Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib participated in an event late last week with an anti-Israel activist who has defended Hamas, doubted that it engaged in sexual and gender-based violence during its October 7 terrorist attack, and compared Gaza to Auschwitz.
Tlaib appeared with the speaker, Huwaida Arraf, at a Zoom event last Thursday to launch the new political wing of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, whose goal is to end military aid to Israel.
Arraf, who is a civil and human rights attorney, founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and former staffer at Seeds of Peace, posted a graphic on October 7 suggesting that Hamas’s attack was not terrorism.
The image of the hang glider became synonymous with the idea of “Palestinian resistance” in the days following October 7. However, it was Hamas operatives on hang gliders who massacred more than 250 young people at a music festival that was taking place in southern Israel.
Two days later, on October 9, Arraf wrote: “No matter how much Israel bombs, starves and kills Palestinians, they will never be able to extinguish the Palestinian desire to LIVE FREE. Support for Israel’s brutal aggression will only fuel more resistance. #Gaza”
In a statement to The Algemeiner, Democratic Majority for Israel wrote: “It’s reprehensible that Congresswoman Tlaib would associate herself with those who deny or even celebrate the terrorist group Hamas’ horrific attacks of October 7 that resulted in 1,200 deaths and included raping, burning, mutilating and executing women and children.”
In November, after disclaiming that she does not support Hamas in part due to its religious ideology, Arraf wrote that “Hamas members, like all Palestinians, just want freedom. They have always warmly welcomed people, irrespective of religion and nationality, including Jewish Israelis, who come in solidarity, not as occupiers.”
Then, in December, Arraf expressed doubt that Hamas engaged in sexual and gender-based violence during its October 7 attack, writing, “Israel continues to refuse independent investigations into its claims that Hamas raped Israeli women and girls. If it happened, it is a war crime and should be dealt with accordingly. So far though, all we have is inconsistent claims from someone who says she saw something (not a survivor of assault herself) and statements from someone tied to the Israeli government who has started a project. And, of course, Israeli government claims.”
However, independent investigations by newspapers such as The New York Times and The Guardian, based on eyewitness testimony and video, have found that the use of sexual and gender-based violence was widespread on October 7. Both investigations were published after Arraf’s post, but she did not respond to a request for comment asking if the subsequent investigations changed her view on this particular subject. She also did not respond to a request for comment on any of her other posts.
Tlaib’s Communications Director did not respond to a request for comment on whether the congresswoman was aware of Arraf’s views prior to the event.
During the event, they spoke about, among other things, how to make the Palestinian cause a local issue.
Tlaib said that most taxpayers don’t want their money to go to “death and destruction” and “apartheid.”
Arraf said, “The forces that we’re up against are so very great. And recognizing the interconnectedness of the struggle — the fact that we’re likely fighting the same forces trying to keep us down and that profit from our oppression — is important to strengthen our voices.”