Rep. Tlaib explains herself on the Holocaust and Israel

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., on Monday night defended herself against “racist idiots” who she said were purposely twisting her remarks about the Holocaust and the founding of Israel.

In an interview with Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast Friday, Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She said the role Palestinians played in helping provide a “safe haven” for Jews following the Holocaust gives her “a kind of a calming feeling.” Conservative critics, including President Trump, seized on Tlaib’s remarks, interpreting them to imply that she approved of the Holocaust.

On “Late Night With Seth Meyers” Monday, Tlaib tried to explain what she meant.

“There is something, like, in many ways beautiful about that my ancestors, many had died, or had to give up their livelihood, their human dignity, to provide a safe haven for Jews in our world,” she said. “That is something I wanted to recognize and kind of honor in some sort of way.”

Jews fleeing persecution in Europe began settling in Palestine in the late 19th century. A much larger influx in the 20th century led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, displacing many Palestinians. Tlaib was making the point that out of what Palestinians call the nakba, or “catastrophe,” something good resulted, a homeland for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.

Her remarks elided the fact that Palestinians at the time opposed Jewish immigration, often by violence, and that their spiritual leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was an ally of Hitler.

“I also think it’s important because I want Palestinian people to also find some sort of light in this kind of, what’s happening,” Tlaib continued. “I want all of us to feel safe. All of us deserve human dignity, no matter our backgrounds, no matter our ethnicity, no matter even our political opinions. We need and deserve that kind of equality and justice.”

The freshman Democrat said she got a text message from a friend who suggested next time she should “talk like a fourth grader because maybe the racist idiots would understand you better.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. (Photo: Paul Sancya/AP)

Tlaib’s “Late Night” interview came hours after Trump joined the chorus of conservative critics attacking her.

“Democrat Rep. Tlaib is being slammed for her horrible and highly insensitive statement on the Holocaust,” Trump tweeted. “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?”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who has faced similar attacks over her criticism of Israel, jumped to Tlaib’s defense.

“You praised people at a neo-Nazi rally. We don’t have to imagine,” Omar tweeted. “This is another transparent attempt to sow division b/t minority communities and distract from your own criminal behavior by smearing a Muslim woman. No one should fall for it this time.”

Tlaib and Omar were the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

Other Democrats came to Tlaib’s defense too.

“If you read Rep. Tlaib’s comments, it is clear that President Trump and congressional Republicans are taking them out of context,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “They must stop, and they owe her an apology.”

“Obviously I don’t think that she hates Israel or hates Jews,” Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said on Fox News. “She’s not a hateful person.”

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