Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib Barred From Entering Israel Over BDS Support

August 15, 2019 Updated: August 20, 2019

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who have both been accused of making antisemitic statements, are being barred from entering Israel over their support for an international movement aimed at marginalizing the majority Jewish country.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “No country in the world respects America and the American Congress more than the State of Israel. 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,” he added in a statement.

Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, had announced the decision earlier Aug. 15.

She cited a 2017 law allows Israel to bar any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”

An Isreali NGO filed documents in court recently as part of a push to get officials to prevent Omar and Tlaib from entering the Middle Eastern country.

Before Hotovely’s comments, the last official line on the visit came from Ron Dermer, Isreal’s ambassador to the United States.

Dermer told the Times of Israel last month that the country would allow Tlaib and Omar to enter. Omar announced plans for the trip in early July.

“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Dermer said in a statement.

President Donald Trump seemed to champion the barring of his Democratic opponents, writing on Twitter: “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.”

(L-R) Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speak at a press conference on the Capitol on July 15, 2019. (Holly Kellum/NTD)

Officials are still considering allowing the Americans to visit the territories held by the Palestinian Authority, where some of Tlaib’s family members live, Netanyahu said.

Omar said in a statement that Netanyahu was pressured by Trump and claimed that “denying entry into Israel not only limits our ability to learn from Isrealis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories.

An itenary the Congresswomen had circulated labeled the trip to “Palestine,” one of the names the area has been known as historically, without mentioning “Israel,” and both women have made a slew of anti-Israel statements in the past.

“The itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it,” the prime minister alleged.

Omar replied on Thursday that Netanyahu has “limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation.”

Tlaib posted a picture of her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank, and said: “The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”

BDS

The House of Representatives passed a resolution in July condemning BDS: “The BDS Movement does not recognize, and many of its supporters explicitly deny, the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination.”

It also said, “The BDS Movement targets not only the Israeli government but also Israeli academic, cultural, and civil society institutions, as well as individual Israeli citizens of all political persuasions, religions, and ethnicities, and in some cases even Jews of other nationalities who support Israel.”

Omar, Tlaib, and fellow “Squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) were among 17 lawmakers opposing the resolution, versus the 398 who approved it. Tlaib said on the House floor that people have “the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the state of Israel.”

Omar and Tlaib introduced a resolution in support of Americans boycotting companies and countries, arguing boycotts are protected by the First Amendment. Omar admitted it was meant to support BDS.

“We are introducing a resolution … to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” Omar told Al-Monitor. “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”

Omar, who switched her stance on BDS after getting elected, has repeatedly come under fire for making statements many found antisemitic, including claiming: “Israel has hypnotized the world.”

“May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” she wrote in a missive that she later deleted. After claiming earlier this year that some American politicians only support Israel for money, drawing criticism from top Democrats, she apologized.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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