by: Kate Norman
Friday, 16 August 2019 | Yesterday Israel barred entry for two US Congresswomen, both of whom are staunchly anti-Israel and strong supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement for a touring trip. In a last-minute reversal, however, the Jewish state is allowing one of the women into the nation to visit her Palestinian grandmother at the time of going to print.
Ilhan Omar—the Somali-born Democratic Representative for Minnesota—and Rashida Tlaib—the Democratic Representative for Michigan who is of Palestinian descent—were originally scheduled to arrive in Israel today for a tour that was said to focus almost exclusively on the Arab side of the conflict, with visits to Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah, including a tour of the security fence and a meeting with Palestinian youth.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement yesterday following the official decision to deny their entry, asserting that the delegation’s itinerary revealed “that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”
Representative Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent though born in Michigan, drew sympathy with a post including a picture of her grandmother who lives in Judea and Samaria, saying “The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a US Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.” In his statement, Netanyahu had given Tlaib the option of submitting a humanitarian request to visit her family, which would require the approval of the minister of the interior “on the condition that she pledges not to act to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.”
Tlaib submitted a request, which Minister Aryeh Deri approved. Her statement requested entrance into Israel to visit her relatives—specifically her grandmother, “who is in her 90s and lives in Beit Ur al-Fouqa.”
“This could be my last opportunity to see her,” Tlaib pleaded in her request. “I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”
A Channel 12 report said Tlaib will be allowed to enter without Omar. Her family visit, according to the report, will take place between August 18–24.
Omar in particular has faced criticism for anti-Semitic comments, and both Muslim Congresswomen are vocal BDS proponents. BDS critics assert that the movement is anti-Semitism relabeled as anti-Zionism and an attempt to undermine the Jewish state.
There was much debate as to whether Israeli officials should and would ban entry for the Democratic duo. The Jewish state utilized a 2017 anti-boycott law that enables it to ban anyone from entering the state who has supported boycotting it. Netanyahu pointed out that Israel is “open to critics and criticism” but that it played its anti-boycott card “as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country.”
The Israeli prime minister also noted that the Congresswomen listed the trip’s destination as Palestine instead of Israel and did not request to meet any Israeli officials. Tlaib’s invitation to her colleagues in May called the trip a “Congressional Delegation to Occupied Territories in Palestine.”
The decision to bar their entry came following much back-and-forth debate. Israel was caught between a rock and a hard place: whether to allow two anti-Israel activists seeking to delegitimize the nation or bar their entry, drawing criticism and potentially offending their ally nation.
President Trump showed in his statements that Israel would be in no danger of harming its relations with Washington should it ban the Congresswomen’s entry.
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit,” the president wrote on Twitter. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also released a statement defending the Jewish state’s decision. He called the trip an effort “to fuel the BDS engine that Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar so vigorously support” and noted that the BDS movement “is not free speech. Rather, it is no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish state.”
Nonetheless, the decision has been a lightning rod for Israel critics who are seizing the opportunity to cry out that the Jewish state barred the representatives’ entry in order to hide the conditions of the Israeli occupation. Twitter is flooded with critics claiming that Israel has something to hide, and the hashtag #LetThemIn is spreading across the platform.
Both Tlaib and Omar have used the ban as fodder for their agendas. Omar released a statement calling the decision “an affront” and a “chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation.”
“Denying entry into Israel not only limits our ability to learn from Israelis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories,” her statement reads.
Twitter user Elder of Ziyon pointed out that their visit would not have resulted in learning from the Israelis, given which organization they chose to be their tour guides for the trip. Miftah, which has been criticized as a strongly anti-Semitic organization, has a dark history of spreading blood libel, claiming in an Arabic article that Jews “had Passover blood rituals and used the blood of Christians for matzah on Passover.” The organization, according to the anonymous Twitter user, also praised female suicide bombers on its website, questioned the existence of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and posted several neo-Nazi and anti-peace articles.
A similar congressional trip took place in 2016 that resulted in one of the Democratic representatives referring to Jewish “settlers” in Judea and Samaria as “termites” in a speech to a pro-BDS group a few months after the trip.
Though Omar and Tlaib are both hardline left-wingers, support for Israel has proven to be a bipartisan issue in American politics. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) posted yesterday that it hosted a delegation of 41 Democratic and 31 Republican members of Congress.
“This bipartisan support strengthens the bond between [Israel] and [the United States]—a bond that is unbreakable.”
The US House of Representatives passed a resolution in July condemning the BDS movement with an overwhelming majority of 398–17. Omar and Tlaib were among the 17 who voted against the resolution, with Tlaib condemning it as “unconstitutional.”
Nonetheless, the CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel called the passing of the resolution with flying colors “a stunning show of bipartisan opposition to BDS and support for Israel.”
Posted on August 16, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 16, 2019)
Photo Credit: PBS NewsHour/YouTube/screenshot
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