Many readers have submitted reactions to our July 16 cover story, which featured an interview with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, accompanying article about her upcoming primary and an editor’s note explaining our decision to publish the pieces. The JN received more than a dozen letters to the editor and more than 100 comments on Facebook. Here is a selection of the responses; this page will be updated over time with more.
Some letters have been edited for length and clarity.
Myself, many of my friends and family members were outraged to see the picture of Rashida Tlaib on the cover of the recent Jewish News.
Indeed, what is the purpose of placing a picture of one of only two lawmakers to back the BDS movement on the cover of the Jewish News? Do we not have enough prominent advocates of the State of Israel and of the Jewish community who are more deserving of appearing on its front page?
Moreover, the extensive, five-page interview of Rep. Tlaib failed to question her about the “hardcore”, essential questions relative to her views of such basic, salient issues as: the recent letter that she and the “Squad” circulated in Congress demanding that all financial and military aid to Israel be stopped; or her accusation that Israeli settlers murdered a young Arab boy, when in actuality the boy drowned and Israeli first responders found him and tried to revive him. This required an apology by Hanan Ashrawi, a top Palestinian official, to correct Tlaib’s blatant anti-Semitic accusation, known in Jewish history as a “blood libel”.
I would suggest that the Jewish News focus its content to be a strong advocate of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. During these crazy times, we really need to relay positive, valuable views and ideas, as they relate to Judaism and our Jewish State.
West Bloomfield, MI
‘Shining a Light’
In the midst of so much disruption it is always fascinating to see the stars line up. I saw that happen on Aug. 9, 2018, when I learned that my friend of 15 years, Rashida Tlaib, had done the impossible. She would soon become a member of the U.S. Congress.
It was an incredible honor for a righteous woman – a person many people like to talk negatively about yet have never actually meet. Too often, we are exposed to information resources that repeat inaccuracies and lack context.
Congresswoman Rashida is a good soul whom I’ve seen protest injustice and literally chase down those who were looking to harm others. For many of us, we sit in the background commenting about those who take the hard knocks trying to do the right thing.
For the past two years, I found myself as a lonely voice among my Jewish family and friends defending this person I’ve known and admired. A person with good in her heart. A person who I’ve seen stand up against evil. And there is plenty of evil in this world.
I thank the Jewish News for shining a light on Rashida Tlaib. She is a righteous person who deserves the light. We need good people like Rashida who bring positive energy into this sometimes toxic world.
Clearly, we have a complicated world today that is energized by chaos. It is a difficult world for any new Congresswoman to navigate. We need the stars to align and bring us elected leaders who really do have a pure heart. There are such people who serve the public and they have “good” in their heart.
Thank you Detroit Jewish News for sharing Rashida Tlaib with our community.
West Bloomfield, MI
Rashida Tlaib on the cover of the Jewish News? Really? The same Rashida Tlaib, supporter of BDS, who spews her disdain for Israel? The same Rashida Talib, supporter of Hamas as they fire rockets into Israel? The same Rashida Talib, supporter of Hezbollah? The same Rashida Tlaib who glorifies terror against Israel? The same Rashida Tlaib who has refused to denounce Antifa?
Is this deplorable Congresswoman now a role model to be displayed on the front cover of our local Jewish newspaper? Could you not find a worthier person for this? Many come to mind — Alan Dershowitz, Bari Weiss, Mort Klein, to name a few. Are there not enough platforms for our enemies (and make no mistake about, Rashida Tlaib ranks high among these) to spout their loathing? Is it now the role of the Jewish News to provide yet one more stage?
A shameful, shocking and appalling decision!
Malka Littman, Ilana Berris, Tami Brown, Faye Krut
West Bloomfield, MI
Can Jews speak out?
Rashida still comes to community meetings in my east side Detroit neighborhood. Of course I have some differences with her – as with most politicians (I don’t think Israeli academics should be sanctioned). But if people heard her story without knowing her religion — immigrant parents; first in her family to graduate from high school and college; works her way through school and law school; works eventually for a progressive law firm; an activist who fought for civil rights and just causes — you’d think she was Jewish.
I was moved to read her reply to a Muslim woman who asked why people aren’t speaking out against Trump and what he says about Muslims: “What were you saying when Mexicans were called rapists?”
Jews used to be able to speak out like that — can we now? Speak out against the racism of Israel’s government to others without the tired trope of being “against Israel”? I can speak out against racism in this country without being seen as anti-American. I’d say we are better Americans for that.
It’s not people like Rashida who will destroy Israel or damage the Jewish position in the world. It’s from within us, our behavior. Your children will see that. Many of us adults understand that. Jews were in the diaspora for many years –– it’s wasn’t unethical behavior that held us together. We had laws. We had beliefs. We thrived in this country fighting ethical battles when we first arrived. What happened? We must now re-learn lessons we once understood, now from people who are closer to that suffering, whether they be Black, Muslim or immigrants.
I look forward to more in-depth articles that explore the difficult truths, and the joys, of our history and our current situation.
Warning Was Needed
What? Are you kidding? On the cover? What next- Farrakhan? Nasrallah? Hitler?
So much for your series on anti-Semitism. I thought the purpose of that series was to expose and prevent it, not justify and accept it. Interviewing her and thereby allowing her a platform to publicly and shamelessly extoll her abhorrent attitude toward Jews and Israel would have been objectionable enough, but to honor and promote her by putting her on the cover is beyond my ability to understand. I am torn between a consideration to cancel my subscription in protest vs. my desire to “keep my enemies closer”.
It is so blatantly obvious that, after lying to you that she and her staff were unaware of your past attempts to talk to her, she only chose to speak to you now because she is in a fight for her political life in a close primary in 2 weeks. So she used you to influence public opinion and to try and placate the people she has most offended and alienated since taking office, and you took the bait faster than a hungry goldfish.
Furthermore, your Editor’s Note column that offered a sheepish defense of the decision that you admittedly knew would spark controversy was also terribly misplaced. That warning/plea for understanding should have been in last week’s issue so we knew what was coming, but that would have ruined the sensationalistic shock value of the blindside when we first saw the cover photo (I won’t even ask about the purpose of the inside photo spread of her smiling and laughing as if we are and have always been best friends). Had your communication come first, I might have accepted it as an explanation; when it came after the fact, it sounded more like an excuse if not an apology.
I know there are many who would label me close-minded and xenophobic. I accept those compliments graciously but they are irrelevant to this matter. The issue here is that nobody who is anti-Semitic should have a place in our democratic government, and if your photo-op, interview and presentation influence even one person to consider supporting her, you have caused inexcusable and irreparable damage to the people that you are supposed to represent. Some of my friends already refer to the JN as the “non-Jewish News” because of its watered-down Jewish content. I fear that they may now begin calling it “the anti-Jewish News.”
Only 3 words repeatedly come to mind- shame on you!
Leaving Our Bubble
The job of a newspaper isn’t to make the community it serves comfortable. Its role is to write stories that inform, inspire and even provoke. The team at the JN did that this week by devoting a cover package to Rashida Tlaib.
She’s controversial, but they used their platform to talk to her about whatever they wanted and she accepted! Change is possible only if we look within ourselves and try to learn from whom we may not understand. If we leave our bubble we will be better, stronger and wiser because of it. Props to the JN team and Andrew Lapin for starting a necessary conversation.
Former Metro Detroiter, currently Digital Content Manager at Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
Nothing wrong with interviewing our enemies. Hearing what we are up against. As you said: “After all, dialogue is a sacred Jewish value.”
But a reader immediately can see where this “interview” is headed by your choice of photos to use, showing a soft, non-aggressive, smiling Rashida Tlaib; and beginning with an elbow-bump greeting.
You, the interviewer can frame the interviewee, by the questions you DO ask, and in this case, the questions you DO NOT ask. Your obvious intent was to “soften” the persona of Rashida Tlaib.
Unasked questions included: Why do you single out Israel for condemnation and boycott, and give a “pass” to Syria gassing fellow Muslims, Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus, Hamas’s treatment of fellow Palestinians and many other mistreatment issues in the Middle East? Why do you ignore that Palestinians are blocking a peaceful resolution by refusing to sit at a negotiating table, or even to recognize Israel’s right to exist? Why do you support the Black Lives Matter organization (rather than Black PEOPLE Matter) and their stated anti-Semitic views and actions? African-Americans deserve equal protection under the law and protection from individual police racism, but why do you choose an organization like BLM, which hypocritically supports, and acts out, harm to the Jewish people?
You “soft-pedaled” Rashida Tlaib’s persona by giving her a platform, with multiple smiling photos, hands on heart, to claim that she’s only against Netanyahu’s policies, and favors boycotting Israel’s products, as a protest against Israel – not Jews. Editor Lapin, you allowed Tlaib to come across as a woman who simply is fighting for human rights for everyone: Why should we Jews consider her Local Public Enemy #1?
A comparison would be you interviewing Orville Hubbard, former Mayor of Dearborn, and allowing him, by your non-questions, to come across as a good mayor who just made sure the garbage was picked up on time.
Your “interview” was disingenuous to your readers, by only asking questions that hide the true Rashida Tlaib.
I commend our JN and its leadership for the Andrew Lapin interview with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and its quite unusually wide cover story, in spite of her known blatant anti-Israel opinions, which since her election she is not shy to confess.
I hope and pray that this kind of respect and outreach shown her by the Jewish community will help her perhaps to be willing to take a look at the other side, the Kstaeli side, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Only by the recognizing each other’s claim for the land, the land both love, can there finally be a solution of this seemingly endless problem. This aside from the fact that Congresswoman Tlaib has to remember that she was elected to care for her Michigan constituents and not to advance the Palestinian cause, as much as the latter is dear to her heart.
West Bloomfield, MI
‘Was It Necessary?’
I read your reason for interviewing Rashida Tlaib, but was it necessary to give her a front-page platform and such a big voice in the JN? She is no friend to Israel and the Jewish people. She and her cronies advocate for the boycott of Israel and demand that American military aid be withheld.
What has she done for her 13th district? Has she improved their lives or is her voice more turned toward criticizing and ostracizing us? Her district continues to be plagued by crime and high unemployment. She should stick to helping the district that voted her into Congress and stop criticizing Israel.
You mention that Jewish Voice for Peace supports her, but do people know that JVP is a radical anti-Israel group that advocates the boycott of the State of Israel?
I am disappointed with the JN giving her such a big voice.
Thank you for the Rashida Tlaib interview. It allows for a comparison between her words and reality.
She says that she is united with Jews in battling the same enemy. In reality, she allowed her Congressional office map to be “corrected” with the erasure of Israel. She tried to use the murder of Jews in New Jersey as a political tool. She rewrote history, bizarrely claiming her ancestors suffered through giving refuge to Jewish Holocaust survivors. In reality, local Arabs had been murdering Jews since the 1920s and worked with the British to keep survivors out. She celebrated “Nakba Day” with a tweet mourning the failure of five Arab armies to push the Jews into the sea. She’s accused Jews of dual loyalty. This is siding with our enemies.
Her claim of “In Congress, I was instantly ‘the Palestinian,’” is also dubious. It was Tlaib who constantly reminded us of her background. She made it a point to wear a Palestinian thobe to her swearing–in. She speaks frequently about her grandmother, but still used her grandmother as a political tool when refusing to visit her under conditions set by the Israeli government.
She and Rep. Ilhan Omar planned to visit Palestine under the direction of Miftah, a Palestinian group that has published articles accusing Jews of using Christian blood to bake matzah and claiming Israeli rabbis instruct their followers to destroy Palestinian farms.
Tlaib never once mentioned Palestinians, Palestinian terrorism or Palestinian leadership’s multiple refusals of the state they claim to want. It was Mahmoud Abbas who told the world Jews “have no right to desecrate” Islamic and Christian holy sites “with their filthy feet,” yet Tlaib calls Netanyahu a racist. To Tlaib it’s always the Jews.
It’s clear that she does accept some Jews, the ones who share her pathological hatred for Israel. Attacking Israel has become the preferred method of expressing hatred for Jews and Tlaib engages in it as much as any white supremacist.
‘No friend of Israel’
On the article about Congressperson Rashida Tlaib, there are several issues with which I find extraordinarily troubling.
First, although she may be in the long run working in the best interest of her constituents, she is member of the United States Congress. With holding that office, she actually works for all the citizens of the U.S. not just her constituents. That is the error in the thinking on many who hold national office and their supporter.
The U.S. has just one reliable ally in the Middle East. That is the State of Israel. Rashida is obviously no friend of Israel.
She supports BDS ( Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) which has a goal of economically destroying Israel. If there was a movement to destroy the economy of any country except Israel, the U.N. would sanction those who supported that goal. One can only imagine if a group did the same thing to the U.S. for how it treated the Native Americans. To try to crash the economy of ANY sovereign nation is truly warfare.
But worst of all, is her desire to see a “ One State Solution”. Her concept is called “ right of return” and it is to allow all the Arabs whose families or parts of families who ever claimed to have lived in Palestine to return to the peninsula and be able to take up full residency. By sheer numbers alone, that would make the Jewish population become the minority and would lose its identity. Her intention is to rename the State “Palestine”. The net result would be the same as it has been in all the other countries of the Middle East. There were 1.8 million Jews living in the countries surrounding Israel in 1940, whose families had lived in those countries for 5000 years. The Jews living in those countries were harassed, imprisoned, killed, financially depressed by unfair taxation until they were driven from those countries. There are 24,000 left in those countries. In the 1940’s, The Grand Mufti conspired with Hitler. Read the Hamas charter, Article 8: “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!” “
Asam Barghouti, Hamas terrorist was sentenced to four life terms for the 2018 murder of three Israelis including a baby (to which he confessed) in Samaria. The Palestinians praised this individual, but I am pretty sure Tlaib will not go against that praise. “I’m a Palestinian, get over it.” is what we hear from a U.S. Congressperson.
So, individuals like Congressperson Tlaib truly has this in mind for Israel, to crush its economy (with BDS) and to install a situation where Jews no longer have a homeland.
I have an issue with Brenda Jones and her relationship with Louis Farrakhan, which is troubling as well. Perhaps prior to the election, the Jewish MJAC will get more involved and get those concerns better defined.
Kenneth M. Bertin
BDS is the big issue
Very interesting to hear her interviewed by the JN... but it’s too hard to get past her support of BDS. I do agree with the Mark Bernstein quote in the article… I appreciate much of what she has to say, but BDS is the big issue that makes fully supporting her not really an option.
West Bloomfield Township, MI
My first reaction is that this piece would have been fine for someone coming into their first House term, but for a national legislator about to complete their first term, it is inadequate and at best so-so: definitely not great, certainly not even good, but also not horrible.
Andrew Lapin’s questions for her were remarkably gentle to the point of being over-cautious. This gets compounded by the fact that he lets her off without any particularly rigorous follow-up, allowing her to get away with dodging on a few pretty important points.
Of particular note to me were the questions and answers around BDS, JVP and Zionism. As well, there’s a striking, complete omission of any discussion of the racism and other failures of Palestinian leadership (either Fatah or Hamas), even when Ms. Tlaib somehow manages to make a (deserved) space for calling out the racism of Netanyahu’s policies.
When Lapin introduces the terms “Zionist” and “Zionism” in a couple of questions in the second half of the interview, she replies to the questions without even acknowledging the terms. By steering her answers so far away from those words she avoids accepting Zionism’s legitimacy and Israel’s right to exist, and also avoids condemning them as illegitimate. That’s an enormous omission.
On the questions touching on JVP there’s no mention of tokenism, nor does she even acknowledge that the JVP points of view represent a tiny fraction of the Jewish population –– and Lapin doesn’t point this out.
When anti-Semitism in BDS gets raised, she dismisses it by falling back, pointing out that some Jews who support it, essentially using tokenism to justify that dismissal rather than demonstrating she’s actually hearing the complaint at all, let alone as a legitimate one.
If the goal of this piece was to provide clarity to her voting constituency, then I believe it fails to do so and actually raises new questions.
If the goal of this piece is to create a relationship between the DJN and Rep. Tlaib that opens the door to subsequent interviews, then only time will tell.
I was genuinely shocked to see the DJN cover Congresswoman Tlaib in a way that was fair, honest and balanced. My whole life I’ve subscribed to the Detroit Jewish News and would never think they would give progressives like her a voice, let alone a front–page feature.
‘Shame On You’
Before her surprise primary win in 2018, Ms. Tlaib endorsed a two-state solution and, because they didn’t care to fully vet her or for more nefarious reasons, she won the endorsement of J Street. Almost immediately after the election, she endorsed BDS and has gone on to make some of the most anti-Semitic comments in the history of the U.S. Congress. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on the Jewish News. No decent American, let alone a leading Jewish-American, newspaper should provide her with a platform to lie in hopes of accruing further power to fight against the Jewish state. If my mother didn’t work for the Jewish News, I would cancel my subscription and give the money to Brenda Jones.
Boca Raton, FL
I’m thrilled JN is doing deeper reporting and encouraging dialogue with someone many oppose. Shutting ourselves off against differing opinions will get us nowhere. Kudos to the JN for doing more investigative, informative and all-encompassing articles lately.
Rachel Williams Bloch
Words cannot describe my disappointment and disgust not only that the JN would interview her, but [also] they would put her on the cover.
West Bloomfield Township
Was there legit no one else available to put on the cover this week?
Sari Gordon Zimberg
West Bloomfield Township
Time to rename the paper from Detroit Jewish News to “Anti-Jewish News.”
I’m very disappointed that my Jewish community is immediately cancelling the DJN for holding a diplomatic conversation. If anything, as a young Jew, I will become a new subscriber as appreciation for the DJN holding tough conversations. I am frankly surprised by the vitriol and blanket slandering of a woman who has engaged with the Jewish community on numerous social justice issues.
Love this balanced coverage and the thoughtfulness of those interviewed! Thanks for being courageous and writing these stories, DJN. The truth is there are as many views as there as Jews and I’m glad you talked to a broad swath of people.
The interviewer’s questions are thoughtful and raise one controversial issue after another. Rashida’s responses paint a portrait of her as tolerant, passionate, thoughtful, clear-thinking, and above all, genuinely caring for her constituents’ welfare. DJN gets my commendations for this excellent piece of journalism.
I am proud of The Jewish News for giving voice to an intelligent, courageous Palestinian American woman.
As Detroiters, we are uniquely positioned to connect with and learn from so many underprivileged and oppressed communities.
For me—as a Jew—“never again” means to continually examine my own biases and knowledge and fear (often disguised as hate).
Thank you, DJN, for being an example of what Detroit Jewish leadership looks like. I will continue to question and listen and learn, just as you have.
Former Walled Lake resident, now in Denver