Published: Fri, August 16, 2019

Israel to allow entry to Rashida Tlaib for 'humanitarian' visit

Israel to allow entry to Rashida Tlaib for 'humanitarian' visit

One day after blocking two congresswomen from visiting Israel, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., has been approved to make a visit to her grandmother in the Israeli-occupied West Bank - but only as a "humanitarian visit".

"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".

The decision to allow a "humanitarian visit" followed a pledge in a letter from the lawmaker to "respect conditions imposed by Israel", the ministry said in a statement.

The decision to block their entry comes after months of virulent campaigning against them.Both Ilhan, a former refugee from Somalia and congresswoman from Minnesota, and Tlaib, a Palestinian-American congresswoman from MI, are routinely accused of antisemitism because of their critique of Israel's occupation and for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign.

A statement from the Israeli interior ministry on Thursday confirmed the entry ban, saying it was "inconceivable that those who wish to harm the state of Israel while visiting would be granted entry".

Israel passed a law in 2017 banning entry of activists including Jewish supporters of the BDS movement, arguing it is anti-Semitic and a threat to the country's existence.

Tlaib and Omar have voiced support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement over Israel's policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, called the travel ban "beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel".

Fellow Democrats vehemently criticized Israel's ban.

The Axios news site reported on Saturday that Mr Trump had told advisers he believed Ms Netanyahu should use the anti-boycott law to bar Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar.

Though Gantz said Tlaib and Omar were "radical congresswomen whose anti-Israeli positions are incomprehensible", he stressed that barring them from entering Israel was "against our national interest and it was driven by election considerations".

U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib addresses her constituents during a Town Hall style meeting in Inkster, Michigan, Aug. 15, 2019.

Ms Tlaib - the first member of the US Congress of Palestinian descent - was born in MI.

Under pressure from US President Donald Trump, Israel denied permission for the visit to territory it controls. "It will only hurt the US-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America".

That notion was reinforced by Israel's ex-ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon, who tweeted that his government had "rightfully made a decision to accept that recommendation" from Trump. Her parents eventually immigrated to Detroit, where she was born. No date had been formally announced for the congresswomen's trip, but sources familiar with the planned visit said it could begin at the weekend.

"Well, I'm only involved from the standpoint of they are very anti-Jewish and they're very anti-Israel", Trump said before departing New Jersey for New Hampshire.

Mr Trump has made a number of key decisions regarding Israel during his presidency, such as recognising Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear accord and moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Less than three hours later, an English translation of Netanyahu's statement officially announcing the ban on their visit was posted on his Twitter account.

"What we are witnessing here is a mixture of arrogance and disregard of politics as usual on the part of Trump and Netanyahu, and an Israel that no longer shies away from exposing its racist and discriminatory politics, empowered by Trump and his administration", Abusalim said. This is true of Trump's attacks against Omar, Tlaib and other representatives of color, and of Netanyahu's treatment of the Arab citizens of Israel and their Knesset representatives.

Congressman Mo Brooks tweeted that Omar and Tlaib "hate, want to hurt, maybe even destroy" the Jewish state. The fact that Israel is the sole sovereign between the river and the sea and can decide who and what can enter or exit the West Bank is one of the most fundamental aspects of Israel's 52-year military occupation. "How can anyone disagree with that?"

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