History may be open to interpretation, but not wholesale revision. Enter Rep. Rashida Tlaib and the tale of Palestinian Arabs as the benefactors of persecuted Jews.
In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a whirlwind of criticism over his claim that, at the time of their initial meeting, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and national leader of Palestine’s Arabs, urged Adolph Hitler to exterminate the Jewish people, at a time when Hitler was still debating whether to undertake such a wholesale murder campaign or simply banish European Jewry from the domains he conquered.
While Netanyahu’s chronology may have been inaccurate (and he ultimately backtracked on some of his statements), there should have been no debate over the fact that Husseini favored the extermination of the Jews, and that his genocidal views long predated the Holocaust or even Hitler’s rise to power. Indeed, it was Husseini’s inflammatory, fallacious speeches contending that the Jews of Palestine were seeking to conquer the Temple Mount and attack the al-Aqsa mosque (an oft-recycled prevarication with a seemingly limitless lifespan, notwithstanding its baselessness) that led to the slaughter and mutilation of scores of Jews in Hebron in 1929 and the ultimate elimination of that millennia-old Jewish community. He spent the war years in Germany as Hitler’s guest, and sought to create an Auschwitz-style death camp near Tel Aviv, to do to the Jews of Palestine what Hitler was doing to the Jews of Europe.
Husseini was not alone in his genocidal inclinations and his vehement opposition to a Jewish state — of any size — in any part of Palestine. While much of the Arab population of pre-1948 Palestine could fairly be characterized as being “caught up in events” surrounding the founding of the modern State of Israel — fleeing, or in some cases being forced from their homes, and not participating in open hostilities — many Palestinian Arabs took an active part in the violent attempt to prevent Israel from coming into existence ab initio, driven both by nationalism and the hope of sharing in the spoils of war. In this respect they followed the lead of the Arab League, which expressed clearly to the United Nations Palestine Commission that League members intended to do everything in their power to preclude the United Nation’s proposed Palestine partition plan (which would have created both Jewish and Arab states) from coming into effect.
Indeed, the United Kingdom’s representative to the Palestine Commission lamented that:
“The [British] Government of Palestine fear that strife in Palestine will be greatly intensified when the Mandate is terminated, and that the international status of the United Nations Commission will mean little or nothing to the Arabs in Palestine, to whom the killing of Jews now transcends all other considerations. Thus, the Commission will be faced with the problem of how to avert certain bloodshed on a very much wider scale than prevails at present. … The Arabs have made it quite clear and have told the Palestine government that they do not propose to co-operate or to assist the Commission, and that, far from it, they propose to attack and impede its work in every possible way. We have no reason to suppose that they do not mean what they say.”
However, truth is, as they say, the first casualty of war, and a fortiori with a war that spans generations. With regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict in general (and the Palestinian-Israeli dispute in particular), that is particularly true, and unfortunately truth is not the only such casualty.
In fact, while the Palestinians have several legitimate gripes — enough that they do not need to invent other ones — their leadership and media have shown a talent for concoction so extensive and ingrained that it has merited its own term: Pallywood. It involves staged confrontations and pretend casualties, the inflation of supposed atrocities and the most outlandish of claims. Mossad trained sharks? Check. Poison gas supposedly used against Palestinians? Check. Purposeful flooding of Gaza? Check, complete with the opening of non-existent dams to do so. Stripper death squads to entice Palestinian men and get near them so they can then whip pistols out of their underwear and execute young Arabs? You got it. Blood libels and canards of all sorts are de rigueur in the Palestinian press.
So perhaps it should not be entirely surprising that a woman who prides herself on being the first Palestinian woman to serve in Congress, and who has been a routine critic of Israel and supporter of its enemies, should engage in yet another lie, and this one a massive distortion of history. Last week, in the wake of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, Rep. Rashida Tlaib made the following statement:
“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.”
Now I am not one of the people claiming that Tlaib said she feels calmed when she thinks of the Holocaust. That’s not what she said, not what she meant (although G-d only knows what goes through her head), and it is not even necessary to invent such outrage here. No, what’s so outrageous about Tlaib’s statement is its utter distortion — indeed, reversal — of history.
The foundations for Jewish statehood in Palestine were laid well before the Holocaust, and the legal bases for doing so were set forth in the Palestine Mandate, which was formed to allow for the creation of a Jewish National Home and the “close settlement” of Jews within the boundaries of Palestine (which included not only what became Israel proper, but also Judea and Samaria). That the Jews of the world needed and deserved a “safe haven,” and that that haven should be located in their historical homeland, was well-settled by the time Hitler rose to power several years before the Holocaust. The Holocaust, therefore, did not lead to the recognition of Jewish rights to self-determination or the need for a “safe haven” for world Jewry, but simply amplified the immediacy of the need for it.
Tlaib’s pride in the supposed role her ancestors purportedly played in the rise of modern Jewish statehood and the salvation of European Jewry post-Holocaust also simply and brazenly miscasts — even reverses — the role Palestine’s Arabs played. As described above, Palestinian Arab opposition to the notion of a Jewish state was not only vociferous but particularly brutally violent.
Moreover, it was Arab opposition to Jewish immigration to Palestine, violence and rioting (the 1936-1939 Arab revolt) that led the British — who were charged under the Palestine Mandate with the legal obligation to facilitate the entry into and settlement of Jews in Palestine — to issue their notorious 1939 “White Paper,” significantly restricting the entry of Jews into Palestine at exactly the hinge of history at which a safe haven was so desperately needed by them. Through those actions, Palestinian Arab violence and intransigence, coupled with British duplicity and flouting of international law, condemned to death perhaps millions of European Jews who had no place else to go.
Many of Palestine’s Arabs suffered as a result of the war that Arab states, with Palestinian Arab involvement, launched against the fledgling state of Israel. It was a war that was intended, in the words of the Secretary General of the Arab League, to be one of “extermination and momentous massacre” against Palestine’s Jews. But by no historical revisionist gymnastics can the consequences of those positions and that conduct be twisted into Ms. Tlaib’s fantasy that Palestinian Arab suffering was on behalf of the Jews.
No, Ms. Tlaib, your ancestors did not provide a safe haven for Jews in the wake of the Holocaust or nobly sacrifice and suffer to accommodate persecuted Jews. They did everything in their power to prevent that haven from existing during the Holocaust or coming into existence in its wake.
Howard Bressler is a resident of West Hempstead. He is author of Wrong Conclusion, No Resolution: United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334’s Erroneous Conclusions on the Legality of Israeli Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, and The Layman’s Guide to Surviving Cancer: From Diagnosis Through Treatment and Beyond (Langdon Street, 2014).