Israel bars entry to outspoken U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, deputy foreign minister says
Israel’s deputy foreign minister said the government has decided to bar two U.S. Democratic congresswomen who support the Palestinian-led boycott movement from entering the country next week. Tzipi Hotovely told Israel Radio in an interview Thursday that “Israel has decided not to allow” Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota to visit as planned.
“The decision has been made, the decision is not to allow them to enter,” Hotovely told Israel’s Reshet Radio. Hotovely said it is in keeping with a policy of denying entry to those who advocate boycotts of Israel.
The newly elected Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Tlaib’s family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank. Omar has been accused of anti-Semitism for previous remarks about Israel, but has apologized for her incendiary comments.
Israel has sought to combat the so-called BDS movement, which advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions. The country passed a law permitting a ban on entry to any activist who “knowingly issues a call for boycotting Israel.”
Last month, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said Israel would not deny entry to any member of Congress.
On Thursday morning, President Trump expressed support for banning Tlaib and Omar from Israel on Twitter.
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit,” Mr. Trump wrote. “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!”
It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
Israel often hosts delegations of U.S. representatives and senators, who usually meet with senior Israeli officials as well as Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank.
The decision to ban the congresswomen could further sharpen divisions among U.S. Democrats over Israel ahead of the 2020 elections. Republicans have amplified the views of left-wing Democrats like Tlaib and Omar to present the party as deeply divided and at odds with Israel. Democratic leaders have pushed back, reiterating the party’s strong support for Israel, in part to protect representatives from more conservative districts.
In July, the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution against the BDS movement.
In a speech defending the boycott movement in July, Tlaib called Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “racist.”
“I can’t stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the state of Israel,” Tlaib said.
Tlaib and Omar have been the target of repeated attacks by President Trump in recent months, including a series of tweets on July 14 in which he said they should “go back” to the “broken” places they came from. Both are U.S. citizens and Tlaib was born in the United States. The two are members of the so-called “Squad” of newly elected left-wing Democrats, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Politicians and former diplomats spoke out against barring the congresswomen from visiting following an unconfirmed earlier report that Israel had resolved to bar Omar and Tlaib from entering the country.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro wrote on Twitter that any decision to bar their entry “harms Israel’s standing in the U.S., boosts BDS.”
Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties, criticized the move, writing that “Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a U.S. Congresswoman.”
Arthur Lenk, formerly Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, said barring Omar and Tlaib “would be sinking us deeper into U.S. domestic political quagmire.”