I must admit that I was probably wrong when I suggested that the Tlaib/Omar Israel fiasco was likely just a light thunderstorm that would quickly pass. This story appears to have stronger legs than I thought. It could even surpass the hysteria surrounding Netanyahu’s 2015 address to the US Congress concerning the nuclear deal with Iran.

Many people who care about Israel are scratching this story, looking at various side issues related to the primary one. The primary issue, in my view, is why the Democratic Party would side with antisemitic anti-Zionists, such as Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) against their Jewish constituency and America’s relationship with a key ally.


One curious aspect of the story, however, is Rashida Tlaib’s claim that she got a “calming feeling” when she thought about the Holocaust. What an unusual thing to say. Given that Tlaib is, in fact, an anti-Zionist, it is very easy for Jewish people, and friends of Jewish people, to take that statement in the wrong way.

Tlaib was not suggesting that she got a cozy feeling inside thinking about the misery of the Jews. On the contrary, Tlaib said this:

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.

It is true, obviously, that many Arabs of the Mandate suffered because of the 1948 War of Independence. Many lost their homes, jobs, and lives and loved ones.

The problem is that Tlaib’s interpretation is ahistorical. She pretends that the Arabs were innocent in the unfolding of these events, when they were not. She also pretends that the Arabs were not aggressive against the Jews when they most certainly were. The Jews had no nefarious intentions toward the Arabs, but Arabs could not stomach Jewish sovereignty.

It should be noted, nonetheless, that Tlaib’s “calming feeling” is not coming from gratification at Jewish loss, but in her belief that her grandparents relinquished their freedom to help Jews directly after the Shoah.

I cannot know if Tlaib is deceiving herself, or if she is outright lying. But the historical record does not reflect the notion that the Arabs in the British Mandate struggled to “create a safe haven for Jews” at great cost to their own well-being during World War II. The very idea of it is laughable. This is a falsehood so gross in its distortions that it is amazing that Tlaib could utter these words.

The truth is that the Arabs in the Mandate did everything they could to keep Jews out of the Jewish ancestral homeland even as the Holocaust was happening. Between 1936 and 1939, the Arabs launched the “Arab Revolt.” These ongoing Arab riots concluded with the British issuing its infamous “White Paper,” agreeing to Arab demands and thus keeping hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews trapped in Europe.

And who among us can possibly forget the participation of Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem during World War II, who went to Berlin to strategize with Adolf Hitler on how best to bring the Holocaust to the Holy Land.

So, Representative Tlaib, please do not deceive yourself into thinking that the Arabs of the Mandate helped the Jews during the Holocaust. You are spreading what can be fairly described as a self-serving historical falsehood for the purpose of creating sympathy for the Palestinian-Arabs at the expense of the indigenous Jewish population. And if you are not aware of this, perhaps your time would be better spent tending to the needs of your constituency rather than making life even more difficult for Israelis.


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Michael Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at his own blog, Israel Thrives (http://israel-thrives.blogspot.com/). Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at [email protected].