By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic leaders on Monday rallied behind a freshman lawmaker on Monday after President Donald Trump and other Republicans attacked her over comments about the Holocaust and Palestinians.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer both issued statements on Twitter saying Trump and other Republicans should apologize to Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American from Michigan and one of two Muslim women in Congress. Presidential candidate and senator Bernie Sanders also weighed in.
On the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery” last week, Tlaib was asked about her support for a one-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
In a rambling answer, she said: “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,” she said.
Congressional Republicans attacked Tlaib over the weekend, with House Republican Whip Steve Scalise labeling her comments anti-Semitic. “More than six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust; there is nothing ‘calming’ about that fact,” Scalise said.
Trump joined them on Monday with a tweet calling Tlaib’s remarks “horrible and highly insensitive.”
“She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people,” the president said.
Pelosi and Hoyer said Trump and House Republicans had taken Tlaib’s words out of context. They “should apologize to Rep. Tlaib & the American people for their gross misrepresentations,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter.
Their swift defense contrasted with the Democratic party’s internal wrangling earlier this year over whether to rebuke another Muslim lawmaker, Representative Ilhan Omar, for remarks that were also seen as anti-Semitic by some when she suggested that Israel’s supporters have an “allegiance to a foreign country”.
At that time some Democrats warned that party leaders were playing into Republicans’ hands. In the end, the Democratic-run House approved a broad resolution condemning anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and other forms of bigotry.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, on Monday called Tlaib’s comments “grossly #antiSemitic and ignorant.”
“You should take some time to learn the history before trying to rewrite it,” he said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)