Rashida Tlaib: Policing my words and twisting them won't work

Democrats accuse Trump and others of taking Tlaib's comments on Israel and the Holocaust out of context.

    Rashida Tlaib: Policing my words and twisting them won't work
    Rashida Tlaib is one of the first two Muslim legislators in US history to sit in Congress [AFP]

    US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib this week accused Republicans and other critics of purposefully "policing" her words and "twisting [and] turning them to ignite vile attacks" after they criticised her over recent comments on Israel and the Holocaust.

    During an interview with Yahoo's Skullduggery podcast that was released on Friday, Tlaib was asked about her support for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    "There's kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust," she answered.

    " ... 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.

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    "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?"

    The congresswoman also stressed that she wanted a place for both Jews and Palestinians. 

    "I'm coming from a place of love, for equality and justice, I truly am," she said. 

    "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," Tlaib added. 

    Republicans and conservative commentators and politicians quickly jumped on the first part of Tlaib's response to the question. 

    Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, accused Tlaib of anti-Semitism and of trying to rewrite history with her comments, while President Donald Trump called Tlaib's remarks "horrible and highly insensitive".

    House Republican Steve Scalise also labelled her comments as anti-Semitic, saying: "More than six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust; there is nothing 'calming' about that fact." 

    Tlaib accused her critics of advancing a "racist and hateful agenda".

    "The Congresswoman did not in any way praise the Holocaust, nor did she say the Holocaust itself brought a calming feeling to her," her team said in a statement.

    The statement added that the criticism was "dangerous, and increases hateful rhetoric from those who want to cause harm to oppressed people".

    "The Republican Party has reached a new low," it added. 

    'Stop attacks against Muslim women'

    Democratic leaders rallied behind Tlaib with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer accusing Republicans of taking Tlaib's words out of context.

    Tlaib, a Democrat of Palestinian heritage, has previously come under fire or her comments and position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Alongside Ilhan Omar, Tlaib is one of the first two Muslim legislators in US history to sit in Congress. She has criticised Israel and the US approach to the issue before and has called for one state for both. 

    Omar has also faced criticism from Republicans over her comments on Israel. She apologised in February for using what many considered an anti-Semitic trope when criticising a pro-Israel lobbying group. 

    Tlaib's supporters said the criticism had more to do with the fact that the congresswoman is Muslim woman than it did about her comments. 

    Omar, responding to Trump's tweet criticising Tlaib said, "You praised people at a neo-Nazi rally. We don't have to imagine. This is another transparent attempt to sow division b/t minority communities and distract from your own criminal behavior by smearing a Muslim woman. No one should fall for it this time." She was referring to the August 2017 United the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. During that rally, a white supremacist drove his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. 

    Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, also directed his comments at Trump, tweeting, "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." 

    Trump rhetoric

    Many analysts have pointed to the US president's heated rhetoric as the catalyst for far-right attacks and threats in the country - an accusation the White House has rejected.  

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    Last month, police arrested a 49-year-old man on suspicion of leaving racist, homophobic and Islamophobic messages filled with death threats on the voicemails of Tlaib, Democrat Eric Swalwell and Democrat Cory Booker. 

    The man, who reportedly defended President Donald Trump in the messages and warned the politicians to stop criticising the president, has been charged with making threatening communications.

    Last year, the Anti-Defamation League said all perpetrators who carried out at least 50 "extremism-related murders" were linked to the far right.

    That total marked the largest number of people killed by the far right since 1995, the watchdog said.

    Trump last month tweeted out a video of Omar featuring footage of the World Trade Center burning juxtaposed with her comments, taken out of context to portray her attitude to the 9/11 attacks as glib. Omar said she experienced an increased number of death threats after the video was shared. At least one other man was arrested. 

    The president's language was also criticised following an anti-Semitic massacre in Pittsburgh last year - and during a week-long mail bombing spree that saw another Florida man target high-profile liberal political figures, Trump critics and the news outlet CNN.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News