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Geraldo Rivera — of all people — defends Rep. Tlaib over Holocaust comments

Democratic congresswoman’s original comments have been taken out of context ‘in a grotesque way,’ Republican Fox News commentator says

Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera defended comments about the Israel-Palestine conflict made by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera defended comments about the Israel-Palestine conflict made by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Fox News correspondent and liberal  commentator Geraldo Rivera on Tuesday flew to the defense of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who said on a podcast aired last week that the notion of Palestinians providing a haven for Holocaust victims after World War II has a “calming effect” for her.

Rivera, the prominent talk show host, echoed the Michigan Democratic freshman’s assertions that she has been taken out of context by people eager to unfairly smear her as an anti-Semite.

On a panel with Fox News contributor Dan Bongino hosted by Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Rivera argued that Tlaib’s original comments have been twisted “in a grotesque way” that is “extremely unfair” by Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits.

While the congresswoman articulated her thoughts about the Israel-Palestine conflict in an “unartful way,” Rivera said, “there’s no way you can read her remarks on the ‘calming effect’… as being related to her feelings about the Holocaust.”

“It is an obscenity to try to make that argument,” he said.

“She was not suggesting that you know, the killing of the Jews was something that calmed her. She was saying the fact that the Palestinians suffered so much and gave up so much but at least the Jews had a homeland to go to in the wake of the horrible destruction committed by the Nazis,” Rivera said.

Tlaib has spent a portion of her week defending her answer to a question on Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast aired last Friday about a one-state solution for Israel and Palestine. In an apparent effort to sketch out the history of the Israeli state’s founding after World War II, Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, described how the Holocaust played a defining role.

“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,” Tlaib said.

“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,” she said. “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 a one-state, I think about the fact that, why couldn’t we do it in a better way?”

Tlaib stressed that she wanted a place for both Jews and Palestinians to feel safe and free, but that under the current political dynamic that is not the case.

“I want a safe haven for Jews. Who doesn’t want to be safe?” Tlaib said. “I am humbled by the fact that it was my ancestors that had to suffer for that to happen, but I will not turn my back and allow others to hijack it and say that it’s some extremist approach because they’re coming from a place of… whatever it is… of division, inequality.”

GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana both criticized Tlaib for her comments, with Cheney asking Democratic House leaders to “take action” to censure her.

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, joined with congressional Republicans and conservative pundits to condemn Tlaib’s remarks.

Danon accused Tlaib of revising the history of the founding of Israel after the World War II and making insensitive remarks.

“.⁦‪@RashidaTlaib⁩, your words are both grossly#antiSemitic and ignorant,” the ambassador tweeted. “You should take some time to learn the history before trying to rewrite it.”

In a statement Sunday, Tlaib spokesman Denzel McCampbell blamed Republicans for intentionally misconstruing his boss’s comments and drumming up undeserved hostility toward her.

“Once again, Republican leaders and right-wing extremists are spreading outright lies to incite hate,” McCampbell said.

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