Congress members respond to ban

Reps. Tlaib and Omar hold press conference after being barred entry into Israel

Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) denounced the Israeli government’s decision to ban their entry into the country in a press conference on Monday morning, their first media appearance together since the decision was announced.

The two Congresswomen were barred after President Donald Trump and the Trump administration pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu’s decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress, but it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians,” Omar said.

The congresswomen were planning to visit the country in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (B.D.S.), a Palestinian led movment that recomends boycottss in protest of Israeli occupation in parts of Palestein. Netanyahu cited their support for the B.D.S. movement as the specific reason for not allowing their entry.

“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 prevent the entry of people believed to be damaging to the country,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Israel did offer on Friday that Tlaib could enter on humanitarian grounds to visit her 90-year-old grandmother on the West Bank on the condition she did not “promote boycotts.” While initially accepting, Tlaib eventually declined then tweeted “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she (her grandmother) wants for me.” 

According to the New York Times an Israeli official close to the prime minister’s office said on Thursday that a call came from the Trump Administration pressing Netanyahu to bar the congresswomen.

President Trump sent out a tweet directly before the decision saying Israel would “show a great weakness” if the congresswomen were allowed to visit. He followed with another tweet after the decision was announced in a show of support. The move tightens the relationship between the president and the prime minister, both of whom are facing elections on the horizon.

The move was also considered unprecedented and highly political in the U.S.

 “It’s shameful that they banned (them) … They’re using it to say they’re a democracy but (the ban) is the opposite of democratic,” said Junior Anna Moug.

“Never in the history of this relationship, and certainly not in the 25 years I’ve worked on it, have I seen a president so willfully committed not just to intercede in order to help Mr. Netanyahu and boost his electoral prospects, but to work on his owner personal political vendettas,” Aaron David Miller, a Middle East peace negotiator, said to the New York Times.

Israel has barred entry for seven French mayors and members of the European Parliament in 2017, but has never barred a member of Congress. Israel received commendation from both major parties in the U.S., including from leaders who normally were strong supporters.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) agreed that this was the wrong move, but rather they benfitted politically from the move. “I disagree 100% with Reps. Tlaib & Omar on Israel and am an author of the AntiBDS bill we passed in the Senate…but denying them entry into Israel is a mistake. Being blocked is what they really hoped for.” 

Rubio has normally been a defender of President Trump and his policies along with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But the committee also broke rank with the president,  saying in a statement that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

By Jack Dunn | Campus News Editor