On Thursday, Israel announced that U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are banned from entering the country, just ahead of their planned visit to the occupied West Bank. Technically speaking, the congresswomen weren't planning on visiting Israel. They were meant to visit Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation including Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and East Jerusalem. Since Israel controls travel to all its territories - illegally occupied or not - the two women were blocked.
Both democratic representatives are known for their outspoken criticism of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians. Both have long been advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation, demanding the country complies with international law - starting with lifting its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The decision to block the Muslim congresswomen from entering Israel "on political grounds" was unfortunately bound to happen — because that's exactly what U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to happen.
Israel's decision came shortly after Trump said allowing the Muslim women into Israel "would show great weakness."
Trump continued his rant...
On Friday, Israel gave Tlaib the green light "to visit family"
After consulting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri issued a statement explaining that he decided to bar Tlaib and Omar entry because of "their boycott activities against Israel."
Both democratic representatives have since responded to the ban. Tlaib posted a heartwarming photo of her grandma and said the decision to ban her from visiting is the real "sign of weakness." The Palestinian-American democrat had planned to extend her visit in the West Bank to see relatives. Following the decision to block her entry, Tlaib sent a letter to Israel's Ministry of Interior, in an attempt to be granted permission "to visit relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s," according to The Guardian. Tlaib also noted that she "will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit."
Tlaib, who is representing Michigan, was born to Palestinian immigrant parents and still has family in the Palestinian territories. To access the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa in the occupied West Bank, where her grandmother and other relatives reside, she would need to pass through Israeli security.
Tlaib's uncle called Israel's decision "an unjust racist decision," according to Al Jazeera.
"Rashida is not carrying a weapon and directing it against Israel, she is coming to visit her family, her country, her people, it is her right to visit her country and her family," he said.
Omar said Israel is implementing "Trump's Muslim ban"
In a statement on the matter, Omar reiterated that it is her job - as a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs - to conduct "oversight of foreign aid from the United States of America and to legislate on human rights practices around the world."
"The irony of the 'only democracy' in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation," Omar added.
Several U.S. politicians have since spoken out against Israel's decision.
"Israel's denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California wrote in a tweet.
"The President's statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President."