Dean Phillips says he had a 'very difficult episode' with friend Rashida Tlaib over Israel's right to exist

The 2024 hopeful spoke about his 'complicated' friendship with Tlaib on Bari Weiss' podcast

Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips revealed he had a "very difficult episode" with friend and House colleague Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., on whether Israel has the right to exist, an exchange he said went "unresolved."

Appearing on Wednesday's installment of the "Honestly" podcast, host Bari Weiss asked Phillips, who is Jewish and a supporter of Israel, about his friendship with Tlaib, the sole Palestinian member of Congress who has been vocal in her opposition towards the Jewish State following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas.

The Minnesota congressman began by acknowledging his relationship with Tlaib is "complicated" but stressed he would rather "confront" their differences and maintain their ties rather than "withdraw" completely. 


Phillips and Tlaib

Rep. Dean Phillips told Bari Weiss his friendship with Rep. Rashida Tlaib has been "complicated" following the Oct. 7 attacks against Israel. (Left: (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images), Right: (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images))

"I am deeply horrified by some of the things she says, by some of her perspectives. But I also have invested time to get to know her and she me, and I'm sure she would say the same thing, that she's probably appalled by my feelings and affection for Israel," Phillips said. "But I believe that friendship of ours is a very important one because if we cannot reconcile, if we cannot see in each other's heart that we are actually very similar trying to ultimately protect human beings, then how in the heck can Israel and Palestine ultimately become peaceful neighbors? How can the rest of the world if we don't ultimately find space and place to get to know each other and at least understand each other? When I talk about my friendship with her, it's complicated, and hers with me, very complicated."


"Do you think it's possible to be friends with an antisemite as a Jew?" Weiss asked.

"Ultimately, no," Phillips answered. "And this is maybe the fundamental question. Am I, as a defender of Israel, but also a believer in self-determination for Palestinians--if I love Israel, does that mean I am an Islamophobe? No. If someone doesn't like Israel and somehow favors Palestinians, does that make them an antisemite? I know that's part of the discussion right now. I think, sometimes yes." 

dean phillips

Phillips revealed he had a "very difficult episode" with Tlaib over whether Israel has a right to exist, something he said went "unresolved." (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

"Do you think that if someone believes that Israel is the only state that doesn't have a right to exist that that is an antisemitic position?" Weiss followed. 

"Therein lies my biggest challenge with Rashida," Phillips responded. "I don't want to get into some private moments, but we had a very difficult episode on that very specific question. And it was not resolved. It continues to be unresolved, and it's very difficult for me, that subject, you can imagine why. But I am not the type of leader or representative that runs from the fire because the only way to put out a fire is to be next to it and extinguish it. And that only can be done by human beings if we do so together. And I do not want to eliminate that possibility with her, with anybody. In fact, I've reached out to a number of Palestinian leaders in the country, some of whom have responded, many of whom have not, but in the absence of responding, in the absence of at least engaging, we're doing everybody a disservice." 

placeholderThe 2024 hopeful continued, "This is probably the most complicated moment of my entire life as it relates to who I am as a human being, my obligations as an American representative, and my aspiration to become the President of the United States as a Jewish man who wishes to ultimately create a Palestinian state that lives side by side with Israel, because I think that's the only way to keep Israel safe in the long term. And Rashida Tlaib and others, I do believe I need to maintain relations with, because if I don't, I do not think it is even possible for us to conceive a safe Israel and a secure future for our kids here in America. And, certainly, in the Middle East."

Rep. Tlaib's office did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment. 


Rashida Tlaib calls for Gaza cease-fire

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., has been an outspoken advocate against Israel following the attacks launched by Hamas.  (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)

Tlaib has become the face of anti-Israel sentiment on Capitol Hill since the attacks on the Jewish State that left over 1,200 people dead while over 130 hostages remain captive in Gaza. She and other progressives continue advocating for a ceasefire as Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. 

However, Tlaib herself has been at the center of intense backlash. The Democratic "Squad" member falsely pushed Hamas' narrative that Israel bombed a Gaza hospital, resulting in over 500 casualties when, in fact, it was a misfired rocket within Gaza from Hamas ally Islamic Jihad that exploded in the hospital's parking lot, resulting in a small fraction of the reported deaths. Even after both Israeli and U.S. intelligence confirmed what had transpired, Tlaib continued to cast doubt. 

Tlaib faced strong condemnation for promoting the anti-Israel slogan "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," a rallying cry widely perceived as calling for the destruction of the Jewish State and genocide of the Jewish people, a phrase Hamas has also used. That led to her being censured by the House of Representatives. 

She was also caught being part of a secret Facebook group where Hamas was praised following the Oct. 7 attacks.

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