Rep. Tlaib is wrong — Jews were never given 'a safe haven' in Palestine

Rep. Tlaib is wrong — Jews were never given 'a safe haven' in Palestine
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The comments by Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibIlhan Omar responds to 'Conservative Squad': 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers Biden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll MORE (D-Mich.) on a Yahoo News podcast last week about the formation of the Jewish state following the Holocaust were deeply disturbing.

Not only because of major historical inaccuracies but, even more so, because this was another blatant example of minimizing the utter evil, desolation, humiliation and systematic destruction of the Holocaust, which led to the defining phrase “Never again” and the creation of Israel.

Here is what she said, word for word, so you can judge for yourself:

“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. 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. And, I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways, but they did it in a way that took their human dignity away and it was forced on them.”

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Contrary to the congresswoman's revisionist history, Jews were never given “a safe haven” in Palestine. Most Palestinians were against the formation of the Jewish state from the outset. The Palestinian leader during the Holocaust, Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, closely collaborated with Nazi propagandists and organized thousands of troops to form Nazi-backed auxiliary military and support units to decimate Jews.

Speaking of the loss of human dignity, we need only to turn to Holocaust memoirist Primo Levi, a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp, to understand what the loss of not just dignity but also the utter loss of identity really means. As he wrote in "If This is a Man (Survival in Auschwitz)":

“Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offense, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.”

There was no moral equivalency at Auschwitz, or any of the other death camps — only survival, which Levi accomplished by his devotion to overcoming any and all obstacles. "The business of living is the best defense against death, and not only in the camps," he wrote in his novel, "The Drowned and the Saved."

Rep. Tlaib should stop superimposing the word “comfort” or “safe haven” when it comes to the plight of the Jews. She needs to learn about the Holocaust itself, by immersing herself in the accounts of Levi and other survivors.

I would suggest that she watch the 2001 film, "The Grey Zone," about the 12th Group of Sonderkommando in Auschwitz, whose job it was to assist the guards in disposing of the bodies and mining for valuables from their own Jewish brethren in the gas chambers, before they eventually would be killed themselves. But the 12th Group managed to smuggle in guns and explosives and to kill many SS guards, to destroy an entire crematorium, before they were destroyed. It is a story of great heroism in the midst of humiliation and depravation.

That’s the best message to take from the Holocaust — nothing about generating “a calming feeling,” but about a fight to the death against evil, whether you manage to survive or not.

As a physician, I often focus and rely on the human tendency to heal ourselves over time, whether with a physical wound or a painful memory; this is our nature, and doing so helps us to survive. But in this particular case, concerning the Holocaust, we must resist the tendency to "heal" over time — so that the importance and significance of this horrific time is never lost to future generations and so that we don't allow such barbarism to be repeated again.

Marc Siegel M.D. is a professor of medicine and medical director at Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health. He is a Fox News medical correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @drmarcsiegel.