfrey — Photo Flickr

Winfrey’s rhetoric accuses her political opponents of “advocating genocide of Jews.” She doesn’t understand a key point. Her opponents are “in fact, pressing for equal rights for Palestinians and an end to Israel’s apartheid system.” But she follows what her right-wing Israeli lobby donors want. They fear the Democratic party is shifting its support to the Palestinian struggle. One of Winfrey’s largest donors is Daniel S. Loeb, who funds pro-Israel candidates. He mostly donates to Republican campaigns.

It is not lost on the UEA that Rashida represents one of the largest Arab American communities in the country. It creates an ugly falsehood. They say, Rashida “was born, raised and still lives in Detroit; she is not a good fit for the city because she is not Black and allegedly does not focus on the same issues that Black people do.”

Pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian challenge to Tlaib deals in misinformation

Candidate Winfrey supports Israel not because of a belief in Israel’s sanctity. Rather, she supports it due to her opponent’s standing against Israel on key votes in the House. As the Jewish News Syndicate reports, “Tlaib (D-Mich.) has been a leader in the progressive ‘Squad’ standing against Israel on key votes in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

A lobby/PAC, Pro-Israel America (PIA), has made clear who it will support. It stated it will only support “candidates that have not taken anti-Israel positions.” PIA, besides supporting Winfrey, is throwing its weight behind candidates. It helps all those who are facing challenges from candidates with anti-Israel records.

Israeli Lobby Supports Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s Black Opponent in Michigan Election
Always at the heart of a pro-Palestinian stance is supporting Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupationthis does not necessarily make one anti-IsraelPhoto The Arab American News

The PIA stated, “We will continue to bring the power of the pro-Israel grassroots community to help these fresh candidates and proven leaders in Congress who support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship fight and win in their competitive races.”

This is a sad story. The politics of the Middle East have spilled over into U.S. electoral politics. The opposition candidate is misusing race, nationality, ethnicity, and religion. She does it to confuse and bewilder American voters. Furthermore, the pro-Israel side manipulates Black Americans. Some end up supporting the ideological message purveyed by Israeli and pro-Israel lobbies. That message is anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, and Anti-American. Simply put, it is shameful.

“Black-Jewish PAC To Spend $1 Million Trying To Unseat Rashida Tlaib,” Deadline Detroit 5/28/2022

“Israel lobby’s Black allies aim to unseat Rashida Tlaib,” Electronicintifada, 6/9/2022

“Pro-Israel America endorses Tlaib challenger and seven other primary candidates,” Jewish News Syndicate, 6/12/2022

John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.

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