Washington: US President Donald Trump on Monday entered the swirling debate over a US Congresswoman's comments regarding the Holocaust that Republicans have condemned as anti-Semitic.
The uproar began last week when Rashida Tlaib, a freshman congresswoman in the House of Representatives whose parents are Palestinian immigrants, said in an interview that she finds "a kind of calming feeling" in the fact that Palestinians were involved in creating "a safe haven for Jews".
"There's a 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," she told Yahoo's "Skullduggery" podcast on Friday.
"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," she said, adding, "I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that."
Trump laid in to Tlaib, saying the congresswoman "obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. "Can you imagine what would happen if I ever said what she said, and says?"
Top House Republican Liz Cheney also seized on the remarks, saying they represented "vile anti-Semitism" and called on the House's Democratic leadership to take action.
"This must cross the line, even for them," she tweeted.
Tlaib said on Twitter her remarks were taken out of context and that "All of you who are trying to silence me will fail miserably." She was backed up by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who said "Republicans' desperate attempts to smear (Tlaib) & misrepresent her comments are outrageous", adding that Trump and Republicans needed to apologise.
Yair Rosenberg, a writer for the online Jewish magazine Tablet, said Tlaib's comments were historically inaccurate but not anti-Semitic.
"Tlaib said she got a 'calming feeling' NOT about the Holocaust, but about how Palestinians gave refuge to Jews from it. This is ahistorical," he wrote on Twitter, "but it isn't anti-Semitic". Bend The Arc, a progressive Jewish association, also defended the congresswoman.
"The attacks on Rashida Tlaib are vile & baseless. She did not minimize the tragedy of the Holocaust," the group tweeted. "Shame on GOP leadership for weaponizing antisemitism & Jewish trauma to attack progressive leaders of colour and push Islamophobia."
Similar accusations of anti-Semitism were levelled against Ilhan Omar, who after Tlaib is the only other Muslim in Congress, after she said earlier this year that American support for Israel was driven by money from a pro-Israel lobbying group.