Tlaib Says She Is Humbled Her Ancestors Provided 'Safe Haven' for Jews After Holocaust

The Palestinian-American Democrat charges in an interview that Netanyahu could not look her grandmother in the eye and say 'you are as human as I am to you'

File photo: Rashida Tlaib canvassing a neighborhood before Election Day in Detroit, Michigan, November 5, 2018.
\ REBECCA COOK/ REUTERS

UPDATE: Rashida Tlaib, under fire for Holocaust remarks, hits back: Truth will always win

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said she “loves the fact” that her “Palestinian ancestors” were part of 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.”

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In an interview on the Skullduggery podcast, Tlaib also harshly condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “coming from a place of division and inequality” and refusing to acknowledge her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank, as his equal. The Michigan Democrat is the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress.

Having grown up in an African-American neighborhood of Detroit, Tlaib said she viewed Netanyahu and his government through the lens of someone who understood “inequality and oppression.” She also condemned the Israeli leader’s endorsement of U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall and his treatment of the Palestinians.

>> Read more: Rashida Tlaib and Benjamin Netanyahu's anti-Zionist alliance | Opinion ■ What Palestinians actually know about the Holocaust

“We can smell it from far away that, no, you don’t want to look at my grandmother in the eye, Netanyahu, and say ‘You are equal to me. You are as human as I am to you.’”

Tlaib referred to the recent commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day when asked about her decision to support a one-state solution, becoming the only Democratic member of Congress to buck her party’s position in favor of two states.

“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. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, and it was forced on them," Tlaib said.

“And 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?”

Pressed as to why she was the only Democrat who has publicly “given up” on a two-state vision, she responded: “I didn’t give it up. Netanyahu and his party gave it up — the Israeli government gave it up.”

Tlaib said the Israeli premier has the power to push for a two-state solution if he "gets up tomorrow morning and decides: ‘I’m going to take down the walls, I’m not going to expand settlements, enough is enough.'"

If he were to do so, she said, perhaps “people like myself and others would truly believe in that. But uprooting people all over again? When you look at the landscape and map it out, it is almost absolutely impossible with how he has proceeded to divide, dissect and segregate communities.”

In the current reality, Tlaib said, it was “impossible” for her “to see a two-state solution without more people being hurt.”  

Tlaib said her one-state position should not be compared to that of Hamas and others who wished Israel’s destruction, because “I’m coming from a place of love, for equality and justice, I truly am. I want a safe haven for Jews: Who doesn’t want to be safe? I am humbled by the fact that it was my ancestors that had to suffer for that to happen. I will not turn my back and allow others to hijack it and say it is an extremist approach.”

She added, emotionally: “But how can I say to my grandmother in her face that she doesn’t deserve human dignity, that she is less than, because she is not of Jewish faith. ... I keep saying to people, ‘How is that not wrong? How is it that we aren’t saying that we going to create a place that is safe for everybody in the State of Israel and in the Palestinian occupied territories?’”

Tlaib has made waves on Capitol Hill by announcing her leadership of a summer trip to the West Bank that would counter the Israel trips organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In the interview, she said she did not envision the trip as involving any meetings with Palestinian or Israeli officials, but one in which both Israeli and Palestinian individuals would be heard.

“At a town hall you want to talk to the people,” she said. “And I’m hoping this trip is a massive town hall.”