History tells us that antisemitism is too grave a threat to ignore or politicize. But The Washington Post, it seems, is in need of a history lesson. Unfortunately, the newspaper has relied on U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to provide one.
Tlaib, a freshman member of Congress who is on record as saying that the Jewish nation of Israel shouldn’t exist, gave an interview on Yahoo’s ‘Skullduggery’ podcast in which 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.”
Tlaib’s comments drew criticism from policymakers and historians who noted that they were ahistorical and offensive. Even CNN noted their inaccuracy. But from The Washington Post, Tlaib’s comments drew approval and obfuscation.
Post columnist Richard Cohen claimed that what Tlaib “said about the Holocaust was hardly offensive. Heard without prejudice, it was oddly moving.” The title of that column, “Republicans stop using the Holocaust to score cheap political points,” offers a clue as to how the venerable newspaper chose to cover Tlaib’s remarks.
Indeed, within a week after the podcast was released on May 10, 2019, The Washington Post published no fewer than five articles and analyses—all of which chose to report the reaction from Republican lawmakers, but not to examine the accuracy of her comments.
Tlaib’s comments were historically inaccurate and were, in fact, a complete inversion of the truth. Less diplomatically: they were lies. And in their rush to her defense, The Post—in five articles and nearly four thousand words—failed to report the truth.
Palestinians did not provide a “safe haven” to Jews fleeing the Holocaust, as Tlaib asserted. Rather, the precise opposite occurred: they murdered them. And there is a mountainous body of scholarship and evidence to prove it.
In fact, chief Arab leaders in British-ruled Mandate Palestine opposed any and all immigration of European Jews in the years before, during and after the Holocaust. Their opposition—often violent in nature and including the so-called Arab Revolt of 1936-39—led the British authorities to issue the so-called White Paper of 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration at precisely the moment that the genocide of European Jewry was gathering steam. Palestinian opposition to immigration doomed countless Jews.
As the historian Benny Morris noted in Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001, the Arab Higher Committee of Mandate Palestine “was dissatisfied mainly because the White Paper failed to call an immediate halt to Jewish immigration…most Palestinians appeared to favor the paper.”
“The White Paper was the main accomplishment of the [Arab] rebellion,” Morris observed. It was a “grave shock to the Jews, Britain had turned its back on the idea of a National Home and had surrendered to Arab violence and intimidation at a time when European Jewry was being persecuted and battered.”
Indeed, many prominent Arab leaders living in Mandate Palestine opposed the White Paper—which severely curtailed immigration constituting a revocation of the Balfour Declaration—because it allowed any Jewish immigration at all. Leaders like Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, wanted zero immigration from Jews.
In their 2008 biography of al-Husseini, scholars David Dalin and John Rothmann highlighted that “in his testimony before the Peel Commission on January 12, 1937, as chief witness for the Palestinian Arab community, Haj Amin al-Husseini reiterated his long standing demand for the cessation of all Jewish immigration to Palestine and called for the removal of 80 percent of the Jews already in the country (four hundred thousand), to bring their total number back to the level that prevailed prior to World War I.”
In other words, per his own testimony, the chief witness for the Palestinian Arab community asserted that Palestinians didn’t just oppose letting European Jewry in—they sought to deport those already there.
And what is more: Palestinian Arab leadership under al-Husseini actively collaborated with the Nazi regime. Al-Husseini himself broadcast pro-Nazi propaganda, toured death camps so he could replicate them, was pen pals with SS head Heinrich Himmler and helped raise SS regiments in the Balkans.
Al-Husseini partnered with Nazi Germany for many reasons—including his desire to “terminate Jewish immigration to [Mandate] Palestine,” Dalin and Rothmann observe. But it went beyond that, as well.
As al-Husseini wrote in his memoirs: “Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler [in a Nov. 28, 1941 meeting] for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: ‘The Jews are yours.’”
Nor did Palestinian Arabs “give up their land” to Holocaust survivors, as The Post parrots. In fact, as the journalist Liel Liebovitz pointed out in Tablet Magazine, 433 Holocaust survivors were murdered by Palestinians a mere three years after the Shoah. And that land—which previously belonged to the corpse of the Ottoman Empire—had, under international law, already been set aside for “Jewish settlement” and for a “Jewish homeland” long before Hitler came to power.
Suffice to say: this hardly jives with Tlaib’s revisionist history, uncritically regurgitated by The Post. As Benny Morris concluded in The Atlantic, “The historical reality was quite different from what Tlaib described: The Palestinians indirectly, and in some ways directly, aided in the destruction of European Jewry.”
The Washington Post has previously warned about the spread of “fake news” and worried that we might be living in a “post-truth era.” If so, few epitomize this epoch more than The Post. And few are so blatantly politicizing antisemitism when it emanates from the left; eschewing facts in favor of scoring political points—precisely the charge that they level at Tlaib’s critics.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as a JNS Op-Ed on May 21, 2019)