Spectator USA

Skip to Content

Liberalism Middle East US Politics World

Rashida Tlaib’s comments about Palestine are blatantly misleading

Her toxic denial of Jewish national identity is the reason Palestine is not free

Rashida Tlaib is a victim, and not just any victim – she’s a righteous one. The freshman Democrat from Michigan’s 13th district was born in Detroit to parents from the West Bank, making her the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress. She was one of the set of radicals I warned about ahead of last November’s midterm elections and she hasn’t disappointed. My concern then was that her campaign had suggested she was a supporter of the two-state solution during the Democrat primary, but she then openly identified with the Israel-eliminating one-state solution after clinching the nomination.

Since then her colleague Ilhan Omar (MN-05) has done most of the heavy-lifting in the Jew-baiting stakes, but Tlaib has begun to pick up the slack. She told Yahoo News’s ‘Skullduggery’ podcast:

‘Just, I think, two week ago or so, we celebrated… or just took a moment, I think, in our country to remember the Holocaust. You know, there’s kind of a calming feeling, I always 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 had been wiped out, and some people’s passport – I mean, just, all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post the Holocaust, post the tragedy and 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, right, and it was forced on them.’

To update Mary McCarthy, every word of that is a lie and I’d check some of the punctuation just to be on the safe side. Left-leaning Israeli historian Benny Morris says Tlaib ‘deployed deliberately imprecise language’ to mislead listeners about what actually happened. Morris notes: ‘The Palestinians indirectly, and in some ways directly, aided in the destruction of European Jewry.’ The Arabs of Mandate Palestine – at the time, the term ‘Palestinian’ was still  used to refer to Jews – rioted murderously against the British Army (and the Jews) as part of a deliberate strategy to close Palestine to European Jewish refugees in the 1930s. They were highly successful and, when no one else would take them in, many of those Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis.

This is before we come to Haj Amin al-Husseini. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was the political figurehead of Arab nationalism and spiritual leader of the Muslims of Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s. He was not the sort to inspire calming feelings. Husseini was a Nazi collaborator; there is even a photograph of him enjoying a cosy chat with Hitler:

Hajj Amin al-Husayni and Adolf Hitler

He helped spearhead an attempted pro-Nazi coup in Iraq before fleeing to Berlin, where the Nazis put him up in a villa and paid him a generous monthly stipend. The Mufti urged Germany to endorse ‘the removal of the Jewish national homeland in Palestine’, helped recruit between 23,000 and 27,000 Bosnian Muslims to a special division of the Waffen-SS, and broadcast calls on Radio Berlin for the Arabs of Palestine to ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. They scarcely needed the encouragement.

Palestinian nationalism is tripartite rejectionism: rejection of Jewish sovereignty, rejection of Palestinian sovereignty and rejection of history. Tlaib rejects Jewish sovereignty with her support for a one-state solution. (‘Why can’t we all be free and safe together?’ is her sweetly devious locution when she calls for the uprooting of the Jewish state.) She rejects Palestinian sovereignty by failing to back instead a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Finally, she rejects historical truth by peddling the malicious fiction that the Jews were alien to Palestine and given someone else’s land as a ‘safe haven’. The Arabs rebuffed partition in 1947, and every offer since, because they would rather be sovereign on none of the land than let the Jews be sovereign on any of it. The Palestinian tragedy is not the ‘Nakba’, the 1948 exodus, but the construction of Palestinian national identity around the denial of Jewish national identity. This toxic co-dependency — not the Likud or the settlers or the IDF — is why Palestine is not free.

Benny Morris once described the Jews of Israel’s founding as ‘righteous victims’, their national myths avenging past suffering. Rashida Tlaib and other Palestinian rejectionists have seized that mantle but while their victimhood seemingly shields their bigotry, they exact their vengeance on the Palestinian people, who remain stateless, occupied and humiliated.

Tlaib’s pathologies are those of a freshman congresswoman, a role in which 60 percent of the job is yelling louder every day until a CNN daytime producer notices. What should disquiet us is the closing of Democrat and liberal media ranks around her. Steny Hoyer, Democrat majority leader in the House of Representatives, called on Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to apologize to Tlaib for taking her comments ‘out of context’. Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused them of ‘misrepresent[ing]’ Tlaib’s remarks in an attempted ‘smear’. I’ll leave you to decide whether the context police would have clocked the same response time had, say, Trump uttered the phrase ‘there’s kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the Holocaust’. But notice how uncannily the language of excuse-making (‘smears’, ‘out of context’) echoes that of the British Labour Party.

The Democrat establishment thinks it can control its extremists. So did Labour. American liberals – and American Jews – should look across the pond for a glimpse of their future.

This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.

Sign up to receive a daily summary of the best of Spectator USA

Show comments