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To misunderstand Rashida Tlaib’s remarks on the Holocaust, you’d have to be stupid — or worse

It takes a certain quality to take something kind and humane that a person has said and intentionally misinterpret it as evil and hateful so that you can condemn the person.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib
Rep. Rashida Tlaib is asking reasonable people to acknowledge the obvious truth that the creation of Israel has not been a blessing for her own ancestral group, the Palestinian-Arab Muslims.
REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

There’s lying. There’s demagoguery.  And perhaps there’s a quality that we might call willful, deliberate misunderstanding that allows you to take something kind and humane that a person has said and intentionally misinterpret it as evil and hateful so that you can condemn the person.

And why would you do that? Maybe because you’re stupid, or you heard it wrong. But if that’s the case, once it was explained to you, you would apologize for misunderstanding and retract your premature condemnation. Or maybe because you are evil and hateful yourself and will twist anything that comes along in order to feed your need to stoke hatred.

I’m talking about the latest effort by the Trumpocracy, up to and including the Great Trumpeter himself, to willfully misunderstand the remarks of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., so they could accuse her of anti-semitism, anti-Israelism and, bizarrely (even though it is the opposite of what she said) of sympathy for the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.

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They already did something like this to Minnesota’s freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, but the criticism of Omar wasn’t nearly as delusional. That’s because Omar had actually said some things she shouldn’t have said, that played on anti-semitic tropes. I’ve expressed my view on that before. And she clearly believes that the creation of the Jewish state of Israel (out of territory that had for centuries been inhabited primarily by Arab Muslims) was an  injustice. She’s entitled to that view. The history of Israel’s birth is susceptible to that interpretation. But she should be cautious, accurate and respectful about how she expresses it.

The second round of attacks on Omar, for different remarks that the Trumpers twisted to make it sound like Omar wanted to minimize the 9/11 attacks, were much more clearly rooted in the instinct that because Omar is a Muslim and has some sympathy for the suffering of Muslims around the world, the truth-and-logic-challenged Sean Hannity is empowered to use anything she says rooted in her sympathy for Muslims to portray Omar as an America-hating Islamic jihadist anti-American. I wrote about that one too.

But while Omar was skating on the edge — especially in the first case — Tlaib was doing the opposite.

To anyone who has any interest in listening to or reading her full remarks, which are below, Tlaib was clearly and unambiguously expressing sympathy for the horrors visited upon the Jews by the Holocaust. She is expressing a clear understanding that the 1948 creation of Israel as a predominantly Jewish was undertaken to provide safety and a homeland for a people that Hitler had tried to eradicate. If she means that the Arabs of Palestine were trying to help create a Jewish state, that would be hard to reconcile with the history as I know it.

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At the same time, Tlaib is asking reasonable people to acknowledge the obvious truth that the creation of Israel has not been a blessing for her own ancestral group, the Palestinian-Arab Muslims. Views can differ about how much blame might be assigned to which in the many failures to bring about a two-state solution. Books have been written and more will be to argue about that.

But Israel has turned into a rich and powerful (mostly) Jewish state. The Palestinian Arabs remain a stateless and oppressed people, in part because of the creation of Israel as “a national home for the Jewish people.”

Tlaib is not endorsing that aspect of the tale. But what she is clearly and unambiguously saying is that when she thinks about the tragedy that befell the Palestinians, it gives her a an offsetting, “calming feeling,” because she believes it was done to create a safe home for another people, the Jewish people, who had just been through the horrors of the Holocaust.

If you can read the four paragraphs below and think that Tlaib is in any way glorifying the Holocaust, or saying (the Trumpers seem to want to read it this way) that the history of the Holocaust gave her a “calming feeling” because she’s glad the murder of six million European Jews happened, or that the Jews had it coming or whatever rubbish the Trumpiverse wants to think, I don’t know what you are using for a brain, or a heart, or what kind of glasses you are wearing. Here’s what she said:

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…

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… division, inequality.

I’ll say again what I said above. You can’t read that with an open mind or heart and think it’s an endorsement of the Holocaust. But some Trumpers decided they could spin it that way. And their leader couldn’t restrain himself from endorsing that view: Here’s what Trump tweeted:

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?

I don’t have a clue about the Twitterverse. I’ve never tweeted. And I should shut up right now before I say something that demonstrates my cluelessness. But for those who might enjoy it, after I read Trump’s tweet above, I also read the replies that showed up on top when I was reading the tweet. Immediately below the presidential tweet at that time I read the several replies below, all of which came from the same guy, and he’s razzing Trump more hilariously with each reply, which go:

We don’t have to imagine you saying something “horrible and highly insensitive” you do that every day!

In addition to calling Nazis very fine people— You derided Mexicans as rapists and murderers!

You also called people protesting police brutality SOBs…

Remember the time…. Rashida Tlaib called African Countries sh*tholes… Oh wait… That was someone else!

Rashida Tlaib fabricated a Claim about the first Black President being born in Africa…. My mistake… That definitely wasn’t Rashida….

Rashida Tlaib put out full-page ads in several major Newspapers to encourage the death penalty against innocent black men (Central Park 5)? Nope… Wrong Again.. That wasn’t Rashida.

@RashidaTlaib openly encouraged violence at her campaign rallies and offered to pay the legal fees of someone if they attacked another person… Oops… There I go again… That wasn’t Rashida either..

Remember the time… @RashidaTlaib said bullies don’t win and that she would impeach you! Yep— Looks like she actually did say that, and I hope she’s right!

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