The dance of the modern antisemite revolves mostly around implying a bias against Jews without exactly stating it. Ilhan Omar will question “a political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” only implying that America’s Jews don’t have America’s best interests at heart. Jeremy Corbyn will say that “[British Zionists] don’t understand English irony” despite “having lived here all their lives,” without exactly stating that English Jews aren’t exactly English.
The devil lives in the deniability.
Recently, even that’s begun to change. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s antisemitism, for example, has veered clearly into the undeniable. This past Saturday, our organization, The World Values Network, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times highlighting her shocking comments, which should not be allowed to pass unpunished.
A guest of the Skullduggery Podcast, Tlaib was asked to explain her belief in a one-state solution (spoiler: there’s no Israel). Instead of staying on the subject of contemporary politics, Tlaib decided to go down memory lane and right into the Holocaust.
Here are her comments in full, to deflect any accusations of word manipulation:
“Absolutely. Let me tell you – I mean, for me, I think two weeks ago we celebrated – or took a moment I think in our country to remember – the Holocaust. And there’s a kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Holocaust in 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 passports – 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 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 – right – and it was forced on them.”
TO SAY that “there’s a kind of calming feeling” you get when you “think of the Holocaust” is worse than antisemitic; it’s positively sick. Just imagine if someone had said the same of slavery. The offensiveness of these words should be clear to anyone, certainly someone who has been accused by Jews of bigotry. It should be yet more apparent to someone, like Tlaib, who decries that assessment as wrong.
Generally, I wouldn’t have made a fuss over her near miss on saying that Americans “celebrated” the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah. In light of her other verbal “slip” – her “calming feelings” on the Holocaust – I’m inclined to believe that there’s meaning in both. Accidental indecency doesn’t strike the same sentence twice.
Worse than her sick choice of words were her historical distortions. Tlaib claimed that her ancestors provided Jews with a “safe haven” around the time of the Holocaust. The truth is that both before, during and after the Holocaust, many Palestinian Arabs worked to make the land of Israel into a death trap.
Before the Holocaust, as tens of thousands of Jews sought refuge in Israel from the persecutions and pogroms of Eastern Europe, Palestinian Arabs didn’t provide much in the way of safety. Many, on the contrary, made a habit of massacring their Jewish neighbors. In April 1920, five innocent Jews were murdered by rioting Arabs in Jerusalem. Eleven months later, 47 more innocent Jews would be slaughtered by rioting Arabs, this time in Jaffa. Worst of all was the pogrom of August 1929, wherein an astounding 133 innocent Jews would be killed by Arab rioters in Safed, Jaffa and most famously, Hebron.
EVEN AS Hitler cast his shadow over all of European Jewry, Palestinian Arabs fought to stem Jewish immigration. In the years leading up to the Holocaust, local Arabs even participated in a brutal three-year revolt against the English, itself centered primarily on stopping the rescue of Jews escaping Hitler’s rise. Their efforts paid off, with the British reducing Jewish immigration from a high of 62,000 in 1935 to just 10,000 in 1937. Of course, nearly all of those denied visas – or worse, turned away from Israeli shores – would be sent sooner or later to their deaths.
During the Holocaust, Arab antisemitism in Israel only intensified, most famously in the form of the key Palestinian leader of the era, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. A staunch ally and admirer of Hitler, Husseini helped launch a failed Nazi-backed rebellion against the British in Iraq, sparking the infamous Farhud riots, which left 180 Iraqi Jews dead. He then fled to Berlin at the führer’s invitation, where he was given a villa and a generous monthly salary. During the war, he helped recruit Muslim soldiers for the SS in the Balkans, and in radio broadcasts urged Arab Palestinians to “kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.” Just as Jewish immigrants sought to escape it, the grand mufti of Jerusalem was trying to bring the Holocaust home.
After the Holocaust, too, many Palestinians joined a genocidal war against the fledgling State of Israel. Six Arab armies invaded Israel, all with the stated goal of “driving the Jews into the sea.” It was a sickening attempt at a second genocide of the Jews just three years after the first. This time, however, the newborn Jewish army repulsed the invasion, reclaiming for Jews their ancient, God-given homeland. It was God and those brave soldiers – not Tlaib’s ancestors – who provided us Jews with a real safe haven.
Palestinian Arabs, for the most part, were guided by an agenda of depriving Jews of safety. The Arab massacres of Palestinian Jews; the insurgent opposition to Jewish immigration; the high-level support for Hitler; and the support for a genocidal war against the Jews – none of that should give anyone a “calming feeling,” certainly not in the context of the Holocaust. Unless, of course, one is driven by the same agenda of depriving Jews of peace and safety.
With regard to Tlaib, that seems to be the most likely explanation.