On Monday, President Donald Trump condemned Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for comments about the Holocaust that she made over the weekend. Tlaib has claimed Republicans took her comments out of context. Trump said the comments revealed her “tremendous hatred for Israel and the Jewish people.” At the very least, they showcased the congresswoman’s shocking ignorance of Israel’s history.
“There’s always kind of a calming feeling I tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors — Palestinians — who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people’s passports,” Tlaib said on the podcast “Skullduggery,” in an episode published Saturday.
The congresswoman suggested her ancestors suffered in order to give the Jewish people a home. “And just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time,” she said. “And I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away and it was forced on them.”
This was a gross mischaracterization of history, as The Washington Examiner‘s Philip Klein pointed out. But given Tlaib’s past arguably anti-Semitic episodes, Republicans condemned the recent comments as more proof of anti-Semitism.
“There is no justification for the twisted and disgusting comments made by Rashida Tlaib just days after the annual Day of Holocaust Remembrance. More than six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust; there is nothing ‘calming’ about that fact,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this is far from the first display of heinous anti-Semitic comments coming from Democrat House members this year, and it’s clear this is now the norm for their caucus. It’s long past time for Speaker Pelosi to take swift action and make it clear that these vile comments have no place in Congress.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), chair of the House Republican Conference, called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to censure Tlaib.
“I call on Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer to finally take action against Representative Tlaib and other members of the Democratic caucus who are spreading vile anti-Semitism,” Cheney told the Washington Post. “All of us, regardless of party, must stand as Americans against the evil of anti-Semitism. If the Democratic leadership continues to stand by in silence, they are enabling the spread of evil.”
(Naturally, the Post ran the story on Tlaib’s remarks with the “Republicans pounce”-style headline: “House Republicans criticize Rep. Tlaib over remarks on Holocaust, Israel.”)
Tlaib responded by condemning Cheney for telling “lies” about her. “Once again, Republican leaders and right-wing extremists are spreading outright lies to incite hate,” Tlaib’s office said in a statement. “Congresswoman Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself for using the tragedy of the Holocaust in a transparent attempt to score political points. Her behavior cheapens our discourse and is an insult to the Jewish community and the millions of Americans who stand opposed to the hatred being spread by Donald Trump’s Republican party [sic].”
The statement noted that Tlaib “did not in any way praise the Holocaust, nor did she say the Holocaust itself brought a calming feeling to her. In fact, she repeatedly called the Holocaust a tragedy and a horrific persecution of Jewish people.” The statement also condemned the Republican responses as “dangerous” and increasing “hateful rhetoric from those who want to cause harm to oppressed people.”
Statement on lies being spread regarding Congresswoman Tlaib's appearance on Yahoo's SkullDuggery Podcast. pic.twitter.com/fBASeibLwV
— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) May 13, 2019
Trump jumped into the fray on Monday morning. “Democrat Rep. Tlaib is being slammed for her horrible and highly insensitive statement on the Holocaust. She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people,” the president tweeted. “Can you imagine what would happen if I ever said what she said, and says?”
Democrat Rep. Tlaib is being slammed for her horrible and highly insensitive statement on the Holocaust. She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. Can you imagine what would happen if I ever said what she said, and says?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2019
Tlaib’s most recent remarks may not be explicitly anti-Semitic, but they come in an ugly context for the congresswoman. In January, Tlaib opposed a bill allowing states to punish those who boycott Israel in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish State. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and the American Jewish Committee condemned her attack on the bill as expressing the typical “dual loyalty” anti-Semitic smear.
Tlaib became infamous early this year for calling Trump a “mother**ker,” and calling for his impeachment. Shortly after that, however, someone put a post-it note on a map in her office, attempting to rename Israel “Palestine.” Tlaib has supported a one-state solution where Palestine essentially replaces Israel.
Tlaib is a close friend of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whose anti-Semitic remarks and anti-Israel statements have drawn widespread ire, most recently inspiring Vice President Mike Pence to call for her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Omar has compared Israel to Iran and met with Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Anti-Semitism is rife in the Middle East. Omar grew up in Somalia while Tlaib was raised by her Palestinian immigrant parents in Detroit. Americans should be able to debate about Israel without being demonized, but these women have arguably crossed the line into anti-Semitism.
Furthermore, Tlaib has shown a willingness to accuse others of racism for much less. In fact, she blasted Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) as racist for inviting Lynn Patton, a Trump administration staffer, to a congressional hearing.
“Just to make a note, Mr. Chairman, just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaib said.”It is insensitive — some would even say it’s the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself.”
Tlaib’s recent remarks about the Holocaust and Israel were also utterly false, as Klein argued. The congresswoman claimed that her Arab ancestors provided a “safe haven” to Jews in Israel after the Holocaust, enabling them to find a new homeland.
The Jewish return to Israel dates back far before the Holocaust, however. While some Jews remained in Israel for thousands of years, the modern return began with Jews from Yemen in 1881. In 1917, the British government supported the establishment of a Jewish state in the Balfour Declaration, but Arabs rejected the idea. In 1937, the British government proposed a two-state solution for Jews and Arabs, but Arabs rejected that proposal because they could not accept Jewish presence in the region.
During World War II, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, the Palestinian leader at the time, met with Adolf Hitler and allied with the Nazis. After World War II, the new State of Israel urged “Arab inhabitants … to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship.” Arab leaders encouraged Arabs to flee Israel, and Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded the country the day after its official proclamation.
Klein also noted that the terrorist group the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied the West Bank.
“So, to sum up, Tlaib’s claims that her Arab ancestors provided a ‘safe haven’ to Jews after the Holocaust ignores the Jewish presence in the region and efforts to establish a Jewish state that predated the Holocaust, ignores that her ancestors allied with Hitler at the time of the Holocaust, and ignores decades of violence and terrorism directed at Israel both before, during, and after the Holocaust,” Klein concluded.
This view of history echoes the anti-Semitism in the Muslim world and glosses over the horrific Nazi-Palestinian alliance. Tlaib’s comments about the Holocaust may not be anti-Semitic in themselves, but they do confirm the horrifying anti-Israel trend Republicans are rightly concerned about.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.