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A Michigan Democrat who says she plans to challenge far-left U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib in a primary for an open U.S. House seat in the state this fall has accused the Detroit congresswoman of “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
“When she gets that mic in front of her, she goes crazy and goes to many extremes,” Shanelle Jackson, a former Michigan state representative from 2007-2012, told the Jewish Insider in an interview published Friday.
“I really feel like it’s now or never as it pertains to being able to sort of shut her down and calm down some of the anti-Semitic rhetoric,” Jackson added.
Tlaib, the lone Palestinian-American in Congress and progressive “Squad” member, has been criticized in the past by lawmakers from both major parties for rhetoric perceived as anti-Semitic.
Last fall, for example, Tlaib referred to Israel as a “violent apartheid system” during a debate over funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system.
“I will not support an effort to enable and support war crimes, human rights abuses, and violence,” she said of Israel on the House floor.
Tlaib also was accused of an anti-Semitic dog whistle last year when she claimed that people from “Gaza to Detroit” were being controlled by people “behind a curtain.” The reference sounded to some like an anti-Semitic conspiracy that rich Jewish “globalists” secretly control the world, according to the Times of Israel.
In 2019, the congresswoman also took heat over comments she made about the Holocaust, saying in a podcast, “There’s kind of a calming feeling I always tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out” to create Israel.
She did say in the interview that she supported a “safe haven for Jews” and accused critics of “twisting” her words.
Tlaib has represented Michigan’s 13th Congressional District since 2019 and plans to run for the open seat in the redrawn 12th district in the 2022 midterms this fall after Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence said she plans to retire.
But Jackson believes she can attract enough support to defeat Tlaib.
“I’ve been rallying the troops,” Jackson told the newspaper of her imminent challenge. “I think there’s a great opportunity there.”
The district has been historically Democratic, although the new lines will include the traditionally conservative city of Livonia as well as Dearborn, which has the largest Arab-American population in the country and parts of Detroit, the Insider reported.
Jackson lost to Tlaib in 2018, coming in last place in a six-way race with 5% (compared to Tlaib’s 31%) but told the Insider she believes the new district could favor her more moderate “pro-business” policies.
She also said she is a supporter of a two-state solution in Israel, which Tlaib has said she opposes.
“Just saying it real plain,” she told the newspaper, “I believe that the United States and Israel are sisters, and I can’t imagine living in a world where our nation didn’t have Israel’s back. It’s heartbreaking, to be honest with you, to have Rep. Tlaib not even wanting to explore that path.”
The primary is set for Aug. 2. Jackson, who said she plans to formally launch her campaign in February, is so far Tlaib’s only challenger in the district.