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August 16, 2019 9:15 am

Citing ‘Racism’ and ‘Oppression,’ Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib Spurns Israeli Offer to Visit Relatives in West Bank

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US Congresswoman Rashia Tlaib of Michigan. Photo: Reuters/Rebecca Cook.

Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on Friday rejected an offer from Israel’s Interior Minister to visit her Palestinian relatives in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds, accusing the Jewish state of “racism, oppression & injustice.”

Along with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Tlaib had been informed by the Israeli authorities on Thursday that the two US legislators, who are supporters of  the anti-Zionist BDS movement, would not be permitted to visit the West Bank for meetings with Palestinian leaders and political activists. The 4-day trip, scheduled from Sunday Aug. 18 through Wednesday Aug. 21, included visits to eastern Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem, along with meetings with Palestinian NGOs promoting the boycott against Israel. No Israeli institutions or politicians were included on the trip agenda.

Israel’s decision to bar Omar and Tlaib on Thursday reversed an earlier pledge from Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador in Washington, DC, that they would be allowed entry.

Several observers said that Israel’s hand was forced by US President Donald Trump, who tweeted shortly before the Israeli decision was announced that 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!”

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On Friday, Dermer denied that Israel had made its decision at the behest of the White House. “We were not pressured by the Trump administration; this is a sovereign decision that Israel has to make,” Dermer said during a call organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier justified the ban by citing legislation enacted by the Jewish state to counter the BDS movement. “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 believed to be damaging to the country,” Netanyahu said.

However, Netanyahu added that if Tlaib submitted a request to visit family on humanitarian grounds, Israel would consider it as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel. On Thursday afternoon, Tlaib wrote to Aryeh Deri, Israel’s Interior Minister, requesting admission on humanitarian grounds.

“I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s and lives in Beit Ur al-Fouqa,” Tlaib wrote in her letter to Deri. “This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”

After approving Tlaib’s request, a statement from Deri’s office “expressed hope that she will live up to her promise and that the visit will only be for humanitarian needs.”

But on Friday morning, Tlaib tweeted that she would not be visiting her grandmother and family after all.

“Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she [her grandmother] wants for me,” Tlaib declared. “It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”

Several commentators accused Tlaib of cynically using her grandmother to score political points against Israel, while others applauded her decision to refrain from traveling.

Additional reporting by JNS.

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