Is Rashida Tlaib nuts?

Lots of attention has been paid to two newly-elected Democratic members of the US House of Representatives — Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — who are the first Muslim women to join that body. They have not been shrinking violets.

Just hours after taking the official oath, Rep. Tlaib promised a whooping crowd that: “We’re going to impeach the motherf****r!” No need to identify the particular motherf****r in question; you can guess. And Rep. Omar stirred plenty of controversy when she said that, if you want to know why American politicians support Israel, all you have to do is “follow the Benjamins.”  Those “Benjamins” are, of course, the portraits of B. Franklin on the 100-dollar bill.

Now, Rep. Tlaib is again in the news. In the course of a podcast interview that was broadcast by Yahoo! News on Friday, May 10th, she was asked to explain her view that the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians should be resolved by replacing Israel with a single, bi-national state. Tlaib, who is herself a Palestinian-American with relatives living in the disputed territories, referred to Holocaust Remembrance Day and (at 28:20 in the interview) said:

There’s a 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, had been wiped out.  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 horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time.  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 one-state, I think about the fact that, why couldn’t we do it in a better way?

Pres. Trump, among others, responded by asserting that Tlaib’s remarks evidenced “tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.” I disagree. Nothing in her interview is explicitly hateful. She does want to see Israel disappear as the nation-state of the Jewish people, but those who argue in favor of a bi-national state do not necessarily do so out of hatred for Israel or Jews.

Thus, the question that most clearly arises out of Tlaib’s recent interview is not whether she has tremendous hatred for Israel and/or Jews.  Rather, the question is whether she is at all in touch with reality, or is she living in some kind of fantasy world? Simply put: is Rashida Tlaib nuts?

She believes Palestinians “provided” the opportunity “to create a safe haven for Jews,” resulting in the creation of modern Israel. Yet, although the Palestinians “provided” that opportunity, “it was forced on them.” How one group can be credited with or praised for having provided another group a valuable opportunity, when the former group was forced to provide that opportunity, is beyond me. Maybe that notion makes sense in Arabic, but in English it’s a puzzler.

What is even more of a puzzler is Tlaib’s understanding of the history of the creation of modern Israel. On her account, one would believe that there was no Zionist movement until after the Holocaust, that no one had ever thought of reestablishing Israel in mandatory Palestine until the end of World War II. She also apparently knows nothing about the meeting in 1941 between the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Adolph Hitler, when the Grand Mufti assured Hitler that the Jews were the common enemy of Arabs and Germany, and urged him to prevent the establishment of a national homeland for Jews in Palestine.

Even more astounding, Tlaib seems to think that Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians, actually cooperated with Jews in creating Israel.  She seems not to know that, when Israel declared its independence in 1948, all of its Arab neighbors attacked the infant state. As far as I know, no Arabs — whether identified as Palestinians or any other group or tribe — assisted Jews in their battle for Israel’s independence. Nevertheless, the ideas she has about the creation of Israel, and the role Palestinians supposedly played in facilitating that creation, somehow cause Tlaib to experience “a calming feeling” when she thinks about the Holocaust.

It will be obvious to any knowledgeable, fair-minded person that Tlaib has a completely distorted understanding of Israel’s history and of the role her Palestinian ancestors played in that history.  Only someone who is disconnected from reality would think that Palestinians or any other Arabs sought to provide a safe haven for Jews.  Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution recites: “No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”  Thus, there is no requirement that a Representative be firmly in touch with reality.  Rep. Tlaib should be thankful for that omission.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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