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Israel bans Representatives Omar and Tlaib from entering Palestine

By Wyatt Miller

Representative Omar speaking at the University of Minnesota.

Minneapolis, MN – U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) have joined the ranks of thousands of human rights activists and millions of diaspora Palestinians who have been denied entry to Palestine by the occupying Israeli regime.

Reps. Omar and Tlaib had planned a congressional trip to the West Bank for next week, initially agreed to by the Israeli regime “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.” However, on August 15 Israel announced a reversal of its previous decision and banned the delegation’s entrance.

The announcement came immediately after President Trump wrote on Twitter, “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!” [sic]

Since the Knesset’s March 2017 passage of the Amendment No. 28 to the Entry Into Israel Law, the Israeli state has denied entry to supporters of the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation of Palestine. Millions of Palestinian refugees who fled Israeli invasion during the Nakba of 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967, as well as their descendants, have been continually denied a right to return to their homeland by the Israeli regime. Both Omar and Tlaib had stated publicly their support for BDS. Representative Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, had planned to visit family members in the West Bank during the trip.

Representative Omar released her own statement in response to Israel’s decision. “It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government,” she stated. “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected members of Congress. Denying entry into Israel not only limits our ability to learn from Israelis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories.” Last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) led a trip of 72 members of Congress, 41 of whom were also Democrats, sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a branch of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). That delegation was allowed entry by Israel. Representative Tlaib’s delegation was organized as an alternative to the AIPAC trip, with a focus on meeting with human rights activists, including Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), as opposed to meeting with Israeli politicians.

The announcement of Israel’s ban on Representatives Tlaib and Omar was met by criticism from U.S. presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Jewish Voice for Peace released a statement connecting the ban to the treatment of Palestinians who try to return to their homeland, and to the BDS movement: “This morning’s announcement that Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will be blocked from entry by Israel is consistent with their increasingly authoritarian policies toward Palestinians and all those who support Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). But for sitting Congresswomen to be prevented from entry is a new low that only serves to illustrate Israel’s racist and exclusionary practices. This is a situation all too familiar for Palestinians due to decades of exclusionary practices by Israel.”

International solidarity activist Sarah Martin told Fight Back!, “Trump chanted at rallies that Representatives Omar and Tlaib should ‘go back home’ and now he’s pressuring Israel not to let them in. And Tlaib, like Palestinians throughout the diaspora, is being denied the right to return. So many Americans are critical of Trump but then look the other way when we raise the reality of Israeli apartheid. We need to use this as an opportunity to draw attention to the $3.2 billion the U.S. sends in aid to Israel.”

Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness, was denied entry into Israel in 2009 when she tried to participate in a human rights delegation to the West Bank. Martin met with Representative Omar on August 15, along with representatives from Arab arts organizations, religious groups and Palestinian solidarity groups in the Twin Cities to express solidarity.

Meredith Aby-Keirstead, a member of the MN Anti-War Committee, was also at the meeting with Representative Omar. She told Fight Back!, “It is outrageous that Omar – who is also on the House Foreign Affairs Committee – and Tlaib have been banned from entering Israel. They have the responsibility to investigate how U.S. tax dollars are spent. We need to increase our demands that the U.S. cut off aid to Israel. It is obvious that they want to hide the conditions they have created for Palestinians.”

A coalition of Minnesota Palestine solidarity and immigrant rights groups are planning to bring up the ban on Representatives Omar and Tlaib, along with Israel’s apartheid policies, at the Minnesota State Board of Investment meeting on August 22, where they will pressure the state of Minnesota to divest from Elbit Systems, an Israeli weapons technology company that profits from Israeli apartheid and has been contracted as part of the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

#Minneapolis #AntiwarMovement #Palestine #AntiWarCommittee #IlhanOmar #RashidaTlaib