Palestinian-American candidate is source of West Bank pride

A Palestinian girl offers sweets to family members of Rashida Tlaib — aunt Fadwa, center, grandmother Muftiyeh, right and uncle Bassam — as they celebrate Rashida’s US election victory, at the family house, in the West Bank village of Beit Ur Al-Foqa on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2018

Palestinian-American candidate is source of West Bank pride

  • The family’s story is typical for many Palestinians, with relatives scattered across the West Bank, Jordan and the US
  • On the campaign trail, she criticized the influence of “big money” on politics and took aim at President Donald Trump

WEST BANK: The Michigan primary victory of Rashida Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the US Congress, triggered an outpouring of joy in her ancestral village on Wednesday.

Relatives in Beit Ur Al-Foqa, where Tlaib’s mother was born, greeted the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a US administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause.
“It’s a great honor for this small town. It’s a great honor for the Palestinian people to have Rashida in the Congress,” said Mohammed Tlaib, the village’s former mayor and a distant relative. “For sure she will serve Palestine, for sure she will serve the interests of her nation. She is deeply rooted here.”
Rashida Tlaib, a former state lawmaker, defeated five other candidates to win the Democratic
nomination in her Michigan district in Tuesday’s primary. She will run unopposed, setting her up to take the spot held since 1965 by John Conyers, who stepped
down in December citing health reasons amid charges of sexual harassment.
Tlaib, 42, is the eldest of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrants in Detroit. On her website, she advocates progressive positions associated with the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, such as universal health care, a higher minimum wage, environmental protection and affordable university tuition.
As a state lawmaker, she sought to defend Detroit’s poor, taking on refineries and a billionaire trucking magnate who she accused of polluting city neighborhoods. On the campaign trail, she criticized the influence of “big money” on politics and took aim at President Donald Trump, whom she famously heckled in 2016 while he was delivering a speech in Detroit.
While noting her Palestinian heritage, her website makes no mention of her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a 2016 op-ed explaining why she disrupted then-presidential candidate Trump, she described herself as “American, parent, Muslim, Arab-American, and woman.”
In the West Bank, family members were jubilant as news of her victory came in early Wednesday. Relatives served baklawa, a sweet pastry, and grapes, figs and cactus fruits from their garden to visitors celebrating her win.
Tlaib’s uncle and aunt were speaking on an iPad with her mother, Fatima, back in Michigan.
“Thank God. Thank God,” her mother said. “This is for the Arabs and Muslims all over the world.”
She said her daughter detests Trump and that “God willing” she will defeat him and become the next US president. “She stood up to him during his campaign. God willing, she will do it again and win.”
The first visitor was Mohammed Tlaib, the former mayor, who predicted his five-year-old daughter, Juman, will grow up to be like her famous relative. “Look at her. She is beautiful, smart and strong like her. From now on, I will name her Rashida,” he said.
The family’s story is typical for many Palestinians, with relatives scattered across the West Bank, Jordan and the US. He said some 50 people from the small village have immigrated to the US and now have children in schools and universities in America. Relatives said Tlaib’s late father was from east Jerusalem.


Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

Updated 08 December 2019

Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

  • Abdallah Chatila spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler
  • He said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market

JERUSALEM: wealthy Lebanese-Swiss businessman said Sunday he had bought Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi artifacts to give them to Jewish groups and prevent them falling into the hands of a resurgent far-right.
Abdallah Chatila said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market because of the rising anti-Semitism, populism and racism he was witnessing in Europe.
He spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler, including the collapsible top hat, in a November 20 sale at a Munich auction house, originally planning to burn them all.
But he then decided to give them to the Keren Hayesod association, an Israeli fundraising group, which has resolved to hand them to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.
Chatila told a Jerusalem press conference it had been a “very easy” decision to purchase the items when he saw the “potentially lethal injustice that those artifacts would go to the wrong hands.”
“I felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause,” he added.
“What happened in the last five years in Europe showed us that anti-Semitism, that populism, that racism is going stronger and stronger, and we are here to fight it and show people we’re not scared.
“Today — with the fake news, with the media, with the power that people could have with the Internet, with social media — somebody else could use that small window” of time to manipulate the public, he said.
He said he had worried the Nazi-era artifacts could be used by neo-Nazi groups or those seeking to stoke anti-Semitism and racism in Europe.
“That’s why I felt I had to do it,” he said of his purchase.
The items, still in Munich, are to be eventually delivered to Yad Vashem, where they will be part of a collection of Nazi artifacts crucial to countering Holocaust denial, but not be put on regular display, said Avner Shalev, the institute’s director.
Chatila also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visited Yad Vashem.
Chatila was born in Beirut into a family of Christian jewellers and moved to Switzerland at the age of two.
Now among Switzerland’s richest 300 people, he supports charities and causes, including many relating to Lebanon and Syrian refugees.
The auction was brought to Chatila’s attention by the European Jewish Association, which has sought to sway public opinion against the trade in Nazi memorabilia.
Rabbi Mehachem Margolin, head of the association, said Chatila’s surprise act had raised attention to such auctions.
He said it was a powerful statement against racism and xenophobia, especially coming from a non-Jew of Lebanese origin.
Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and Lebanese people are banned from communication with Israelis.
“There is no question that a message that comes from you is 10 times, or 100 times stronger than a message that comes from us,” Margolin told Chatila.
The message was not only about solidarity among people, but also “how one person can make such a huge change,” Margolin said.
“There’s a place for optimism.”