Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Tlaib, Democrats’ silence and why the Deal of the Century should be a referendum

Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib poses with the pro-Hezbollah, pro-Hamas 'right of return' activist Abbas Hamideh on Saturday, January 12, 2019. (Twitter)
Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib poses with the pro-Hezbollah, pro-Hamas 'right of return' activist Abbas Hamideh on Saturday, January 12, 2019. (Twitter)

This week, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was interviewed for the podcast Skullduggery (start at about minute 27:00). Her comment, “‘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.” She continued to explain why it made her feel calm. “And, 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.” (Italics mine.)

This distortion of history did not go unnoticed. The Jerusalem Post recounted quite factually how the opposite was the case. The “Palestinian Arab revolt in British Mandate Palestine led to restrictions on Jewish immigration,” it noted. The British made it difficult and Arab extremists silenced any moderate voices. Britain’s Daily Mail was a more detailed read, citing journalist Seth Mandel among others, who tweeted, “Re: Tlaib’s revisionism, spent Shabbos reading a book on the era that’s *entirely* from the Palestinian perspective, and by the mid-1930s the consensus priority was stopping Jews fleeing Europe to Palestine…”

A quick search of Google News points to condemnation coming only from Jewish and Republican sources. As also reported in the Daily Mail article, the Congresswoman reacted to backlash by accusing people of policing her words and turning them against her to further a “racist and hateful agenda.” But her words are her words. Listen to the podcast. Nothing about the Holocaust should calm her, certainly not the role Arabs in British Mandate Palestine played.

I find this troubling on a number of levels. In revising history to suit an agenda, the Congresswoman is adding fuel to the fire. In just throwing it back at the right, she is deflecting how hateful and vile her own words are. And in the Democrats’ silence, the party itself is condoning this growing division.

The interviewer asked Tlaib about how she can advocate for a one state solution when the PA supports two and Hamas one; he asked how she distinguishes her solution from Hamas? Her answer about not coming from a place of hate, but one of love, did not answer the question. And so the interviewer tried to approach from another direction. Extremists on both sides, he said, want a one state solution by expelling others. He asked her if that is what she supports. Again, she did not provide an answer that describes how she sees a one state solution actually working with the parties involved, but chose to blame Netanyahu for removing the option of a two state solution from the horizon. Not a peep about how PA and Hamas also put up roadblocks towards a future. Just as hope is not a strategy, neither is wishing for a happily-ever-after ending because love is the answer.

Nor can Israel unilaterally say “Poof, you are a state.” They stepped out of Gaza, with high hopes of cooperation. Hamas moved in and we know how that has worked out. Who would rule any new state? Who will ensure they don’t use their weapons against Israel?

Peaceful coexistence can only happen through negotiations and with both sides’ concerns addressed. For Palestinians, it is land ownership and freedom of movement and to be the masters of their own destiny. For Israel, it is security and security and security. And who can blame them? This past week, Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, commemorated 23,741 and 3,150 lives lost, respectively, the founding of the state. Every family has been touched by loss. Every family knows what it is like to be the target of deadly hate. No one wants to live like this.

As I’ve written in the past, one can want justice for Palestinians and be critical of their leadership. One can want justice for Palestinians and not hold only Israel responsible for the future. But too many of those who purport to be pro-Palestinian are using this stance to only mask an anti-Israel hate. Tlaib is contributing to this. And the silence of the Democrats is only encouraging this ugliness even more. There is nothing stopping anyone from saying, “Yes, we need to work towards a future for Palestinians, but we cannot do it by promoting misinformation, simplistic non-solutions, and hate towards Israel.”

I think this is one reason that more attention, and not less, needs to be paid to the leaked United States-proposed Deal of the Century (original leak in Hebrew), especially in the absence of any other promising ways out of the status quo. The PA says it will not look at anything that comes from Trump, and that is a pity. Even if it is rejected, both sides would be short-sighted not to use it as a stepping stone back to the table.

The argument between the two parties is mostly over land and over recognizing each side’s claim to it. Both sides have a leadership which is an impediment to ever changing the status quo. We should all recognize that the current situation is neither sustainable nor desirable. It is morally wrong for Israel to continue to deprive a people of a future. Many Israelis do want peace. They do not want to be ruling over another people.

That fact does not negate the simultaneous fact that Palestinian leadership is corrupt and doesn’t act in the interest of its people. In a story published by the Jerusalem Post about a documentary on the major cause of Palestinian suffering, it cites a “a study by AMAN – a chapter of Transparency International co-founded by Jordan – [which] shows that, according to several surveys of the Palestinian population, the corruption of their leaders is the second most popular cause of their misery. According to the same surveys, the first cause would be the inability of these same leaders to create a strong economy. The Israeli occupation comes in third place.” Other polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research measure the ups and downs of Fatah and Hamas’ popularity and of the other issues on people’s minds.

The deal itself, if the leak is correct, hinges more on economics than anything else, and interestingly involves a number of other countries. Palestinians want a strong economy, they want to be able to earn a living and support their own future. This is why I think it ought to go to referendum. Bypass both sides’ the leaderships and ask the people what they want. Let the people decide. If they reject it, then let both governments use it as a starting point in new negotiations. Because otherwise, they may never get back to the table.

If it were up to me, I’d fashion part of the deal to bypass both governments and make it a referendum for both Palestinians and Israelis. I would say:

“Here is a proposal that a number of countries have worked on together. Read it carefully and think about your family’s present and future.

  1. Do you support it as is? Do keep in mind two things. (a) There have been no other negotiations in over five years and there are no other opportunities for negotiations on the horizon. (b) This status quo is unsustainable and your leadership is not doing anything that will change it in a positive direction.
  2. Even if you are not in 100% agreement with it, would you support it as a starting point for getting back to the table and negotiating further?”


About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Lawn Guyland, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta since returning to the U.S. in 2003. Recently remarried, this Ashkenazi mom of three Mizrahi sons, 26, 23 and 19, splits her time between managing knowledge in corporate America, pursuing a dual masters in public administration and integrated global communications, blogging, relentlessly Facebooking, once-in-a-while veejaying, enjoying the arts and digging out of the post-move carton chaos of her and her husband's melded household.
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