Rashida Tlaib Says Critics of Her Holocaust 'Calming Feeling' Comment Are Twisting Her Words to 'Ignite Vile Attacks on Me'

Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib pushed back against Republican accusations of anti-Semitism following controversial comments she made about the Holocaust during a podcast interview.

Speaking on Yahoo News' Skullduggery podcast released on May 11, the Michigan congresswoman discussed the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and noted the violence against and dispossession of Palestinians that accompanied its founding.

Her comments were called anti-Semitic by House Republicans, The Washington Post reported, who took issue with Tlaib saying she experienced a "calming feeling" when thinking about the Holocaust. Tlaib later responded by accusing Republicans of twisting her words.

Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, said she was "humbled by the fact that it was my ancestors that had to suffer" for the creation of a refuge for the Jewish people. Tlaib said she experienced "a kind of a calming feeling…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."

The exodus of some 700,000 Palestinians who left or were forced to flee their homes when Israel was founded in May 1948 is known by Palestinians as the Nakba, meaning "catastrophe." As hundreds of thousands fled, Israeli authorities oversaw the destruction of Palesitnian homes and villages to discourage their return.

Palestinians still call on Israel to acknowledge their right to return to the ancestral lands they lost in 1948. But Israel has consistently refused, in violation of the 1948 United Nations Resolution 194 which resolved that refugees wishing to return to their homes be allowed to do so.

Tlaib told Yahoo News: "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. I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that [safe haven] in many ways."

However, she noted, "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 [a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], I think about the fact that why couldn't we do it in a better way?"

Republicans were quick to denounce Tlaib's comments. Among them was Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, who on Sunday was the first to attack her Democratic colleague, branding Tlaib's remarks "sickening," according to the Post.

"I call on Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Leader [Steny] Hoyer to finally take action against Representative Tlaib and other members of the Democratic caucus who are spreading vile anti-Semitism," Cheney said. "All of us, regardless of party, must stand as Americans against the evil of anti-Semitism. If the Democratic leadership continues to stand by in silence, they are enabling the spread of evil."

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said there was "no justification for the twisted and disgusting comments made by Rashida Tlaib just days after the annual day of Holocaust remembrance," adding there was "nothing 'calming'" about the World War II–era genocide which killed at least 6 million Jews.

Tlaib dismissed the criticism on Twitter on May 12. "Policing my words, twisting & turning them to ignite vile attacks on me will not work," she wrote. "All of you who are trying to silence me will fail miserably. I will never allow you to take my words out of context to push your racist and hateful agenda. The truth will always win."

Rashida Tlaib anti-Semitism holocaust
Rashida Tlaib is pictured speaking at an event calling for impeachment of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on May 9, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images