Home » important » Omar, Tlaib denounce Israel over travel restrictions

Omar, Tlaib denounce Israel over travel restrictions

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib continued to criticize Israel Monday, slamming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for barring the two lawmakers from visiting last week over their vocal criticism of his government.
Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, held a news conference in the Minnesota Capitol on Monday afternoon to again speak out after they were blocked from visiting Israel over their support of a global boycott of the country. Israel eventually agreed to allow Tlaib to enter the country on restrictive “humanitarian” grounds, but the Michigan lawmaker refused.
“The decision to ban me and my colleague — the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress — is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials,” Omar (D-Minn.) said.
The two lawmakers were flanked by several constituents who had been directly impacted by the conflict between Israel and Palestine, including some who were also blocked from traveling to the region.
Tlaib and Omar have both been outspoken critics of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians since coming to Congress this year and are two of the most vocal supporters of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the country.
Most Democrats are opposed to the BDS movement, with the House overwhelmingly passing a resolution last month condemning the effort. But the move by Netanyahu to ban the two freshman Democrats just before they were set to depart last week set off a political firestorm in Washington.
Trump, a close ally of Netanyahu, publicly encouraged the unprecedented move. But Democrats, including many who are on the opposite side of the debate about the future of the region, were quick to defend Omar and Tlaib and condemn the prime minister’s actions.
Tlaib grew visibly upset Monday when she explained why she initially agreed to go ahead with a “humanitarian” visit to her Palestinian grandmother under strict restrictions imposed by Israel, only to back away from the trip hours later.
Tlaib’s 90-year-old grandmother lives in the West Bank and encouraged the Michigan Democrat not to come given the conditions under which she could visit, Tlaib said.
“She said … I’m her free bird. So why would I come back and be caged and bow down when my election rose her head up high, gave her dignity for the first time?” Tlaib said with tears in her eyes.
“So through tears, at three o’clock in the morning, we all decided as a family that I could not go until I was a free, American, United States congresswoman coming there not only to see my grandmother, but to talk to Palestinian and Israeli organizations that believed that my grandmother deserved human dignity as much as anyone else does.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other senior Democrats sharply criticized Netanyahu for his decision to bar the two Democrats last week, saying he was showing “weakness” by giving in to Trump’s demands. Some lawmakers said it was clear Netanyahu was capitulating to Trump’s demands so as not to anger the U.S. president ahead of a critical election for the prime minister on Sept. 17.
Hoyer was among several pro-Israel Democrats who also personally lobbied Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, a close confidante of Netanyahu, before the decision was announced last week.
Hoyer led dozens of Democrats on a weeklong trip to Israel as part of his annual visit to the country earlier this month. The No. 2 Democrat met with Tlaib’s grandmother during the trip.
Omar said while she was encouraged some of her colleagues vowed not to visit the country until she and Tlaib were let in, she thought that was the wrong move given how closely aligned Israel is with the U.S.
“It is my belief that as legislators we have an obligation to see the reality there for ourselves. We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government’s foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid,” Omar said. “We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us, so I call on all of you to go.”