Freshman congresswoman Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) most recent foray into the news cycle is not simply a vile twisting of history; it is also a mechanism designed to generate conflict. It is an in-your-face reconstruction of a false history in which Palestinians purportedly saved Jewish lives in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
Responding to these distortions with fact is only half the battle, for Tlaib must know that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was the guest of Adolf Hitler in Berlin during World War II. It is also well known that the Mufti recruited three divisions of Bosnian Muslims for the dreaded Waffen SS, sought to defeat the British in Mandate Palestine, and to transmit Hitler’s "final solution" upon the Jews of the Middle East.
The Mufti was so popular that the British were incapable of bringing him to justice after the war for fear of creating unending civil unrest throughout the Muslim world.
Arabs possessed an affinity not just for Nazi anti-Semitism, but also for Nazi political doctrine. Ba’ath socialism, which became the dominant secular ideology in both Iraq and Syria, finds its roots and aspirations in Hitler’s National Socialism. Egyptian strongman and icon Gamal Abdel Nasser was a strong admirer of Hitler — as was the young Anwar Sadat.
Pogroms against Jews in Mandate Palestine did take place, and the Mufti himself organized the infamous Farhud (Arabic for violent dispossession) against the Jews of Baghdad in 1941. After World War II, the Jordanian Arab Legion ethnically cleansed the Jews living in eastern Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria.
Tlaib knows that Jews in Judea and Samaria and Hebron are returning to the land from which they were illegally dispossessed and to the soil from which they were previously massacred. As I write this on May 13, 2019, it is the date of the Arab massacre of the Kfar Etzion village. On this date in 1948, Kfar Etzion was overrun by the Arab Legion. The Jews who surrendered were murdered.
Tlaib’s template is to say something outrageous, generate a lot of publicity, engender more exposure through responses, and then turn the tables by making the issue about the responses.
She keeps doing it because it works.
In propaganda, the first concern is for whom the message is intended. If the audience is the pious base, it is immaterial that the message is a factual distortion. The base’s narrative needs to be reaffirmed.
Tlaib is not just sending a message; she is creating theater. The subsequent responses and her ensuing outrage are part of the script. This is the propaganda of the deed.
To respond, it is neither necessary to engage in similar historical distortions nor sufficient to rely simply on facts. Instead, it is necessary to engage in outrageous truths that are often too controversial to reach the public forum in significant ways.
For example, the anti-Zionists have campaigned on historical distortions such as "Zionism is Nazism." Yet, the political affinity of the Arab world for Nazism, and its reverence for both Hitler and the "final solution" seldom is part of the debate. The reality is that Arab nationalism, not Zionism, is partially rooted in Nazism — even going back to the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood itself.
Anti-Zionists assert that Zionism is apartheid. But the reality is that no Jew is permitted to become a citizen of or own property in Jordan, and the punishment for Palestinian-Arabs selling land to Jews is death. No church or synagogue is permitted in Saudi Arabia, but Islam flourishes in Israel. When Hitler passed the racist Nuremberg Laws, he received congratulations from various corners of the Arab world.
"First the Saturday people and then the Sunday people" is the refrain heard among some triumphalist Islamists. The Saturday people, 850,000 of them, were ethnically cleansed from Arab and Muslim lands decades ago. Now, a militant brand of Islam cleanses the Christians from the Middle East, and in Africa, Islamic fundamentalists slaughter Christians.
These aspects need to be an aggressive part of the debate.
The best way to counter the outrage of distortion is with outrageous truths. The distortions are routinely propagated. The truth needs to be more aggressively told!
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.