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Israel Bars 2 US Congresswomen from Entering Country

Israel Bars 2 US Congresswomen from Entering Country

Thursday, 15 August, 2019 - 10:00
Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib listen as US President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address in Washington, February 5, 2019. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel said on Thursday that it will bar the entry of two Democratic congresswomen from entering the country ahead of a planned visit over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement.

"There is no country in the world that respects the US and the American Congress more than Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "However, the itinerary showed that the congresswomen's sole intention was to harm Israel."

The itinerary of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar itinerary "revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel's legitimacy,” he claimed.

"Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress," Netanyahu charged.

The two newly-elected Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Tlaib's family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank. Israel said it would consider any request from Tlaib to visit relatives on humanitarian grounds.

Shortly before the decision was announced, Trump had tweeted that "it would show great weakness" if Israel allowed them to visit. "They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds." He went on to call the two congresswomen "a disgrace."

Netanyahu added that if Tlaib submitted a request to visit family members in the occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds, Israel would consider it as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel.

Trump's decision to urge a foreign country to deny entry to elected US officials was a striking departure from the long-held practice of politicians from both parties to confine their disputes to the water's edge.

Israel has sought to combat the BDS movement, which advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions. The country passed a law permitting a ban on entry to any activist who "knowingly issues a call for boycotting Israel."

Last month, Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer had said Israel would not deny entry to any member of Congress.

MIFTAH, the Palestinian organization that was set to host Tlaib and Omar in the West Bank, issued a statement saying that Israel's decision was "an affront to the American people and their representatives" and "an assault on the Palestinian people's right to reach out to decision-makers and other actors from around the world."

Tlaib and Omar have also been the target of repeated attacks by Trump in recent months, including a series of racist tweets on July 14 in which he said they should "go back" to the "broken" countries they came from. Both are US citizens and Tlaib was born in the United States.

American Jewish organizations had objected to barring the two Democrats from entering the country. The American Jewish Congress said that despite Omar and Tlaib's planned "propaganda exercise," it believed that "the costs in the US of barring the entry of two members of Congress may prove even higher than the alternative."

Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties, also criticized the move, writing that "Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a US Congresswoman."

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