Here’s the article I wish I were writing today: the daughter of Palestinian immigrants is elected to the United States Congress, shining a light on the significance of Palestinian people everywhere. She returns to the West Bank to visit her elderly grandmother and to inspire the Palestinians with her example of hard work and success.
But here’s the narrative I am required by the facts to write instead.
The story behind the story
Rashida Tlaib serves in the US House of Representatives from Michigan’s Thirteenth District. Before her election to Congress, she was the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature.
Rep. Tlaib has been extremely critical of Israel. She has called for an end to US aid to Israel and expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions program. This a Palestinian-led campaign promoting boycotts against Israel, the divesting of investments in the State of Israel, and sanctions against the Israeli government.
After dozens of lawmakers participated in a congressional delegation to Israel, Rep. Tlaib and her colleague and fellow Muslim, Rep. Ilhan Omar, decided to make their own trip. It was planned by Miftah, a group the Washington Post and the New York Times described as headed by a longtime peace negotiator and working to promote global awareness and knowledge of Palestinian realities.
However, as David French notes in the National Review, Miftah is actually an anti-Semitic organization that frequently produces vitriolic, hateful rhetoric. For instance, it published a neo-Nazi treatise condemning “the Jew-controlled entertainment media” and claiming that “to permit the Jews, with their 3,000-year history of nation-wrecking . . . to hold such power over us is tantamount to race suicide.”
Miftah honored two female suicide bombers and celebrated a woman who helped murder thirteen Israeli children during a 1978 military operation. And it has questioned whether Israel is a proper homeland for the Jewish people.
Conditions and cartoons
Rep. Tlaib announced her desire to visit her elderly grandmother in the West Bank, but the Israeli government, mindful of her repeated criticisms of their country and policies, denied her entry.
The next day, Israeli authorities stated that the congresswoman could enter if she refrained from criticizing their country. She agreed, then changed her position, claiming that she could not make the trip under “these oppressive conditions.” She said of her grandmother, “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me.”
Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Omar, who was also barred for the same reasons from entering Israel, have also posted two cartoons by an artist who participated in Iran’s annual Holocaust cartoon contest in 2006. The artist has often compared Israel to the Nazi regime.
“A shocking spike in anti-Semitism”
This controversy comes at a dangerous time for the Jewish people.
The Sunday Times recently profiled a number of Jews who moved from the UK to Israel because of rising anti-Semitism at home. A new report says anti-Semitic incidents in Britain have spiked to their highest level since records began in 1984.
A Jewish cemetery in Bordeaux, France, was vandalized last May. A recent survey found that 89 percent of Jews living in Europe feel anti-Semitism has increased in their country over the last decade. Another report found that anti-Semitic acts in France increased in 2018 by more than 70 percent compared to the previous year.
Closer to home, a man who allegedly threatened to carry out a shooting at a Jewish community center in Ohio has been arrested. A recent survey found that one in five Americans (and 30 percent of young adults) do not believe that the Nazi regime exterminated six million Jews during the Holocaust.
The Hudson Institute warns that “America is facing a shocking spike in anti-Semitism and, in addition to traditional sources on the extreme right, this time it includes left-wing progressives and Islamists.”
Whatever we think of Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians (or any other political issue), we must be careful to stand diligently and passionately against hatred of the Jewish people.
Anti-Semitism is one part racial discrimination, a sin in which people who feel inferior to others can pretend to be superior on the basis of their ethnicity or skin color. And it is one part jealousy and resentment: as people of the Book, the Jews have always been highly literate and have proven themselves successful in nearly every vocation on earth. (Jews constitute 2.1 percent of the American population, but they have received 37 percent of all US Nobel Prizes.)
Anti-Semitism grieves the heart of the One who said to the Jewish people, “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). And who says to the rest of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, Palestinians or Americans, “He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10 NLT).
“People need to see Auschwitz”
Whatever people have done, they can still do. What happened to six million Jews in the Holocaust can happen to Jews today.
That’s why we must “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” asking that “peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” (Psalm 122:6–7). And it’s why we must never forget the past, lest it become the future.
The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum recently responded to the global rise of anti-Semitism: “People need to see Auschwitz. People need to come not only to cry over all of the victims . . . but maybe to feel their own responsibility today.”
Do you feel your responsibility today?