Rashida Tlaib deserves a ton of criticism for her comments in a Yahoo News interview, but perhaps not the specific ton she’s receiving at the moment. In the podcast “Skullduggery” podcast, Tlaib discussed her support for a one-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian question, but not before she offered her thoughts on the Holocaust and its outcomes. She claimed that her “Palestinian ancestors” provided Jews a “safe haven” after the genocide, and Jews have rejected them ever since:
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said she “loves the fact” that her “Palestinian ancestors” were part an attempt “to create a safe haven for Jews” after the Holocaust, although the role “was forced on them” and took place “in a way that took their human dignity away.” …
“There’s always kind of a calming feeling when I think of the tragedy of the Holocaust, 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, has been wiped out … in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-Holocaust, post-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 in many ways,” said Tlaib.
“So when I think about one state, I think: Why can’t we do it in a better way? I don’t want people to do it in the name of Judaism just like I don’t want people to use Islam in that way. It has to be done in a way of values around equality, around the fact that you shouldn’t oppress others. So that you can feel free and safe. Why can’t we all be free and safe together?”
This is utter nonsense in several ways. The Palestinians didn’t offer anyone “safe haven” for the Holocaust, nor was it thrust on them. Jews had lived in the region for millennia, and the Diaspora had begun returning in the late 19th century with the Zionist movement. The Ottoman government didn’t take much of an interest in it at the time, and then the British seized the region after World War I as part of the Sykes-Picot arrangement of the post-Ottoman Middle East. The British pledged to provide Jews a safe homeland before that war, and followed through — although while still insisting on it being part of the British Empire.
If anyone provided a “safe haven,” it was the British, but in truth Jews had been building a revitalized homeland for decades before the Holocaust. It was the somewhat-bizarre partition after independence that set off the chain reaction leading to where we are today. The Arabs, who had only lightly populated what they call “Palestine” now, resisted the idea of a Jewish state when Israel achieved independence. For decades prior to that, however, Arab states had also been ejecting Jews from all over the Middle East too, forcing many to relocate to Israel. Hebron would be one good example of the quality of the “safe haven” offered by Palestinians, for that matter, and a pretty good example of what would come if Tlaib got the solution she wanted.
What Tlaib suggests is the end of partition and establishing a state of Palestine in its place. She wants to end the idea of a Jewish state by forcing Israel to fully annex the West Bank and Gaza and offer the full vote to all residents. She cloaks this in democratic language, but the end result would be the extinction of a Jewish homeland — and Tlaib well knows it. She also tells Yahoo that protection of the Jews is something the new state would have to settle on its own. I’d bet the Israelis don’t see that as glibly as Tlaib does.
So yes, there is plenty to criticize here. Unfortunately, the criticism has mainly fallen on Tlaib’s wording, which was clumsy and sounded offensive when clipped out of context. Tlaib didn’t express “warm feelings” about the Holocaust itself, although that’s how it sounded from the initial reports. The Washington Post scolded Republicans for pouncing:
House Republican leaders took aim at Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) on Sunday for a podcast interview in which she discussed her support for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. …
But two of the top House Republicans on Sunday criticized her use of the phrase “calming feeling,” falsely accusing her of using the phrase to describe her views about the Holocaust itself.
That’s a fair criticism for the response, but it tends to let Tlaib off the hook. There’s a reason that no other Democrat supports a one-state solution of the type described by Tlaib, as Yahoo’s interviewer notes in framing the question. It would lead to the ethnic cleansing of Jews from their last position in their ancestral homeland, a claim that goes back much farther than those of the Palestinians. Tlaib wasn’t cheerleading the Holocaust, but she seems pretty sanguine about the next one.