Rep. Rashida Tlaib Says She Won’t Go To Israel After Planned Visit Was Approved

August 16, 2019 Updated: August 16, 2019

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said that she won’t visit her family in the West Bank despite Israel approving her humanitarian request to do so.

Israeli authorities said Aug. 16 that Tlaib could go to the West Bank to visit her 90-year-old grandmother and other relatives after Tlaib, whose family hails from the country, wrote them a letter making a humanitarian request.

In the letter, Tlaib, a supporter of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement, said she would “not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.” She made the request after Israel barred her and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from entering the country due to their support of the movement, which is considered anti-Israel and antisemitic.

But Tlaib said Friday that she decided not to go despite the approval.

“When I won, it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions. I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity [grandmother] to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies,” Tlaib said in a statement posted on Twitter.

In a fuller statement, Tlaib said that “the Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so contingent upon my signing a letter—reflecting just how undemocratic and afraid they are of the truth my trip would reveal about what is happening in the State of Israel and to Palestinians living under occupation with United States support.”

“I have therefore decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time. Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart. Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me – it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice,” she added.

It’s not clear what caused Tlaib to change her mind between writing the letter and getting her planned visit approved.

Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who approved Tlaib’s family visit, reacted to the change of heart, noting that Tlaib said in her letter asking for permission to visit that “it might be my last chance” to see her grandmother.

Muftia Tlaib, the maternal grandmother of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, is pictured outside her home in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, in the West Bank on Aug. 15, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)
The uncle of Rashida Tlaib, right, points to a picture of her in Beit Ur al Foqa in the West Bank on Nov. 8, 2018. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

“I approved her request as a gesture of goodwill on a humanitarian basis, but it was just a provocative request, aimed at bashing the State of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother,” he wrote.

American officials including the U.S. Ambassador to Israel have expressed support for Israel’s actions against Tlaib and Omar, the only two Muslims in Congress. Both have repeatedly denigrated Israel and made statements widely condemned as antisemitic, in addition to their support for the so-called BDS movement.

President Donald Trump, an avowed critic of both Congresswomen, took to Twitter to express his support on Thursday, writing:  “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.”

“Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!” he later added.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber