Rashida Tlaib: What does a censure mean?

Sole Palestinian-American congresswoman rebuked in House of Representatives for statements related to Israel-Gaza war

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, centre, attends a bipartisan candlelight vigil at the US Capitol to mark one month since the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel. AFP
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Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, this week became the 26th member of the House of Representatives to be censured.

The formal reprimand from her colleagues was made after she repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Gaza and spoke out against Israel's attacks on the Palestinian territory.

Here is a look at the process of a censure and what it means:

What does it mean to censure someone in Congress?

While the censure of a politician carries no practical effect, it amounts to a severe reproach from colleagues. Lawmakers who are censured are usually asked to stand in the well of the House as the resolution against them is read aloud.

But the resolution against Ms Tlaib did not call for a public admonishment.

Who is Rashida Tlaib?

As a Democrat in the House of Representatives, Ms Tlaib represents a district in Detroit, Michigan.

Ms Tlaib is the sole Palestinian American in Congress. Her grandmother lives in a village in the occupied West Bank, territory Israel captured in the 1967 war.

“My perspective is needed more than ever” amid the continuing conflict, she said.

She has been criticised for not doing enough to denounce the Hamas attacks and has been pressured to dial back her calls for a ceasefire.

“Palestinian people are not disposable,” Ms Tlaib said.

According to local authorities, more than 10,500 people have been killed in Gaza.

Why was she censured?

The legislation to censure her accused Ms Tlaib of “promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel”.

The measure specifically cited a video she published on social media containing the phrase “from the river to the sea”, a pro-Palestinian rallying cry that is viewed by many Jews as calling for Israel's eradication.

She also enraged many fellow Democrats on Friday when she posted a video accusing President Joe Biden of supporting “the genocide of the Palestinian people”. US ally Israel vehemently rejects accusations of genocide.

Ms Tlaib said that she was not guilty of anti-Semitism during a speech on the House floor on Tuesday.

“My criticism has always been of the Israeli government and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's actions … The idea that criticising the government of Israel is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent.”

Who supported censuring Rashida Tlaib?

The resolution was put forward by a member of the Republican majority and passed 234-188.

Twenty-two Democrats voted in favour. Four Republicans voted against the measure.

What about the censure of other members?

House Democrats withdrew a measure to censure Republican Brian Mast for a comment in which he said all Palestinians were not “innocent”.

“I would encourage the other side to not so lightly throw around the idea of innocent Palestinian civilians, as is frequently said.” he said.

“I don’t think we would so lightly throw around the term innocent Nazi civilians during World War II.”

How common is censuring someone in Congress?

Although it was previously a rare measure used against members, it has become increasingly common in recent years.

Ms Tlaib is the 26th person to ever be censured by the chamber and the second just this year.

In June, Republicans voted to censure Democrat Adam Schiff of California for comments he made several years ago about investigations into former president Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

When the House was under Democratic control, Republican Paul Gosar of Arizona was censured in 2021 for tweeting an animated video that depicted him striking Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword. And Democrat Charlie Rangel of New York was censured in 2010 over serious financial and campaign misconduct.

Updated: November 08, 2023, 7:55 PM