Not a fact-check they were eager to undertake, I suspect, but Tlaib’s imagined history of kindly Palestinians inviting Jews into the Holy Land only to be shoved aside and ousted from their land was too egregious to let stand. How do you make that argument without at least trying to wrestle with the figure of Amin al-Husseini, the spiritual leader of Jerusalem’s Muslims before World War II and one of the fathers of Palestinian nationalism? David Harsanyi runs down al-Husseini’s disgraceful legacy:
Husseini not only ramped up violence in the Middle East, he directly participated in the oppression of Jews during World War II. As a guest of Hitler, he helped recruit thousands of Muslims to join a division of the Waffen-SS, who then played an active role in the destruction of Yugoslavian Jewry. In his Berlin radio speeches during the war, Husseini preached: “Kill the Jews wherever you find them—this pleases God, history and religion.” Such words would find a safe space in any Hamas lecture.
Husseini personally, with the backing of Himmler, Eichmann, and other Nazis, intervened to stop the issuing of at least 400,000 visas to Jews trying to emigrate to British Palestine. Most of those Jews ended up in concentration camps rather than the “safe harbor” of Haifa.
In 1943, after hearing that some German allies were negotiating with the International Red Cross and others to transport thousands of Jewish children to Palestine to avoid death, he lobbied to prevent the rescue, pushing to have them sent to Poland to perish. Husseini was accused of war crimes by the Nuremberg tribunal. This hardly seems like a person offering a safe haven for Jews.
Husseini was so eager to rid the region of Jews, he proposed an Arab revolt in the name of fighting them to Hitler when the two met in 1941. Hitler declined, believing that it wouldn’t succeed under conditions at the time. That is, Husseini was more eager for armed action against Jews in the Middle East than the Fuhrer was. Had the Nazis prevailed in Europe and the Soviet Union, the only question about the fate of Palestine’s Jews was whether Germany would have had to supply any manpower to exterminate them or whether local Arab populations would have volunteered to do it for them. That’s not really a hypothetical: As Aaron David Miller reminds us in the clip, Israel’s declaration of independence as a sovereign state was met with a multinational Arab effort to overrun and eliminate the fledgling country and its people. With the Nazi war machine behind them, can there be any doubt they would have succeeded? Tlaib’s plaintive question, “Why can’t we all be free and safe together?”, has a grim answer: Because Israel’s Arab neighbors never wanted it that way. And some still don’t.
The false narrative about a “safe haven” must be irresistible to a Palestinian nationalist, though, inasmuch as it suggests that Jews are present in the Holy Land ultimately only at the sufferance of Arabs. They’re guests, offered refuge by the true inhabitants of the region; they’re not true inhabitants themselves, never mind the regional roots of the Jewish people or the decades prior to World War II spent organizing a national community by Zionists in what later became Israel. They were given shelter by people to whom the land supposedly rightfully belongs and then they evicted their hosts, never mind the sporadic attempts to liquidate them wholesale. That’s the sort of thing you’re forced to believe in order to justify the so-called right of return.