Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said that funding from the United States to Israel is “predicated” on certain conditions and that the country indicated by barring her and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) that it isn’t meeting those conditions.
Coming after a report that Democratic leadership is mulling retaliatory measures against Israel for barring the Congresswomen, Omar said at a press conference in Minnesota on Aug. 19 that “we the United States have a constructive role to play.”
“We give Israel more than $3 million in aid every year,” she said, meaning $3 billion. “This is predicated on their being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East,” she said, using her hands to make quote marks when she said “only democracy.”
“But denying [a] visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy,” she added before expressing openness to cutting funding to Israel.
“We must be asking, as Israel’s ally, the Netanyahu government stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid.
“I understand and appreciate the calls for members to avoid traveling until Rashida and I are allowed to go without condition. But it is my belief that as legislators we have an obligation to see the reality there for ourselves; we have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government’s foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid,” she continued, getting the funding number wrong again.
“So I would encourage my colleagues to visit. Meet with the people we were going to meet with, see the things we were going to see, hear the stories we were going to hear,” she said, adding that she believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump want to “hid[e] the cold reality of the occupation.”
Omar and Tlaib were barred on Aug. 15 over their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. They appear to be the only two members of Congress to openly support the movement, which aims to undermine the country’s economy.
“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,” Netanyahu said in a statement, noting that the United States has in the past barred an Israeli member of Knesset, Israeli’s parliament, from entering America.
The Israeli government said the Congresswomen didn’t ask to meet with any Israeli officials or lawmakers. Omar said during the press conference that they did plan to meet with members of the Knesset.
Tlaib was on Aug. 16 granted a request to visit the West Bank to see her aging grandmother but hours later changed her mind. She said at the press conference, “All I can do as the granddaughter of a woman who lived in occupied territory is to elevate her voice by exposing the truth the only way I know how.”
She later added: “My grandmother said, I am her dream manifested. I am her free bird, so why would I come back and be caged and bow down?”
Omar and Tlaib said that the trip was also slated to include Rep. Stacey Plaskett, a Virgin Islands delegate who received donations from Jeffrey Epstein.
Asked about Miftah, the organization that was sponsoring the trip and has openly supported terrorists and even published a neo-Nazi theory, Tlaib said that they didn’t choose the organization.
“Ilhan Omar and I are very careful in vetting,” she said. “There is a close eye and policing of our actions that is much more weighted on us than other members, so we are very careful. But members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in which she and I are active have gone on similar trips on a similar agenda.”
About the criticisms of Miftah, Tlaib added: “I think these are just distractions … I think the focus is hiding the truth, hiding that the occupation is happening.”