Controversial US Congresswomen to Visit Israel, West Bank

Israel will not bar entry to the country to controversial U.S. Democratic Congresswomen Ihlan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, despite their support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish State.

The decision is counter to a 2017 law enabling denial of any visits by a foreign national who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel,” which has been exercised by the Interior and Strategic Affairs ministries against activists on a number of occasions.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar announced that she intends to come to Israel and the West Bank this August with Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Both are the first female Muslims ever elected to Congress, and Tlaib is the first of Palestinian descent. They are also both vocal BDS supporters, and notably among the few American lawmakers to vote against this week’s overwhelming 349-17 passage of Res. 246 condemning the anti-Israel movement.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said that “Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” and the final determination is thought to have been made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Both Omar and Tlaib have faced repeated accusations of anti-Semitism.  The Somalia-born Omar, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2000, sent a 2012 tweet saying “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” After targeted by heavy criticism, Omar offered a partial apology for not “disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used.”

Omar was widely condemned by her fellow Democratic lawmakers for implying financial benefits are the foundation of U.S. political support for Israel, after tweeting in February 2019 that, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” In a subsequent statement, the congresswoman said she was “grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” Later that same month, however, Omar was again condemned for inferring Jewish-Americans are guilty of dual loyalty to Israel, after saying she wanted to “talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Tlaib was also criticized for evoking the ‘dual loyalty’ accusation in January 2019 when she opposed anti-BDS legislation proposed by Senators Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, by saying they “forgot what country they represent.” The Anti-Defamation League responded that “Though the legislation discussed is sponsored by four non-Jewish Senators, any charge of dual loyalty has special sensitivity and resonance for Jews, particularly in an environment of rising anti-Semitism.”

Tlaib, who is one of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrants to the U.S.,  incited additional condemnations after claiming this past May that her Palestinian ancestors “had to suffer” for Jews to find a safe haven after the Holocaust. She has also called for a cessation of U.S. aid to the country she referred to as a “Netanyahu Israel,” supported the so-called Palestinian right of return, and advocated a “one state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Omar and Tlaib have most recently been the target of scathing remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump, who branded them as members of “The Squad” that also includes New York Democratic Reps.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Trump charged that all four hate the United States and Israel, and should “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came.”

Meanwhile, the Beit Ur al-Fauqa village in the West Bank is now reportedly preparing for Michigan Congresswoman’s August “homecoming,” with residents expressing excitement and pride over the first Palestinian-American ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to whom they plan to give a warm welcome.