Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, has drawn the ire of many Jews during her first term for making statements that some saw as anti-Semitic. Now, she has a serious primary opponent in her Detroit-area district — who may have anti-Semitic baggage of her own.
Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones announced Wednesday that she would be running in the Democratic primary against Tlaib. Jones narrowly lost in the 2018 primary against Tlaib 31% to 30%, with multiple other candidates getting the remainder of the votes.
Jones, who has served on the Detroit City Council since 2005, has long been an outspoken supporter of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has been accused of anti-Semitism for decades.
Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment. This article will be updated should the Forward receive a response.
The Nation of Islam holds an annual “Saviour’s Day” convention, and Jones has frequently participated in these events when they have been held in Detroit.
Farrakhan singled out Jones for praise and invited her on stage during his 2018 speech, according to the Detroit News. And Jones told participants in 2014 that Farrakhan had addressed the council and shared “awesome words.”
Jones did not attend in person at the 2020 event last month, but issued a statement saying that she was “so excited to welcome” Farrakhan to Detroit. She sent her chief of staff, Steven Grady, to speak at the event. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Grady told the crowd that Jones was a supporter of the Nation of Islam and and that she had sponsored a city council resolution praising the Nation of Islam’s newspaper, The Final Call, for its “truthful articles” and “courageous journalists.” The Final Call also frequently publishes anti-Semitic and racist pieces, according to the ADL.
JTA reported last year that several Jewish community members had conducted outreach to Jones to urge her to run against Tlaib.
Tlaib, for her part, wrote an op-ed about immigration for The Final Call in 2006, while she was working as an activist. A spokesperson for Tlaib told Fox News in 2019, after the op-ed was uncovered, that the article “was not an endorsement of Farrakhan or anyone for that matter,” and that Tlaib “has not had any direct contact with Farrakhan and condemns his anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ views.”
Tlaib was accused of anti-Semitism in 2019 after saying that pro-Israel Republican senators “forgot what country they represent,” which the ADL said was reminiscent of “dual loyalty” smears. She is also a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel and backs a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stances that many Jews consider anti-Semitic.
But Tlaib also has some defenders in the local Jewish community, including members of local chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow.