United States congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have called Israel’s decision to bar them from entering the country ahead of a planned visit to the occupied West Bank a sign of weakness and an insult to democratic values.
Tlaib, a 43-year-old Democrat of Palestinian heritage, reacted to the decision by posting a picture on Twitter of her grandmother who lives in the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, accompanied with the message:
I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a US Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness because the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.
For her part, Omar called Israel’s decision chilling, adding, however, that it came as no surprise given the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of US President Donald Trump who earlier on Thursday had called Israel to not let his two compatriots and congresswomen in.
It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the US government. Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress, Omar said, referring to the president’s efforts to prevent people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
Sadly, this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump had attacked the congresswomen, alleging that they hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.
It would show great weakness for Israel to allow them in, he wrote on Twitter, renewing his attacks against the two Democrat politicians.
Last month, the Republican president had again targeted Omar, Tlaib and two other Democratic congresswomen of color with racist attacks, saying the four politicians should go back to where they came from.
In response, a defiant Omar said she believed Trump was fascist.
In justifying the Israeli government’s decision, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said the decision to not allow Tlaib and Omar to enter was taken because of their boycott activities against Israel.
Tlaib and Omar have voiced support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to use non-violent means to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, dismantle the separation wall, ensure equality for its Palestinian citizens and implement the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the move in a statement, saying she was deeply saddened.
Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel. The President’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.
Echoing Pelosi, US Senator Bernie Sanders said in a tweet:
Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy.
The Israeli government should reverse this decision and allow them in, he added.
US ambassador to Israel David Friedman supported Tel Aviv’s decision in a statement, saying that the Israel properly has enacted laws to bar entry of BDS activists [and that it] has every right to protect its borders against those activists in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons, he said, adding that the planned visit is nothing more than an effort to fuel the BDS engine.
Source: Palestine Chronicle