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Trump targets Rashida Tlaib over Israel and Holocaust comments

Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

President Trump joined other prominent Republicans in criticizing Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) on Monday after she invoked the Holocaust while explaining why she supports a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Democrat Rep. Tlaib is being slammed for her horrible and highly insensitive statement on the Holocaust. She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. Can you imagine what would happen if I ever said what she said, and says?"

Context: In a Yahoo podcast published over the weekend, Tlaib spoke at length about what geopolitical issues over the decades formed her support for a one-state solution in the region.

"There's kind of a calming feeling I always 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.
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. And so when I think about a one-state, I think about the fact that, why couldn't we do it in a better way?
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, but I will not turn my back and allow others to hijack it and say that it's some extremist approach because they're coming from a place of ... whatever it is ... of division, inequality."

The state of play: Top Republicans and Israeli officials reacted negatively to Tlaib's comments, which came just days after Israel's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.

  • Much of their criticism centered on her use of the phrase "calming feeling" when referring to her thoughts about the Holocaust's impact on the politics and settlement of the region. At times, the critics incorrectly insinuated that she was using the phrase to refer to the genocide's millions of deaths.
  • Tlaib's statement also seems to indicate that Israel was founded in 1948 as a safe harbor for Jews worldwide after the Holocaust. Though Jewish immigration to the region increased greatly during and after the Holocaust, Zionism, the desire to re-establish a Jewish state in the Holy Land, came to prominence with the writings of Theodor Herzl in the late 1800s.

What they're saying:

  • Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the UN: ".@RashidaTlaib, your words are both grossly #antiSemitic and ignorant. You should take some time to learn the history before trying to rewrite it."
  • House Minority Whip Steve Scalise: "There is no justification for the twisted and disgusting comments made by Rashida Tlaib just days after the annual Day of Holocaust Remembrance. More than 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust; there is nothing 'calming' about that fact."
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): "Surely now @SpeakerPelosi⁩ & ⁦@LeaderHoyer⁩ will finally take action against vile anti-Semitism in their ranks. This must cross the line, even for them. Rashida Tlaib says thinking of the Holocaust provides her a 'calming feeling'"

The other side:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Republicans’ desperate attempts to smear [Tlaib] & misrepresent her comments are outrageous. President [Trump] & House GOP should apologize to Rep. Tlaib & the American people for their gross misrepresentations.
  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Hill: "If you read Rep. Tlaib’s comments, it is clear that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are taking them out of context. They must stop, and they owe her an apology."
  • Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: "Mr. President: Stop dividing the American people up by their religion, their race or their country of origin--and stop your ugly attacks against Muslim women in Congress. You are taking Rep. [RashidaTlaib's] comments out of context and should apologize."
  • Tlaib responded to the Republican criticisms in a statement Monday.

Go deeper: Ilhan Omar declares "love for America" in response to Trump's tweet