Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

US Democratic leaders back Muslim lawmaker after Holocaust comments

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump should apologise to Rashida Tlaib

Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib was accused of anti-Semitism after her comments on the Holocaust. AFP
Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib was accused of anti-Semitism after her comments on the Holocaust. AFP

US Democratic leaders rallied behind a Muslim Congresswoman on Monday after President Donald Trump and other Republicans attacked her about comments on the Holocaust and Palestinians.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer both said Mr Trump and other Republicans should apologise to 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, Ms 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."

Congressional Republicans attacked Ms Tlaib at the weekend, with House Republican Whip Steve Scalise labelling her comments anti-Semitic. "More than six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust; there is nothing 'calming' about that fact," Mr Scalise said.

Mr 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.

Ms Pelosi and Mr Hoyer said Mr Trump and House Republicans had taken Ms Tlaib's words out of context. They should "apologise to Rep. Tlaib & the American people for their gross misrepresentations," Ms Pelosi tweeted.

Their swift defence contrasted with the Democratic party's internal wrangling earlier this year over whether to rebuke another Muslim Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, for remarks that were also regarded 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 UN, Danny Danon, on Monday called Ms Tlaib's comments "grossly anti-Semitic and ignorant".

"You should take some time to learn the history before trying to rewrite it," he tweeted.

Updated: May 14, 2019 04:07 PM