Move slammed as ‘affront to the American people’ and’ assault on Palestinians’ right ‘to reach out to decision-makers’.
Israel has decided to bar United Statescongresswomen Congress Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country ahead of a planned trip to the occupied West Bank, in a move that came shortly after US President Donald Trump tweeted it would “show great weakness” to allow them in.
Trump’s pressure forced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to choose between appeasing a U.S. president who has been a strong political supporter and potentially alienating Congress, where Israeli policy for decades had been to avoid taking partisan sides. Netanyahu’s quick decision to side with Trump suggested it was not a difficult decision.
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri issued a statement saying that after consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials, he decided not to allow Tlaib and Omar to enter because of “their boycott activities against Israel”.
Under Israeli law, backers of the BDS movement, a pro-Palestinian global effort to pressure Israel through boycotts, sanctions and divestment, can be denied entry to Israel.
Democrats quickly blasted the move.
“Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering U.S. ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “This would be a shameful, unprecedented move. I urge Israel’s government to allow @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib entry.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Israel’s actions would harm relations between the two allied countries. “I strongly condemn this decision by the Israeli government, which undermines the ability for our two allied countries to have the frank, open and, at times, difficult discussions that we must have in order to ensure Israel remains a secure and democratic nation,” he tweeted.
The decision on Thursday was swiftly denounced by Miftah, the Palestinian group cosponsoring the planned trip this weekend, as “an affront to the American people and their representatives” and “an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision-makers and other actors from around the world.”
Tlaib and Omar have voiced support for the 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.
The US president last month had again targeted Omar, Tlaib and two other Democratic congresswomen of colour with racist attacks, saying the four politicians should “go back” to where they came from.
Omar, 37, who immigrated to the US from Somalia as a child, represents Minnesota’s fifth congressional district.
The politicians, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and members of the Democratic party’s progressive wing, have repeatedly said their criticisms of Israel’s government are based on policy differences and are not directed at Jewish people.