Israel has decided to bar two Muslim pro-BDS members of Congress from entering Israel over fears of provocation that they would cause and their unwillingness to coordinate with Israeli authorities, according to multiple reports, according to a report on the World Israel News web site.
By: Fern Sidman
Officials had reportedly been examining the official wording of the decision with legal authorities. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced the decision late Thursday afternoon.
According to a press statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan explained that “the State of Israel respects the U.S. Congress, as part of the close alliance, but it is inconceivable that anyone who wishes to harm the State of Israel will be allowed” to visit.
“Israel has decided. We won’t enable the members of Congress to enter the country,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Kan News. “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.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) were expected to arrive in Israel at the end of the week. Reportedly, they have been coordinating their visit with Palestinian figures, as was reported by WIN.
Israeli law bars entry into the country of those who support a boycott of the Jewish State. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared inclined to allow Omar and Tlaib to visit following pressure from leading figures in the Democratic Party.
As was reported by World Israel News, the decision to bar reflects Israel’s concern over potential incitement on the part of the two congresswomen while they are in Israel or the Palestinian-administered territories.
Omar and Tlaib have made statements that included anti-Semitic tropes, have supported anti-Israel groups, and have questioned Israel’s right to its land.
In July, Omar introduced a House resolution in support of BDS, which Tlaib co-sponsored. Tlaib compared the BDS movement to boycotts against Nazi Germany.
Omar has insinuated that the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby group in Washington pays off members of Congress to support Israel.
She and Tlaib have close ties with CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, which is believed to be linked with Hamas.
In a statement released by the Israeli government press office on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
“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. 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.
A week ago, Israel warmly welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who expressed broad bipartisan support for Israel, which was also demonstrated a month ago in a resounding bipartisan vote against BDS in Congress.
However, 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.
Therefore, the Minister of Interior has decided not to allow their visit, and I, as Prime Minister, support his decision.
Nonetheless, if 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.”
On Thursday morning at 9:57 am. President Trump posted yet another tweet that was heard around the world. He said, “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!”
Also on Thursday, New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) released a statement strongly opposing Israel’s decision to deny entry to Omar and Tlaib.
The Senate minority leader said, “Denying entry to members of the United States Congress is a sign of weakness, not strength. It will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America. No democratic society should fear an open debate. Many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed in this decision, which the Israeli government should reverse.”
Jewish leaders have also weighed on with their opinion on the Israeli move. In a statement sent to the media, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean and director of global social action of the of the internationally renowned Simon Wiesenthal Center said, “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are unapologetic anti-Semites and supporters of the anti-peace BDS movement. The congresswomen should have joined dozens of their colleagues who recently visited Israel and Palestinian territories. Still, the first instinct of Israeli officials to let them into the country was right one.”
Phyllis Chesler, a prolific author, former CUNY professor, Second Wave feminist leader and op-ed contributor to the Israel National News web site told the Jewish Voice that, “Trump should not have offered his opinion on whether Israel should allow Tlaib and Omar; especially so close to their scheduled visit. In the long run, however, despite this decision, Israel is always ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said the renowned lecturer. “If Omar and Tlaib would have visited Israel, their exclusive purpose would have been to malign and denigrate the Jewish state. This would have been a trip predicated on spreading the most egregious propaganda and malicious lies about Israel to suit their purposes.”
She added, “If these two women would have visited Israel and not offered detailed reports on the reprehensible scourge of honor killings of Muslim women in the West Bank and Gaza and in Israel proper, then it would proven that their trip was totally focused on promulgating the BDS and destroy Israel agenda. And let’s not forget the brutal oppression and murder of Muslim political dissidents by their own people in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the routine torture and murder of homosexuals in these territories. I firmly believe that Tlaib and Omar would have intentionally ignored these incredibly important human rights issues.
By going to Israel, they would have gotten the many photo ops that they desired to falsely portray Israel as the bogeyman of the world. On the other hand, being denied entry to Israel might be taken as an affront to Democratic members of Congress who had previously resisted the influence of the far-left wing faction of the party and may become antagonistic towards Israel. The incessant hailstorm of criticism of Israel on this issue will mushroom with each passing hour as there is no shortage of Israel and Jew haters in our midst.”
In a statement released to the media, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) said that they “strongly support Israel’s decision to refuse entry of Israelophobic Jew-haters Rep Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar into Israel. Tlaib and Omar seek Israel’s destruction and are leading promoters of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS). They even outrageously compare boycotting Israel to boycotting Nazis.
Israeli laws refusing entry to anti-Israel boycott leaders surely should apply to Tlaib and Omar.
The Israeli Supreme Court recognized that BDS is a dangerous “massive delegitimization campaign” facing Israel and recognized the need to take steps to counteract it. Israeli Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melzer accurately described BDS as “political terrorism.” Israel should not allow political terrorists into the country.”
Dov Hikind, former NYS Assemblyman and president of Americans Against Anti-Semitism said the following in statement to the media, “The pair’s intent is all the more suspect because they opted out of the bi-partisan delegation that just wrapped up a trip to Israel during which they had full access to the country as well as Palestinian areas and government so that it would not be “one-sided.” The trip included many members of congress who’ve been critical of Israel, but none that are openly anti-Zionist.
Israel was left with no choice but to bar their entry as per Israeli law and prefers the PR fallout from the optics of barring entry to sitting congresswomen over the incitement of violence the pair was very likely to cause. A decision I fully support.”