Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticized Israel on Monday for denying them entry to the Jewish state and called on fellow members of Congress to visit while they cannot.
Omar, of Minnesota, suggested President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were suppressing the lawmakers’ ability to carry out their oversight role.
Last week, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Tlaib had requested and been granted permission to enter Israel to see her aging grandmother. Deri’s office released a letter from Tlaib, which promised to respect travel restrictions during her visit. But after the announcement, Tlaib tweeted she wouldn’t allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”
“I would encourage my colleagues to visit, meet with the people we were going to meet with, see the things we were going to see, hear the stories we were going to hear,” Omar said at a news conference.
Israel denied entry to Congress’ first two Muslim women over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar had planned to visit Yerushalayim and areas controlled by the PA, on a tour organized by a Palestinian group called Miftah that has promoted blatant anti Semitism, including the “blood libel”.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley kept up the administration’s criticism of the two lawmakers.
“Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have a well-documented history of anti-Semitic comments, anti-Semitic social media posts and anti-Semitic relationships,” he said in a statement. “Israel has the right to prevent people who want to destroy it from entering the country — and Democrats’ pointless Congressional inquiries here in America cannot change the laws Israel has passed to protect itself.”
Before Israel’s decision, Trump tweeted it would be a “show of weakness” to allow the two representatives in. Israel controls entry and exit to the PA-controlled area, which it captured in the 1967 Mideast war along with eastern Yerushalayim and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians want for a future state.
Tlaib and Omar support “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel’s military rule over the occupied territories, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.