Facing censure, Fla. official unapologetic for saying Muslim congresswoman may be terrorist

Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub, left, and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub, left, and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

The South Florida official in the national hot seat for a Facebook post suggesting Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib may become “a martyr and blow up Capitol Hill,” is now facing censure from her own commission.

Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub has faced harsh criticism across the nation for her post and subsequent comments that the Muslim lawmaker is “a danger” but has so far refused to back down or apologize.

Now, Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow is sponsoring an item on next week’s commission agenda to officially censure Lima-Taub and condemn her comments, which Lazarow says fuel hatred and create a hostile environment for Hallandale Beach’s Muslim community.

“While individual commissioners have spoken out against Commissioner Lima-Taub’s hateful and bigoted remarks, I believe we need to take action as a city,” said Lazarow in a statement. “I believe we must take action to show all who are watching that Hallandale Beach isn’t a place that tolerates hatred and bigotry.”

Lazarow said she would consider withdrawing the item if Lima-Taub issues a sincere and public apology. That outcome seems unlikely.

In another post Tuesday, Lima-Taub doubled down on her original position writing that she remained “unapologetic” for her comments. She went on to demand an apology from Tlaib for her support for the movement to boycott Israeli products and institutions, known as BDS, and for a Post-It note on a map in her office that appears to relabel Israel as Palestine.

“I am offended by anyone who is NOT OFFENDED by Rashida Tlaib’s hateful rhetoric and pro BDS and other radical dangerous views calling for the obliteration of Israel, literally off the face of the map,” she wrote in one of several Facebook rants posted Wednesday. “I remain unapologetic for my views that she is a danger to the peace process and demand an apology of her for relabeling Israel as Palestine on a map hanging on her wall in her congressional office.”

Lima-Taub’s original post came with a petition to remove Tlaib from Congress after she called President Donald Trump a “motherf-----,” but the commissioner said her subsequent comments had little to do with the presidential disrespect.

Lima-Taub told the Miami Herald her problems with the congresswoman stemmed from Tlaib’s position on Israel and support for BDS. Lima-Taub considers association with BDS the equivalent of associating with U.S.-designated terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

The petition and post that called Tlaib a “Hamas-loving anti-Semite” was taken down from Lima-Taub’s Facebook page after the Sun Sentinel started asking questions. Many of her other statements remain public.

When made aware of Lima-Taub’s post, Tlaib called it “terrible” and told the Miami Herald that the sentiment was reflective of an effort in Washington to penalize support for BDS, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

“For me this is about the First Amendment and protecting our right to freedom of speech,” Tlaib said. On Tuesday, Tlaib tweeted, “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.”

Otherwise, the congresswoman has generally ignored the political maelstrom started in South Florida, instead focusing her efforts on immigration reform and the federal government shutdown.

Rubio said that while he does see BDS as anti-Semitic, he does not agree with Lima-Taub’s statement.

“I don’t believe supporting BDS means you support bombing anything,” Rubio said. “I don’t know who this commissioner was or why they said it.”

Several prominent civil rights organizations have called for Lima-Taub’s immediate apology and resignation for the post. On Tuesday, the D.C.-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates denounced Lima-Taub’s statements and called for her to resign. “Any politician who would spout this kind of vile anti-Muslim rhetoric is clearly not fit to govern,” wrote Muslim Advocates’ public advocacy director Scott Simpson.

Lima-Taub clarified her position in a Facebook post Wednesday saying, “My position on Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has nothing to do with the religion of Islam. Islam itself is a peaceful religion; however, it has been highjacked by radicals who use Islam as a shield to justify and commit terror across the globe.”

She again pointed to Tlaib’s support for BDS as the reason she is sticking by her statements about the congresswoman’s capacity to commit an act of terror.

Lima-Taub also has a base of support cheering her on via various social media networks. Not all of them make the same distinction about Islam. Randy Tormey wrote, “Actually Islam is NOT a religion of peace. It is a cult of conquest.”

Another supporter, Andrew Carrillo, wrote, “You have nothing to apologize for. This Rashida is a hack and hates America and Israel. ... Anyone who supports Hezbollah has no right being in the United States Congress.”

While praising her supporters and loudly doubling down on her position both on Facebook and local TV, Lima-Taub has also been canceling public events.