Biden promises to keep Rashida Tlaib’s West Bank family safe after she accused him of ‘taking orders’ from Israel

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During remarks at a Ford electric vehicle facility in Michigan, President Joe Biden told Detroit-area US Rep Rashida Tlaib that he is praying for her family in the West Bank.

The Democratic congresswoman, the only Palestinian member and one of two Muslim women in Congress, has criticised the administration’s response to Israel’s attacks in Gaza and the West Bank, and has called for conditioning aid to Israel on its compliance with international human rights agreements.

“I admire your intellect, I admire your passion, and I admire your concern for so many other people,” the president told her in his remarks from Dearborn on Tuesday.

“And from my heart, I pray that your grandma and family are well,” he said. “I promise you I’ll do everything to see that they are, on the West Bank. You’re a fighter, and God thank you for being a fighter.”

Dearborn is 47 per cent Arab American with one of the largest Muslim populations in the US.

On Tuesday, as the president toured the facility to promote his infrastructure agenda, Arab American groups held three protests across the city to demonstrate against Israel’s actions in Gaza and the forced removal of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.

The actions on Tuesday follow widespread protests across the US over the last week, including in Dearborn, calling on the US to pressure Israel to end its military strikes.

At least 212 people have been killed in Gaza, including 61 children, with hundreds of others wounded over the last week. At least 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank.

Hamas has fired more than 3,300 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns, killing at least 10 people, according to the Israeli Air Force.

The congresswoman has joined progressive Democrats in criticising the administration’s response to the crisis and “unconditional” US support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

She has urged US support for Palestinian human rights, saying in an emotional address to the House of Representatives on Thursday that she weeps “for all the lives lost under the unbearable status quo, every single one, no matter their faith, their background.”

“We all deserve freedom, liberty, peace and justice, and it should never be denied because of our faith or ethnic background,” she said. “No child, Palestinian or Israeli, whoever they are, should ever have to worry that death will rain from the sky.”

Progressive Democrats also have sought to block a $735m arms deal with Israel “without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians,” said US Rep Ilhan Omar. “If this goes through this will be seen as a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a ceasefire.”’

During an appearance on MSNBC on Monday, Rep Tlaib told host Joy Reid that the political crisis and discourse has obscured “the human toll on so many of the families and children who live there.”

“It’s shocking, the hypocrisy of us saying that we need to be stewards of human rights, except for Palestinians,” she said. “They’re taking orders from Netanyahu who is on corruption charges from stealing from his own people, the people he’s supposed to be representing.”

She added that she hopes that the president “speaks up and speaks truth about what exactly is happening, because I know they know.”

“Many of the people that live there, including some of the Israeli citizens, have come out and opposed Netanyahu very forcefully – ‘Enough with this kind of discrimination and racism. These are our neighbours. These are children that we’re raising our children with.’”

On Monday, she demanded the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “get out of the way” of the United Nations Security Council for a ceasefire after the US blocked a statement calling for an end to the violence.

“Apartheid-in-chief Netanyahu will not listen to anyone asking nicely. He commits war crimes and openly violates international law,” she said on Twitter.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that “the president’s objective is clear, which is that he wants to see an end to the violence on the ground, an end to the suffering of the Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

“As I’ve noted in the past, our focus and our strategy here is to work through quiet, intensive diplomacy,” she said. “And he’s been doing this long enough to know that the best way to end an international conflict is typically not to debate it in public, so we will continue to remain closely engaged behind the scenes.”

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