the national interest

Republicans Call Tlaib Anti-Semitic for Saying Something Nice About Israel

Representative Rashida Tlaib. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Republican Party, which has a hair-trigger sensitivity to left-wing anti-Semitism as censorious as any social justice warrior, has whipped itself into its latest frenzy over comments by Representative Rashida Tlaib.

To understand the genesis of this bizarre controversy, let’s begin with Tlaib’s comment itself:

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. 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. 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.

I don’t agree at all with Tlaib’s view of the Middle East (she is in favor of the one-state solution, which would almost certainly lead to endless bloodshed) nor do I especially endorse this comment in particular. But what she is saying here is not very hard to understand: While she regrets the establishment of the state of Israel, it did bring a benefit to Jewish refugees.

Republicans are twisting the comment in two ways. The first charge is that she says Palestinians somehow willingly donated the land to Jews. “What she’s attempting to say is that she feels proud that the Palestinians opened their arms to victims of the Holocaust and gave up ‘their’ land to do so,” says RedState. “Rashida Tlaib says thinking of the Holocaust provides her a ‘calming feeling,’ shockingly claims Palestinians created ‘safe haven’ for Jews,” blares the headline in the conservative Washington Examiner.

Tlaib does say Palestinians “provided” the land for Israel. But she doesn’t say anything about them opening their arms. Indeed, she says later in the interview that “it was forced on them,” making it perfectly clear that she is describing a land transfer that occurred against their wishes. Conservatives are angrily pointing out that Palestinians opposed the Zionist project, which is something Tlaib did not in any way deny.

The second, even wilder charge against Tlaib is for supposedly minimizing the evils of the Holocaust. Tlaib “invoked the Holocaust in a positive light, saying she felt a ‘calming feeling’ knowing her ancestors helped ‘create a safe haven for Jews,’” claims the Washington Free Beacon. “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,” says House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who once met with white supremacists and reportedly pitched himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”

The claim that Tlaib said the Holocaust itself was “calming” is a pure lie. Tlaib was using the term “calming” in reference to a tragedy, but the tragedy is the loss of Palestinian Arab land. She is arguing that the loss to Palestinians that was offset by a gain for Jews is calming to her.

Amazingly, her positive comment about the establishment of the state of Israel is being twisted into a positive comment about the Holocaust. Of course, it is true that the Holocaust is what led to the establishment of Israel. The causal relationship between the two events is an undeniable historical fact, one that Jews frequently observe. Tlaib is repeating the same basic observation that Jews habitually make — out of the darkness comes light. It is particularly Orwellian that they have twisted this element of her statement into some kind of tacit endorsement of Hitlerism.

GOP Calls Rep. Tlaib Anti-Semitic for Being Nice to Israel