When Israel announced on Thursday it is barring Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting due to their ties with the BDS movement, some Jewish organizations expressed disappointment.
“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” AIPAC tweeted on Thursday afternoon. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our Democratic ally, Israel, firsthand.”
Israeli officials barred the two BDS-supporting members of Congress after initially agreeing to allow them to enter. Shortly before Israel’s government announced it reversal, President Donald Trump tweeted that Israel “would show great weakness” if it “allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”
“The fact that the U.S. president would urge the Israeli prime minister to bar members of Congress really does a disservice to this bilateral relationship and is yet another attempt by President Trump to politicize this relationship,” Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, told Newsweek.
The American Jewish Congress (AJC), one of the largest bipartisan Jewish groups in America, also criticized Israel, saying it “did not choose wisely.”
“While we fully respect Israel’s sovereign right to control entry into the country, a right that every nation employs, and while we are under no illusions about the implacably hostile views of Reps. Omar and Tlaib on Israel-related issues, we nonetheless believe that the costs in the U.S. of barring the entry of two members of Congress may prove even higher than the alternative,” AJC said in a statement.
Less surprisingly, J Street, a left-wing lobbying group, said Israel’s move was “dangerous, unacceptable and wrong.”
“We may disagree with the views that the members hold on such questions as BDS or with Rep Tlaib on the two-state solution, but the right approach for a state that values democracy is to welcome criticism and debate, not to shut it down,” J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said in a statement.
But even Jonathan Tobin, a more conservative Jewish columnist, disapproved of Israel’s decision. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have “ignored the advice coming from the Twitter account of @realDonaldTrump… Netanyahu is hurting his country’s image as a free and open democracy that is not afraid of scrutiny.”
“Their denied entry will give opponents of laws that ban compliance with BDS boycotts the ability to say that Israel and its friends are seeking to bar free speech,” Tobin said.
Gili Cohen, a correspondent for Israel’s public broadaster, Kan, tweeted the tentative schedule for the now-cancelled trip, which was due to depart for Israel on Saturday.
The first stop was to meet the U.S. Embassy staff. That was to be followed by a meeting with UNRWA representatives, a tour of Jerusalem, settlement briefings, trips to refugee camps, a visit to Hebron, a meeting with a member of the PLO Executive Committee and finally, a trip to the Temple Mount.
It was reported that Israel was particularly concerned about the Temple Mount visit, and had the visit taken place, wanted to ensure that congresswomen didn’t go to the site accompanied by official Palestinian Authority representatives.
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued a statement of “strong support” for Israel’s decision to ban the two congresswomen.
“Israel should not enable a visit that will give Tlaib and Omar opportunities to propagandize for Israel’s destruction, incite anti-Jewish violence, and perhaps even use the visit for other nefarious purposes – such as carrying messages to and from terrorists whom they associate with,” ZOA President Morton Klein and Chairman Mark Levenson stated.
“Refusing entry to Tlaib and Omar will moreover protect Jews and others in America and around the world. The BDS that Tlaib and Omar promote harms Jews on American campuses and regular American businesses. Tlaib and Omar should not be given the opportunity to further delegitimize and harm all of us,” they aid.