A Pro-Israel Super PAC Is Smearing Rashida Tlaib for Standing Up for Palestinian Lives

Pro-Palestine congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is being smeared as pro-terrorism in a massive new ad by the Democratic Majority for Israel. But the pro-Israel group’s lies are transparent — and polls show that Democratic voters are more on Tlaib’s side.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib takes part in a demonstration organized with the attendance of multiple Jewish groups outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on October 18, 2023 to advocate for a halt in hostilities in Gaza. (Celal Gunes / Anadolu via Getty Images)

The ad starts with ominous music and a series of images of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, against a background bleached of color. The voiceover tells us that “she’s one of only seven Democrats to vote against missile protection for Israel” and one of only nine “against condemning the brutal attack on Israel by Hamas.” Her “legislation will allow the terrorists to re-arm themselves.” In each case, a reference to the measure she voted against or sponsored — H. R. 5323, Roll Call 528, H. Res 771, H. Res. 786 — flashes at the bottom of the screen.

The final item on this indictment is that Tlaib “refused” to answer a “horrifying question.” This time, the charge is illustrated with a short video clip of Tlaib and someone who looks like a staffer walking down the hall and ignoring an ambush interviewer, who trails behind them asking why she won’t comment on lurid claims about atrocities committed by Hamas.

The ad, entitled “History and Humanity,” was cut by Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI). Various reports claim that DMFI spent “six figures” — no one seems to have the exact sum — to play the ad in Tlaib’s district in Michigan. It ends with an exhortation to “tell Rashida Tlaib she’s on the wrong side of history and humanity.” There’s a phone number for anyone who actually does want to pass on this message.

Presumably, the real point of the ad is to build support for some sort of primary challenge in 2024, although so far no one knows who the challenger would be. But DMFI’s attempt at smearing Tlaib is transparently ridiculous — and Democratic voters are increasingly siding with her actual position.

Equating Support for Peace With Support for Hamas

No one with half a brain would interpret a politician wisely ignoring a reporter ambushing them and following them down the hallway shouting questions as “refusing” to take a position on whatever the reporter is talking about. And indeed, Tlaib has explicitly condemned Hamas for targeting Israeli civilians on several occasions.

What about the rest of the claims in the ad?

The “missile protection for Israel” that Tlaib voted against was a special appropriation, on top of the other billions the United States gives Israel in military aid every year, for Israel’s Iron Dome missile protection system. It’s supposed to intercept the rockets Hamas fires from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli propaganda often speaks of Hamas targeting rockets “at Israel,” but it’s important to remember that Gaza has never been anything close to an independent Palestinian state with its own military. It’s more like an unusually large, densely populated refugee camp, with its borders and airspace tightly controlled by the Israeli state ever since Israel pulled its ground forces out of the twenty-five-mile-long and six-mile-wide strip of land in 2006. When Israel bombs Gaza, it’s bombing not some foreign country but territory under its own control — just as Saddam Hussein was attacking Iraqi territory when he dropped mustard gas on Iraqi Kurds.

All this is worth emphasizing because Hamas and other insurgent groups based in Gaza aren’t firing rockets manufactured by some Palestinian equivalent of Raytheon from Palestinian army bases. They’re firing comparatively low-tech homemade rockets with no guidance systems that sometimes kill Israeli soldiers, civilians, or very unlucky Thai guest workers. But more often than not, they don’t hit anyone or anything.

Mainstream media commentators have claimed that the Iron Dome system intercepts 90 percent or more of these, but various skeptics have taken a hard look at the publicly available evidence and concluded that the real interception rate is probably a tiny fraction of that. It’s not that Israelis are being kept safe by amazing missile-catching technology; it’s just that Hamas’s home-brewed rockets are mostly worthless.

If that’s right, US money is being poured into a system that serves propaganda purposes rather than saving Israeli lives. Whatever you think of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, every dollar spent on dubious military boondoggles is a dollar not spent on housing, health care, or a thousand other more valuable purposes.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument, though, that Iron Dome does work the way it’s supposed to. Why exactly should Tlaib have voted to fund it? Why couldn’t Israel have sliced off a fraction of the billions it was already getting every year, forgoing a few of the jets currently being used to indiscriminately bomb hospitals, churches, and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza to free up money for missile defense?

As to the resolution to condemn Hamas, Tlaib has eloquently explained her vote:

I have and continue to denounce the killing of civilians, no matter their faith or ethnicity. Targeting civilians is a war crime, no matter who does it. Do not confuse my vote against this one-sided resolution with a lack of empathy for all those who are grieving. I voted against this resolution because it is a deeply incomplete and biased account of what is happening in Israel and Palestine, and what has been happening for decades. This resolution rightly mourns the thousands of Israeli civilians killed and wounded in the horrific attacks but explicitly does not mourn the thousands of Palestinian civilians, including over 2,000 children, killed and wounded in the collective punishment of Palestine. How does treating Palestinian civilians as less than fully human, as legitimate targets for retribution, bring us closer to a just and lasting peace?

It doesn’t, of course, because the bipartisan ghouls behind the resolution don’t want peace. They want to enrich weapons manufacturers, pander to pro-Israel lobbyists, and continue to court the all-too-real possibility of a wider war into which the United States could be drawn.

Tlaib and her progressive colleagues have proposed the opposite. What the DMFI simply calls “her resolution” that “will allow the terrorists to re-arm themselves” is a resolution calling for a cease-fire — a word that doesn’t appear in the ad. Presumably, it’s absent because naming the proposal out loud would make it harder for the DMFI smear merchants to conflate what Tlaib actually supports — peace — with support for Hamas.

The Democratic Majority for Israel vs the Actual Democratic Majority

The good news is that, at least as of this moment, it looks like the attempt to smear Tlaib won’t bear much fruit. She won a plurality in a crowded Democratic primary race in 2018, but in both cycles since then she’s swatted away both Democratic primary challengers and Republicans in the general election without breaking a sweat. And it’s not as if Michigan voters didn’t already know what the Palestinian-American Tlaib, who’s always been outspoken about this issue, has to say.

The even better news is that the so-called Democratic “Majority” for Israel is anything but. Fifty-six percent of Republican voters, 57 percent of independents, and a whopping 80 percent of Democrats agree with Tlaib about the urgent need for a cease-fire.

The DMFI ghouls have a lot of money to spend on ads. But they’re still losing the argument.