Skip to main content

US Congresswoman Tlaib holds event for Palestinian Nakba Day in Senate

The top Republican in the House tried to cancel the event to commemorate the Palestinian displacement of 1948, but Senator Bernie Sanders stepped in to help the outspoken congresswoman.

A Palestinian-American congresswoman held an event Wednesday evening on Capitol Hill to commemorate the Nakba Day, aka the “Palestinian catastrophe" of mass displacement in 1948. The controversy surrounding the event demonstrates growing division in the traditionally pro-Israel US Congress.

What happened: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is one of the most vocal supporters of the Palestinian cause. A member of the self-described “squad” of progressive congresspeople, she was elected in 2018.

Tlaib planned to hold an event on Wednesday in the Capitol Visitor Center to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Nakba Day. Nakba is an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” that refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians from modern-day Israel during the 1948 war after Israel’s independence. What exactly happened at the time is somewhat disputed, but there is general consensus, including among Israeli historians such as Benny Morris, that thousands of Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes. Others left voluntarily, including to Jordan.

Ahead of the event, some pro-Israel groups pressured Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to bar Tlaib from using the Capitol Visitor Center for the event.

“In previous years, many Nakba Day events have devolved into hateful, anti-Israel and even antisemitic language,” the Anti-Defamation League wrote a letter to McCarthy.

On Wednesday, McCarthy tweeted that the event had been canceled.

However, Tlaib then moved the event to the hearing room of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The committee’s chairman, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), allowed Tlaib to hold the event there since it is outside the control of the House, unlike the Capitol Visitor Center, according to multiple reports.

Sanders’ office did not respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment on Thursday.

Tlaib introduced House Resolution 388 for the event, which calls for US policy to "commemorate the Nakba through official recognition and remembrance,” support Palestinian refugees, condemn “Israel’s ongoing nakba” against the Palestinians, and more.

Tlaib presented a copy of the resolution to nakba survivor Abed Musa at the event.

Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO), another strong critic of Israel, likewise attended, according to reports.

Reactions: Some members of Congress engaged in a war of words after the ceremony. Tlaib tweeted “let the headlines read ‘McCarthy tries to erase Palestine but fails.’”

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, slammed Tlaib’s holding of the event in the committee’s room.

“I wholeheartedly disapprove of the Majority permitting the use of the HELP Committee room for this divisive event. The Capitol Grounds should not be used as a pedestal to legitimize anti-Semitic bigotry,” he said in a statement.

The Republican Jewish Coalition also criticized Sanders, who is Jewish, for helping Tlaib. “There should be no ‘Jews for Nakba Day,’” the coalition tweeted.

Why it matters: Members of Congress in both parties have traditionally been supportive of Israel, but a growing number of progressive Democrats espouse pro-Palestine views in the House. Holding a nakba event could be seen as symbolic. The event was widely covered in Arabic-language media.

Know more: The event took place amid significant fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian groups. At least 28 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed so far, in addition to injuries on both sides, according to reports on Thursday.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Palestine Briefing Palestine Briefing

Palestine Briefing

Top Palestine stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial