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Rashida Tlaib on Her Historic Campaign, Ending the War in Yemen & Fighting for the Working Class

Web ExclusiveAugust 16, 2018
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We continue our conversation with Detroit Democratic congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib, who is poised to become the first Palestinian American and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress after winning her Democratic primary last week. Tlaib talks about finding inspiration from her mother, campaigning to end U.S. support for the devastating Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and her support for the women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We continue with Part 2 of our conversation with Detroit Democratic congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib, who’s poised to become the first Palestinian-American woman and first Muslim woman to serve in Congress. Tlaib is a Democratic Socialist who supports the Palestinian right of return and a one-state solution.

AMY GOODMAN: Rashida Tlaib also supports Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and abolishing ICE. The child of Palestinian immigrants, she has spoken out against the Trump administration’s travel bans.

Rashida Tlaib, thanks so much for staying with us for this Part 2 of our conversation. What does democratic socialism mean to you?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Well, you know, I—you have to know this about me. Nermeen probably has seen some of my interviews in the past. I cannot stand these kind of identifiers and just labeling me that. I’m a member of the Michigan Democratic Party, a DSA member, member of the League of Women Voters, ACLU. And why I—you know, for me, trying to kind of stick me in this box, that’s the only thing—you know, that’s what I am, is hard for me to kind of grasp on, because so many of my families throughout the 13th Congressional District just know me as, “Oh, you’re the one that’s going to fight for universal healthcare. You’re the one that’s going to fight for, you know, pushing back against the cuts towards education, and trying to get our school district back for some of my folks.” And so, a lot of my residents—you know, when I start using these various labels and kind of identifiers—and I know people want to do that—it’s really difficult.

But I can tell you, DSA has been a true partner in fighting back against the corporate tax breaks that I’ve seen being given away right here in the metro Detroit area, especially towards a hockey stadium, Amy and Nermeen, where $400 million, that could be going toward schools, many of which are really struggling right now, is going towards an adult playground, for a for-profit, you know, billionaire company that sells pizza. It’s absolutely immoral. And that’s—I think that moral compass, that myself and Sister Ilhan Omar and, I think, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bring to—you know, bring with us to Congress, is going to shift that conversation about, you know, how do we really represent and how do we take care of the people back home.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Rashida, you say it will shift the conversation, Ilhan Omar, yourself and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Do you think that the Democratic Party is shifting to a more progressive platform?

RASHIDA TLAIB: You know, seeing Jahana Hayes, you know, teacher of the year—having a teacher come onto the House floor with us, it is. It’s changing the face of Congress—not as Democrats or whatever, just the fact that we are women of color, but also women that understand the struggles and challenges that are going on right now back home, because over half of our colleagues on the—literally, in Congress right now, are millionaires. They’re not struggling with class sizes of 45 for their children. They’re not struggling watching, you know, so many of our parents having two or three jobs to make ends meet. We hear all of these stories, and we have so much faith in our public servants in Congress to fight for us, but I think we have to be one of us to be there, you know, for us to really truly be genuine about it, grounded and rooted into why we’re there and why we need to be able to push against this kind of corporate greed that continues to fester in all parts of our government. And I think that that is what’s happening, that shift of, you know, people like us are now running for office. And I think that is transformative, maybe to Congress, maybe to the party, maybe to the world or to the country. It is going to be a fantastic class of incredible women that walk onto that floor. And I think, yes, it will completely shift the conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: On that issue of socialism, Rashida Tlaib, a new poll by Gallup shows Democrats now have a more positive view of socialism than capitalism. Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they have a positive attitude toward socialism. Just 47 percent said the same about capitalism. What does that say to you?

RASHIDA TLAIB: You know, for me, I don’t kind of look at those statistics. What I know is, when I went door to door, it was around the issues. When I start using labels and start talking about Democratic Party, independent—so many ask me, “Rashida, what is a libertarian?” They don’t know—I mean, for me, my families in the 13th Congressional District just know that I’m not going to vote for corporate tax breaks, that I’m going to vote for universal healthcare, that I’m going to fight for them. They know that I under—

AMY GOODMAN: Are you for Medicare for all?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Absolutely. I say—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what that means.

RASHIDA TLAIB: To me, it means being able to have access to—everyone having access to healthcare, and having the government play a much important role. But I got to tell you, Amy, I’m not for sitting back and allowing the insurance industry to write the bill. And that’s one of the biggest criticisms I had about the Affordable Care Act, is that it’s fine to have the insurance industry be a partner, be part of a work group, but for them to write the majority of that bill—and that’s exactly what I heard happened, exactly what I’ve seen and what I’ve read about it, is that, you know, having them being in a much bigger role than they need to be. It has to be led by the people.

And what I mean by that is the government needs to take the lead on writing something that gets us closer to universal healthcare. And Medicare for all gets us closer to a blanket true access to quality healthcare that doesn’t allow the insurance industry to abuse us, to—insurance industry to still continue to manipulate this whole process around drug—the drug industry, the prescription drug industry. That, to me, is—because it has to go hand in hand. Access is important. But I’ll tell you, as soon as the Affordable Care Act got passed, what I saw with the hardship of having my Detroit police officers, who lost their health insurance when we filed bankruptcy in Detroit, to go through that system, I realized it wasn’t really true access, because the people behind the—that door was still the insurance industry, who is not putting people first. And we all have to come from that perspective of understanding that that is the fact and that we need to have the government play a much bigger role.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Rashida, you mentioned earlier that there are a number of millionaires in Congress, the majority of them.

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yes.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you elaborate on the class dimensions of this, your own background and how it’s shaped your position on questions like Medicare for all? I mean, there’s been so much said about the extent to which money has permeated politics in the U.S. Your victory suggests that alternatives are possible.

RASHIDA TLAIB: They are. They are possible. And I think, you know, the hope that I bring is so much needed right now, because everything is about political strategy and what are the Republicans going to do if we do this, or what is the Democrats going to do if we do this. That is what is the clouds over everything that needs to be done for the people back home. And so, I could tell you, coming from a working-class, you know, immigrant household, my dad only had fourth-grade education, my mother only eighth-grade education. My dad’s first-ever real true job was at Ford Motor Company. He was a UAW member. And I remember him telling me how, you know, he never got to really vote anywhere. And, you know, he came from Palestine as 9 or 10 years old, went to Nicaragua and found more poverty, more challenges, and then at 19 years old, a young age, to come to the United States of America, and his life completely changed. It still was a struggle, though. Some days, you know, I remember seeing him in tears and not knowing really how he was going to be able to take care of our family.

And I can tell you, going through Detroit Public Schools, growing up in a city that—you know, we were probably the punching bag for the nation for so many years. And knowing, kind of coming from, again, that lens and that experience, is—it’s been lacking for so many of us. I remember Congressman Conyers voting against the PATRIOT Act, voting against the Iraq War when it was unpopular to. That tremendous amount of courage that comes with that kind of leadership, I mean, that’s what we need. And I can tell you, no matter what people say about him, he shaped a lot of who I am. I remember after 9/11 him coming to the American Muslim community and the Arab community and having what we called a public forum, standing side by side with us, not being afraid to say, “They are not at fault, and that this is us reacting to the fear tactics that are out there, and that I’m going to stand by civil rights and equality, no matter what.” And, to me, again, that has shaped my lens.

The classism that’s happening, Amy, I mean, look, I can’t believe that there is that many. I had no idea that there was such a huge, you know, wealth coming from the members of Congress. Congressman John Dingell told me the balance between corporations was always with Congress. Working-class people got to Congress, and they always pushed back, so there was a balance. Now it seems like the same people that seem to be more sympathetic with corporations are in office versus the real people back home.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to election night, the night you made history, shortly after you learned you had won the primary. Here, you’re standing next to your mother as you speak to supporters.

RASHIDA TLAIB: I want you to know my mom, who’s from a small village in the West Bank. They’re literally glued. It’s like 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. And now it’s more than that. They’re glued to the TV. My grandmother, my aunts, my uncles in Palestine are sitting by and watching their granddaughter [inaudible]. I want to tell them—I want to tell them—I want them to know, you know, as I uplift the families of the 13th Congressional District, I’ll uplift them, every single day, being who I am as a proud Palestinian American and woman and Muslim. I [inaudible] so much, because for so many years they’ve felt dehumanized. And I tell you, as a Palestinian, it means—you know, a lot of my strength comes from being Palestinian. But I can tell you, my mother’s—like the compassion this woman his, that is in me. She smiles every single time that she—this woman doesn’t even understand when people are being racist to her, because she believes that people can be better. And she is an inspiration to me in so many ways.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you, Rashida, can talk about this moment? You’re crying in the studio as you watch yourself standing next—

RASHIDA TLAIB: Because I don’t watch it, Amy. If I watch it, Amy and Nermeen, I just start crying, because you all probably don’t even know this. That wasn’t really my—you know, that moment, I was just thanking everybody and wanting them to go home and get some rest, because we still couldn’t call it. It was 5:00 in the morning. And I think, for me, you know, turning to my right to see my mom in tears and saying to me, “Tsk, I knew you had it,” I was like, “OK, Ma.” You know, but I think seeing her proudly look at me and, you know, know exactly what this would mean for the whole country, we brought light to a moment in darkness for so many people, not only in our country, but around the world.

I think American Muslims and Muslims around the world needed a sense of, you know, some light, some feeling that, yes, this is exactly why people need to run and speak up and fight back, because of this possibility, the fact that now two Muslim American women are going to be able to walk onto the House floor of Congress. What an incredible moment in our country. Celebrate it. It is something that speaks volumes, because we can do press conferences, we can do marches, we can do protests—and those are so important—but running for office, getting elected in a predominantly non-Muslim community—my sister Ilhan Omar is going to represent a 70 percent white community. And people believed in us. They have faith in us. That is the America I know and love. And I just can’t wait to see the faces of so many people saying this actually really did happen.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re standing next to your mother. She’s covered. She was ululating as you were speaking to supporters. You are the eldest of 14 children?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yes, yes. I have my own voting bloc. But it was an incredible moment for my family. You know, we lost my father in December of this past year, and so this was just even more sweeter, just because this is the man who, when we turned 18, he didn’t say, “Happy birthday.” He said, “Go register to vote,” because that’s what the UAW taught him.

I think, you know, at that moment, my mom was elated. She had already, four days before, you know, the Tuesday elections, had dry-cleaned my—the Palestinian thobe that she’s going to have me wear when I swear on the Holy Qur’an. And so, she already had so much faith and belief. I’m just so glad we won, because, you know, she’s a person that would continue to smile and say, “You know what? It was written. There was a reason.” But she’s elated. She’s so happy. And I can tell you, she keeps saying to me—and you’ve got to meet her and understand how I grew up the way I am. She says to me, “Listen, don’t bother him too much. Let God handle him.” And I was like, “OK, Mom.” You know, and she’s talking about President Trump. And so, this is the woman I’m completely surrounded by constantly, so humbled, so pure, in that she truly believes in a higher spirit. She truly believes things happen for a reason, and everything that she sees is through this just amazing empathy, like she—her compassion comes so strongly in me. But she’s ready. She said, “Don’t get that thobe dirty.” I was like, “Mom, it’s in the closet. Everything’s fine.” We’re ready to roll when it’s time in January.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Rashida, you also said in the New York Times interview that you often thank God for your victory and successes in political life, but that, for you, Allah is a she.

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yes, Allah is a she. And, you know, there’s 99 names for Allah attributes, and 50 percent of those are feminine. And so, in my campaign team, I remember, you know, almost missing flights and all these things, and there was another amazing girl in my office named Amira, who’s also Palestinian, and she would say—she’d say, “Oh, I can’t believe you made it.” And I was like, “Because she’s on our side.” And she’s like, “Who is she?” And I said, “That’s Allah.” And she goes, “Allah’s a she for you?” I said, “Absolutely.” And she goes, “Oh!” And I was like, “Well, you know, Allah is not supposed to have—you know, it’s not gender-specific, and, you know, that’s the point. But, you know, if the men can say 'he,' I can say 'she.'”

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the president of the United States as many are calling the sexual-harasser-in-chief, a sexual-predator-in-chief? So many women, before the election, when you were protesting him there in Detroit as a candidate, had come out and said he had sexually abused them, harassed them, sexually assaulted them. Can you talk about what that means for the president to be accused of this by so many women, and your own life experiences?

RASHIDA TLAIB: It just means we have a lot of work to do, Amy. I can’t fathom—you know, this is a president of the United States that I probably wouldn’t want meeting my sisters or my mother. Right? I mean, this is because the lack of, you know, true meaning and understanding of what it means to abuse a woman, the meaning of what those actions really mean to women, young women, that are seeing that the president of the United States is allowed to do that and not be held accountable, that I hope that that doesn’t make them more silent.

It’s so dangerous that so many people don’t understand the true slippery slope of just toxicity and danger that it brings to a young woman who’s starting her first job, like I did—you know, my first job outside of college was at a civil rights organization. And I could have never imagined—you know, I didn’t really even understand what sexual harassment was, until it happened to me. And it was five months of pure just agony, me wearing turtlenecks and sweaters in the middle of summer because I was worried he would touch me again, worried that he would make remarks to me again. And again, this young—you know, now I’m so much more stronger and so much more knowledgeable. And every time a young woman comes to me and says she experienced that, I look at her, and I say to “Grow stronger. Look where I am. Look what I’ve been able to do. Build off of that.”

But to have the president of the United States to be let off, as if this is OK, that this is some sort of norm, is so dangerous for our daughters, for our sisters, for our mothers, that are in the workplace now, that are in the world and experiencing this now. I hope that they don’t see this as a form of “You have to be quiet about it and be silent because there’s no justice at the end.” There is justice. He will, if it’s through my mother’s path of just allowing a higher being to take care of him, or is it going to be fighting harder and working harder and out—you know, just outworking that kind of toxicity that is now in the White House. I’m there as a partner for them—

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe President Trump should be impeached, Rashida?

RASHIDA TLAIB: —and I want to be able to uplift them all through my own personal experiences and say—

AMY GOODMAN: Rashida?

RASHIDA TLAIB: —what the president stands for is completely wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: Rashida Tlaib, do you think President Trump should be impeached?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’d be part of that effort in Congress?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Absolutely. Have you ever watched Law & Order?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

RASHIDA TLAIB: You know the first part is the crime, and then the arrest happens? And then the second half is the accountability of true like investigation of whether or not that person committed the crime? I’m really good at the second half of Law & Order. So I’ll be a partner for any U.S. senator that needs me to, you know, be a partner in collecting information, collecting—what I know already is that President Trump has probably violated a number of criminal acts, especially when it comes to the relationship with Russia.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Nancy Pelosi should be House speaker?

RASHIDA TLAIB: I think this is a time for a new era of—you know, a new generation, just because I just truly believe this is a new era of civil rights movement that we are all part of. And there is a moment now where I think true leadership is realizing that getting us to this point was so important. And I got to tell you, I mean, Leader Pelosi is an incredible person and has done an incredible job. But at some point we have to make decisions on whether or not we want to be able to get someone there that can speak to the various challenges and issues of my families back home in the 13th Congressional District. They’re my priority. And right now the stance around Dodd-Frank, the stance around a number of issues are troubling for me. And so that’s why I have been very much saying that probably not. I haven’t spoken to Leader Pelosi. I don’t want to use this as, you know, giving you some general, generic response. I can tell you I most likely want to lean toward someone that will be more in line with the civil rights issues of my district.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the Democratic National Committee has been facing criticism from climate activists, after the DNC essentially lifted a ban on fossil fuel company donations.

RASHIDA TLAIB: That’s right.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: DNC Chair Tom Perez introduced the measure, saying the party wants to, quote, “support fossil fuel workers.” So, could you comment on that, Rashida, in the context of what you said, having a new leadership within the Democratic Party, and your own position on climate change and what the U.S. needs to be doing?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Absolutely. It’s a great example, Nermeen. And I’ll you, you know, jobs don’t fix cancer. They don’t fix the environment. And this whole, you know, argument constantly, to me, misleads the American people, when you say this is about jobs. Either you’re for ending Citizens United or you’re not. So, if you’re for ending Citizens United, then act like you are against corporations influencing our democratic process. So, lifting that ban on accepting donations from fossil fuel companies, to me, that action spoke more than any press release or statement that’s coming out of DNC. I mean, that, to me, says that those issues are not priority. And they can be strategic about how, why and all these other things. But at the same time, you know, my father had two forms of cancer. I can tell you, living in a community where we’re surrounded by industry, I actually thought that smell was normal in Southwest Detroit, where I lived less than a half a mile from Marathon oil refinery. The only petroleum refinery in the state of Michigan is right in my neighborhood. And so, all of those—you know, all of that to say that I’m very disturbed by it. I was disappointed. And I don’t feel like we’re moving forward. We’re just moving backward with that decision.

AMY GOODMAN: Rashida Tlaib, what does it mean to call for the abolition of ICE, Immigration Customs Enforcement?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yes. You know that I’m in a border community. So, people always think of the southern border, they don’t think about the northern border. And Detroit has got an international border right there. And when you come across that crossing, you have 20 different ethnicities. Majority of my neighbors are Latino. And all I’ve seen is ICE militarizing our neighborhoods, going around, like literally—traveling and patrolling around the neighborhoods, inside residential areas. You know, it’s not local police. This is literally what we call—we call them sometimes the blue guys, because of the color of the uniform.

But that kind of militarization and kind of, to me, targeting of American people, of my immigrant neighbors, that, to me, alone, just the fact that that is happening, says to me that ICE is not for border security. ICE is moving us towards a more militarized approach towards Americans and towards American land versus us really being feeling safe. I’ve seen ICE do operations in front of schools, picking up parents after they drop off their children. I’ve spoke up against it years ago, about the fact that ICE is not as it was supposedly intended. It is actually going beyond the border security and actually targeting and terrorizing families right here at home.

And so, for me, it’s very personal. I don’t want to see my families scared of its own government. I don’t want my families worried about what’s going to happen after they drop their child off at school. You know, they’re not supposed to be doing operations near churches, and they are. They’re parking in the parking lot of churches. Actual Catholic priests have called me, saying, “Rashida, I don’t know what to do. None of my immigrant families want to come to church, because—it was Wednesday night, and they don’t want to come to Bible study, because there is a border—there is a ICE kind of agent or a police vehicle in the parking lot.” That kind of intimidation and targeting of people is completely wrong. And I can’t wait to be able to vote to abolish ICE.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Rashida, you’ve also been extremely vocal in your criticism of Trump’s various iterations of the travel ban. Could you talk about that, also in the context of Ilhan Omar? And what about the fact that Muslim Americans are running on a progressive platform during the time of Trump, especially since Muslims are not—Muslims in America are not associated with a progressive platform? I’d just like to turn to a short clip of Ilhan Omar’s acceptance speech.

REP. ILHAN OMAR: In my last race, I talked about what my win would have meant for that 8-year-old girl in that refugee camp. And today, today I still think about her. And I think about the kind of hope and optimism that all of those 8-year-olds around the country and around the world get from seeing your beautiful faces elect and believe in someone like me.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So that’s Ilhan Omar, Rashida, who, along with you, is poised to become the first of, including you, two Muslim women in Congress. So, again, if you could comment on that, Muslims running on a progressive platform and the significance of this?

RASHIDA TLAIB: You know, I talk about Trump being in office kind of the bat signal for women to run, that we wait until we’re really needed, and we jump. I think what I saw years ago, when the anti-immigrant sentiment was so much of a high rise, I mean, looking at the different, you know, English-only bills and trying to legislate immigration through state law, I saw hundreds and hundreds of Latino candidates rise up and file to run. And I see that with the Muslim community. What I love about this moment and the fact that our country—every time we get kind of pushed down and we feel like there’s no hope, I think there’s so many at home that—we all mourned when President Trump won, really, truly mourned. And I think many could have just stayed home and did nothing. But I think Latinos, women of color, my Muslim brothers and sisters, they’re all deciding to run for office and to actually not stay outside of the ring and be quiet, but actually get inside the ring and fight back. And that’s what it all means.

But Ilhan Omar and myself, for the experiences that we all went through—I mean, and it wasn’t Muslims that elected us. It was non-Muslims. That is a huge, again, inspirational, powerful message. And I feel like this—you know, people call it the blue wave and the pink wave and the Muslim wave. It’s this rainbow that is like coming to Congress, literally, from my trans sister that is getting—I mean, all of the people that are running are just an incredible array of what we really love about our country and the beauty of our country. And I can’t wait to hold her hand as we walk through the halls of Congress. She brings so much courage. I was like, “Please don’t let me be the only one, Ilhan.” And she’s like, “I got it.” And so, I’m thrilled that Congresswoman-elect or candidate Omar will be joining me.

AMY GOODMAN: And on the issue of Yemen, the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world today, you have the U.S. backing the Saudi-led coalition that is bombing Yemen back to the Stone Ages. The most recent bombing with a U.S. bomb killed 40 schoolchildren, 51 people altogether. Congress has introduced a bill—some members of Congress—to end the military support for Saudi Arabia. Where do you stand on this issue? What should be done about Yemen? With, oh, over a million Yemenis have cholera. So many are facing starvation. Many have died of hunger.

RASHIDA TLAIB: I think, for many of us here back home, in the 13th Congressional District, we have a huge population of Yemeni-American families. I mean, their family members are still there. I’m going to come from a place of humanity. And that means not allowing children to starve, not allowing to support any military action by any government that targets innocent people. You know, it doesn’t work, and it will never work, for us to approach this from a military stance. We are really losing just the humanity of what it really means. The generation of children there, we can never get the years back. We can never help ease or heal the pain that comes with war and with bombings and killings. All I can tell you is that I will try my best to make sure people understand what the human cost and the human impact is of that kind of support.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, your name, Rashida, as you won, made history in your primary, because you now run unopposed—and we want to know what that means. What do you do until November if you’re running unopposed for the congressional seat that was held by Congressman Conyers? Your name is spelled T-L-A-I-B, and I could see hosts around the networks struggling with this name: “Is it Tlaib? Is it”—Talk about the origins of your name. It’s spelled Tlaib, but you pronounce it “Talib”?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Well, it’s actually pronounced as if it was in Hebrew. So, when it got translated, it got translated in the Hebrew language instead of Taleeb, which is supposed to be T-A-L-E-E-B. Instead, it’s Tlaib. But we are from, you know, what we call in Palestine Dar Talib. And Tlaib is my name, even though the—it would have—I think I heard it would have took months for us to get the new translation, and we didn’t have that time, so we ended up with that spelling. Trust me, my two boys are still struggling to understand why their names are spelled that way. But I—you know, the irony of it, I mean, the fact that it is spelled as if it was pronounced in Hebrew. And I could tell you, Rashida, which means wise in Arabic, but it also—I was named after my great-aunt, who helped raise my father in Nicaragua.

AMY GOODMAN: In Nicaragua?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that connection.

RASHIDA TLAIB: Oh, no. So, my father, when he was about 9 or 10 years old, from Jerusalem, went to Nicaragua. My grandmother took her children to Nicaragua, hoping for a better life, and found more poverty. And when he was 19, he finally came into the United States from Nicaragua. But, yeah, there’s that connection there. I think a lot of people don’t understand the—Palestinians are all over. We’re kind of—you know, I heard there’s a huge population even in Cuba. You know, the displacement and what war does is we’re all over the place. And I see it now with families from Syria, hearing that they’re now in Germany and in all parts of Europe and even in South America. I think that is, you know, part of what happens with war.

AMY GOODMAN: And as you talk about the diaspora, the right of return, that you support, can you explain what it is?

RASHIDA TLAIB: You know, these are family members that, when they left, they actually took their keys to their house, thinking—in 1967, I know my family, my uncle, my great-uncles and everyone, packed their children, everything that they just needed for a few months, and they took their key to their home and left, thinking they were going to be able to come back. And when they realized they couldn’t—I mean, they still even have—the keys were so big. I remember my Uncle Moussa in Jordan. He went to Jordan, and he he showed me the key, like he still had the keys in his hands, thinking he was going to be able to come back to his homeland.

AMY GOODMAN: And why can’t he?

RASHIDA TLAIB: He can’t because they forbid it. The kind of, I think, policies that are in place now is to keep as many people out that left. Through '48 and ’67, they were uprooted, and, you know, they weren't allowed to obviously come back. And that’s what happens when there’s, you know, again, a whole people coming and saying, “You don’t belong here. You need to leave.” I mean, we did it to Native Americans, so this is not new, but it’s also still wrong. And that doesn’t change the fact that it’s been done before.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does the Israeli government have to do to allow the right of return? What would that mean?

RASHIDA TLAIB: I mean, that would mean acknowledging some sort of process. I mean, I think there are organizations, like J Street, who support a combination of some sort of right of return. And that means the possibility of saying, “Look, you have a right to come. But if you don’t, there’s—you know, we’ll be able to maybe—some sort of financial mitigation.” Anything of that sort, but even just to be allowed to make that decision at this point. I mean, it’s been decades. But even to be able to say they can come and visit, they can come and—so many can’t even come and visit, even go to the Dome of the Rock, to visit Jerusalem again, to even just come and see where they grew up, see where they came from. I think that is wrong. But it means them changing the policy of accessibility and freedom to be able to make that decision and come and decide whether or not they want to live where they were born.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Rashida, very quickly, before we conclude, where do you hope the Democratic Party will go on questions of American foreign policy?

RASHIDA TLAIB: I think, you know, what I want them to do is use it as leverage. I think we so easily give out, you know, aid and this kind of partnership that we offer through aid, that we do it based on closed-door agreements, based on something we Americans don’t even really, truly understand. But I think we need to use it as leverage. We give out so much, and we get back so little. What I mean by that is, we don’t get back a respect from some of those countries. We don’t get back this true partnership of understanding real, true equality and justice for all. I think it actually hurts us and hurts our reputation to the citizenry that has to really take the burden of that aid. I mean, many of those countries use that aid to oppress people and to target people. And that’s when we have to step up and say, “Look, we’re going to be able”—and we do it to states all the time. The federal government says to states, “You have to do certain things before we actually give you aid for roads and for different kinds of services. You know, you can’t discriminate. You can’t violate someone’s right.” We do it to states all the time. We need to do the same thing to foreign countries. We can’t sit back and just give it out freely without using it as leverage to promote peace and to promote true, real justice for all.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Rashida Tlaib, poised to be the first Palestinian-American woman and the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. Last week, she won the Democratic primary for John Conyers’ old House seat in Detroit, Michigan. To see Part 1 of our conversation, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us.

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