[guest post by Dana]
It’s no secret that Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib are vocal critics of Israel and strong supporters of the Boycott, Sanction and Divest (BDS) movement. According to Israel, this is why they will not be allowed to enter the country:
Israeli officials have decided to block U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from entering the country as part of a planned visit, a reversal that comes amid pressure from President Trump and concerns about their support for boycotts of Israel.
The country’s deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely announced the decision Thursday, despite prior assurances that the congresswomen would be allowed in.
“Israel has decided — we won’t enable the members of Congress to enter the country,” Hotovely told public broadcaster Kan. “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle, this is a very justified decision.”
Israeli media reported earlier on discussions of barring the freshman congresswomen due to their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Reports said Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri already made the decision to block them, though other parties still had to weigh in.
Israeli law says those supporting boycotts of the country may be denied entry.
Waivers can be granted for diplomatic figures, however, Haaretz reported. And in July, Israel’s U.S. ambassador said the country would not bar U.S. lawmakers out of “respect” for Congress and Israel’s longtime “alliance” with the U.S. Trump expressed frustration about the decision last week, The Washington Post reported.
Early this morning, President Trump, who is a strong supporter of Israel and its right to exist, nudged Israel to remain strong in its decision to deny Omar and Tlaib entry:
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
Here is Netanyahu’s defense of the decision:
As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country. In fact, in the past the US did this to an Israeli member of Knesset, as well as to other public figures from around the world.
Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel, which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy. For instance: they listed the destination of their trip as Palestine and not Israel, and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have visited Israel, they did not request to meet any Israeli officials, either from the government or the opposition.
the itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.
In addition, the organization that is funding their trip is Miftah, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.
He concluded his statement by addressing Rep. Tlaib:
[I]f Congresswoman Tlaib submits a humanitarian request to visit her relatives, the minister of interior has announced that he will consider her request on the condition that she pledges not to act to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.
We are reminded that Netanyahu had approved of the congresswomen’s visit last month when he already knew that they were BDS supporters, and that Trump had privately put pressure on Israel to reverse the decision before applying public pressure on Twitter.
While there are many who are fully supportive of this decision given the congresswomen’s anti-Israel rhetoric and ardent support of the BDS movement, there are also those that disagree, saying that it demonstrates an intolerance not representative of democracy. And yet, there was also another very viable option:
What Israel should have done is to prepare a full itinerary for them — meetings with MKs and ministers, visits to important landmarks in Israel, etc. And see how they reacted to such an itinerary which Israel should have made VERY public.
UPDATE: Rep. Ilhan Omar released a statement in response to the decision:
It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government.
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/v00ESmehXT
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) August 15, 2019
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)