Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib Reuters

Arthur Stark, Chairman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, on Tuesday expressed concerns over remarks by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) on Israel and the Holocaust.

Tlaib, one of two Muslim women who were recently elected to Congress, came under fire after she claimed in an interview that Palestinian Arabs living in the British Mandate prior to the establishment of the State of Israel “provided” a safe haven to Jews after the Holocaust.

“We are once again highly concerned by remarks made by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, in which she engaged in historical revisionism and distortion,” Stark and Hoenlein said in a statement.

“Rep. Tlaib stated that, ‘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.’”

“As tens of thousands of Jews in Germany sought refuge from the infamous Nuremberg Laws and Nazi persecutions, including after the November 9th, 1938, Kristallnacht pogroms, Arab militias and mobs in Mandatory Palestine were attacking Jewish settlements and farms and killing Jewish residents,” the Jewish leaders noted.

“The 1939 White Paper, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine at the very moment when escape from Europe became an existential priority, was instituted to placate the Mandate’s Arab population, and led to the trapping of millions of Jews in Hitler’s Europe. Furthermore, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a key leader of the Arab population in Palestine, supported and collaborated with Hitler and assisted in recruiting Bosnian Muslims for the Waffen-SS. The Arabs in Palestine during the Holocaust did not provide a safe haven for Jews, in fact they sided with the Axis powers. According to many experts, they expecting that the eventual arrival of the Nazis and their allies would eliminate the Jewish presence.”

“The authenticity of history is vital, not only in ensuring a proper understanding of the past, as it provides guidance to the future,” concluded Stark and Hoenlein.

Many Republicans condemned Tlaib’s remarks, including President Donald Trump who accused her of anti-Semitism on Monday.

Later on Monday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) came to Tlaib’s defense and asserted that the Republicans were twisting her words in criticizing them as anti-Semitic.

"If you read Rep. Tlaib’s comments, it is clear that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are taking them out of context," Hoyer said in a brief email. "They must stop, and they owe her an apology."

Similarly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Trump and the Republicans to apologize to Tlaib, asserting they “misrepresented” her comments.

Tlaib herself hit back at her critics Monday, claiming that her comments had been “twisted” in an effort to push a “racist and hateful agenda”.