Israel’s decision to bar the two U.S. lawmakers was a mistake, because it has given them a much bigger platform from which to attack Israel. But let’s be clear: There is nothing outrageous about Israel’s decision to bar entry to politicians who advocate its destruction. If Omar and Tlaib can boycott Israel, why can’t Israel boycott them?
Omar says Israel’s decision interferes with her ability to do her work “as a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.” Maybe so. But the problem is not that Israel barred entry to a member of that committee, but rather that there is an anti-Semite sitting on that committee. Omar has said that when she hears people call Israel a democracy, “I almost chuckle.” She has said “Israel has hypnotized the world“; has declared her hope that Allah will “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel”; supports a boycott of Israel, a country she has compared to Nazi Germany; accused her House colleagues who support Israel of pushing “for allegiance to a foreign country”; and declared that support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins.” (She later apologized for the last comment, but not all the others, before or since that one.)
How is it that she continues to sit on the congressional committee that helps set U.S. policy toward Israel? When Rep. Steve King defended white-supremacist views, the GOP leadership in the House stripped him of his committee assignments and voted 424 to 1 on a resolution condemning the Iowa Republican. Yet, after Omar made virulently anti-Semitic comments, Democratic leaders in the House could not bring themselves to do the same. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) actually defended Omar’s “allegiance to a foreign country” remark, saying “I don’t believe it was intended in an anti-Semitic way.” I’m sorry, what other way could she have intended it? Can you imagine if Republicans had defended King, saying “I don’t believe it was intended in a white-supremacist way?”Marc A. Theissen, “If Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib can boycott Israel, why can’t Israel boycott them?“, Washington Post, August 20, 2019
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said Friday she would not visit her grandmother in the occupied West Bank, despite being granted an Israeli permit on humanitarian grounds, saying Israel’s “oppressive” conditions aimed to humiliate her.
Israel barred Tlaib and another Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, from visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank over their support for the international boycott movement following an unprecedented appeal from President Donald Trump to deny them entry.
Israel had said Tlaib could visit relatives in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds. But then the Interior Ministry released a letter purportedly signed by Tlaib in which she promised not to advocate boycotts during her visit. That appears to have led to her decision to cancel the visit.Joseph Krauss and Isaac Scharf, “Tlaib declines to visit West Bank, citing Israeli conditions“, AP, April 16, 2019
While Israel said Friday that Rep. Rashida Tlaib will be allowed to visit relatives on the West Bank, she has since backed off plans for a visit, calling the Israeli government’s conditions “oppressive.” Meanwhile, Rep. Ilhan Omar remains barred from the country.
On Thursday, Israel said it was blocking the Democratic congresswomen from entering the country for a planned visit next week, citing their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement over the country’s treatment of Palestinians.
Democratic leaders condemned Israel’s decision, which was supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump, who tweeted just before the decision was made public that Israel would “show great weakness” if it let the congresswomen visit.4 CBS Minnesota, “Rashida Tlaib Allowed To Visit Relatives But Backs Out Of Visit; Ilhan Omar Still Barred From Israel“, August 16, 2019
The progressives are in the wrong, and Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump are in the right. Israeli law mandates that Reps. Omar and Tlaib be barred from entering — and given that their itinerary provides no indication of any desire to talk with the Israeli government and understand their perspective, there’s little reason to make an exception for the congresswomen.
In short: if Tlaib and Omar are going to push a boycott on one of America’s most important allies, they shouldn’t be surprised about being boycotted themselves.Will Chamberlain, “Israel Bars Entry to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Rightfully So“, Human Events, August 15, 2019
Israeli law requires Israel’s interior minister to bar foreign nationals who “knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel” or have “pledged to participate in said boycott.” Both Reps. Omar and Tlaib publicly support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement; under Israeli law, they are likely categorically barred from entering Israel; there are no special exceptions within the law for politicians.
He also said the “overwhelming majority” of House members — 398 of 435 — voted last monthfor a nonbinding resolution that condemned the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, and only 16 out of 235 Democrats voted against.
Lastly, Hoyer said, only two Democrats have made statements about Israel that he finds problematic — Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who have come under fire for comments about Israel and for supporting the boycott Israel movement, or BDS. He said it was “absurd” to complain about their influence in comparison to that of President Donald Trump.
“You’re talking about two brand new members of Congress and president of the United States, who speaks for all the American people,” Hoyer said.Ron Kampeas, “Steny Hoyer has a tough job: Uniting Democrats on Israel“, JTA, July 9, 2019
Trump said that if Omar and Tlaib wanted to boycott Israel, “then Israel should boycott them,” according to a source with direct knowledge.
Israeli officials say congressional Democratic leadership pushed Dermer to allow the congresswomen into the country. Their advocacy, per those officials, is a major reason why Netanyahu will allow the two women in.
The Democrats had argued that if the Israeli government blocked Omar and Tlaib’s entry, then other Democratic members would cancel a planned, AIPAC-sponsored Israel trip in solidarity, these officials said.Jonathan Swan and Barak Ravid, “Scoop: Trump tells advisers Israel should bar entry to Reps. Omar and Tlaib“, Channel 13 News (Israel), August 2, 2019
Nor, unlike some other presidential hopefuls, has Mr Buttigieg shied away from criticising members of his own party who have been accused of antisemitism and demonising Israel.
Questioned about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s attempt to equate alleged human rights abuses in Israel with Iran, Mr Buttigieg bluntly responded: “People like me get strung up in Iran so the idea that what’s going on is equivalent is just wrong.”Robert Philpot, “How Jewish donors are beginning to line up behind the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg“, Jewish Chronicle, August 8, 2019
The working definition of antisemitism also includes the understanding that “antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law…. Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews,” according to the US government’s website. In addition, “Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.”Jerusalem Post, “State Department Redefines Antisemitism: Don’t Compare Israel To The Nazis“, August 7, 2019
The move comes only weeks after US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) compared the anti-Israel BDS movement to previous boycotts of Nazi Germany in a resolution supporting the right to boycott Israel.
“Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad including … boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust,” said Omar in the pro-BDS resolution, which was co-sponsored by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.).