Fla. Official Says Muslim Congresswoman Could 'Blow Up' the Capitol: Why She Thinks That's Not the Real Controversy

Why Hallandale Commissioner Annabelle Lima-Taub isn't bowing to criticism for writing Rep. Rashida Tlaib could "become a martyr and blow up Capitol Hill"

Photo: City of Hallandale Beach; Alex Wong/Getty

A local Florida politician tells PEOPLE she standing firm over her incendiary criticism of a newly sworn-in Muslim congresswoman — writing on Facebook last week that Rep. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, could “become a martyr and blow up Capitol Hill.”

The Jan. 8 post by Hallandale Commissioner Annabelle Lima-Taub, first spotted by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, has since been deleted. She originally shared a petition for removing Tlaib from Congress and wrote, in part: “A Hamas-loving anti-Semite has NO place in government! She is a danger and [I] would not put it past her to become a martyr and blow up Capitol Hill.”

Lima-Taub is unapologetic, saying she was incredibly alarmed by what she calls Tlaib’s radical anti-Israeli politics, a characterization the congresswoman disputes.

Since Lima-Taub’s post was first reported, she has been broadly rebuked, with many highlighting the Islamophobia of equating Tlaib’s faith with terrorism.

“Commissioner Lima-Taub’s behavior is indefensible and a black eye for Hallandale Beach,” a fellow commissioner said, according to the Sun Sentinel.

“Hate speech should have no place in our politics. We condemn Commissioner Lima-Taub’s deeply offensive words and call on her to resign,” an official with the group Muslim Advocates said in a statement Tuesday, adding, “Any politician who would spout this kind of vile anti-Muslim rhetoric is clearly not fit to govern.”

In an interview with PEOPLE, Lima-Taub repeatedly recast the controversy. She expressed no remorse for her behavior, instead charging that Rep. Tlaib’s support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel — referring to efforts to economically pressure the country over its treatment of Palestinians — was the real issue.

Tlaib, a progressive Democrat who calls for a $15 minimum wage and increased public school funding, is the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress.

Among other things, Lima-Taub also pointed to a recent photo Tlaib took with Abbas Hamideh, an activist with a history of anti-Israeli remarks.

“I don’t know if she has the potential for the violence herself, but she supports people who clearly, clearly call for a one-state solution,” Lima-Taub claims. “How do you get to a one-state solution?” she says. “That’s by genocide.”

Tlaib’s spokesman, Denzel McCampbell, refuted the idea that her politics are dangerous.

“The congresswoman has never advocated for violence or indicated that someone would engage in a violent act based on their religion, heritage or country of origin,” he tells PEOPLE. “So for the commissioner to try and justify her words on a false basis is ridiculous and speaks again to her lack of leadership and tolerance for others.”

Tlaib is one of the only members of Congress to publicly support the BDS movement, according to the Miami Heraldand New York Times.

As Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg explained, BDS “is deeply taboo in American politics for several reasons” — because, its critics argue, it is merely a hypocritical mask for anti-Semitism and because it could ultimately lead to the end of a majority Jewish population in Israel.

The Herald reports that the BDS movement “was started more than a decade ago by Palestinians inside the occupied territories and calls for international allies of Israel to boycott certain Israeli institutions in order to put pressure on Israel to adhere to international standards and United Nations resolutions.”

“The movement, which is largely decentralized, does not take a stance on what a particular solution would look like,” according to the Herald. “… And while various organizations across the Middle East have voiced support for the movement, there is little evidence that links BDS supporters directly to Hamas and Hezbollah, both U.S.-designated terrorist organizations.”

Lima-Taub, who was born in Israel, believes it is more dire: that supporting BDS is tantamount to supporting the extinction of Israeli Jews.

Asked if she would change anything about her original post last week, Lima-Taub tells PEOPLE she might have focused it on Tlaib’s position on BDS.

Speaking with the Herald, Tlaib described the post as “terrible.” On Twitter, she wrote: “This sort of hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric doesn’t happen in a vacuum – this President embraced it and Republicans have happily gone along with it.”

She added, “Right wing media targeting me again rather than focusing on the President’s reckless government shutdown. Yes, I am Muslim and Palestinian. Get over it.”

Tlaib told the Herald there is a broader effort to punish businesses that call for boycotting Israel.

“It’s very clear that there’s obviously an agenda on the right to make this more than it is,” she said. “I am supporting Sen. [Bernie] Sanders and the ACLU and others that also support the same position I do, which is freedom of speech is extremely important in our country and we need to value it and support it.”

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